Tau Ceti (also known as Tau Ceti: The Lost Star Colony) is a 1985 computer game created for the ZX Spectrum. CRL Group PLC developed and published the game and Pete Cooke designed and programmed it. After its initial release, Tau Ceti received ports for the Amstrad CPC, Amstrad PCW, Atari ST, Commodore 64, and MS-DOS. In 1987, two years after the game’s initial release, Tau Ceti: The Special Edition was released for the 128K Spectrum and Amstrad CPC. This expanded version of the game featured additional coding by Chris Newcombe. Tau Ceti also received a sequel in 1986 called Academy.
Today, gamers can find Tau Ceti online. My Abandonware has the DOS version and the Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, and Commodore 64 versions. My Abandonware also provides a Tau Ceti Manual that will help anyone starting their journey. This website is a great source for retro video games because they have a large catalog of downloadable games and games that can be played on an internet browser. Interested players can also find iconic classics like A Mind Forever Voyaging, Xanadu, and more on My Abandonware.
At the time of Tau Ceti’s release, the game received incredible praise. CRASH, a ZX Spectrum magazine that ran from 1984 to 1991, gave Tau Ceti a 94%. Other publications of the time, like the UK video game magazine Computer and Video Games gave the game a 9.5 out of 10. None of the ratings at the time ever fell below 90%. Today, gamers still have massive respect for Tau Ceti. My Abandonware rates it a 4.7 out of 5.
Tau Ceti Premise
By the year 2050, humans have learned to travel beyond their solar system and visit planets in other systems. Human colonists leave Earth to permanently move to four new “G-type” planets, Alpha Centauri, Tau Ceti (III), Van Maanen, and Beta Hydri. Despite Tau Ceti (III)’s harsh, desert-like environment, the humans immediately begin building there. Over the next century, the new colony flourished, creating over 30 cities across Tau Ceti. Humans began mining materials from beneath the surface of Tau Ceti, which helped them create a booming economy.
In the year 2150, the Encke-Syndrome Plague spread across Tau Ceti. With only a few survivors, humanity left Tau Ceti in control of robots and an automatic control system. Meanwhile, a cure was being developed back on Earth. Unfortunately, in the two years it took for Earth to develop a cure, a meteor crashed into Tau Ceti as well. Humanity lost all communication with the colony they created on Tau Ceti, but they understood that the planet still had plenty to offer. They set out to repopulate the Tau Ceti colony. In 2164, humans sent the first expedition back to the planet in the form of a space glider. After landing, the glider immediately sends out an emergency call before it loses contact with Earth.
While preparing a second expedition, specialists believe that they will need to deactivate Tau Ceti’s automated defense system. To accomplish this, they’ll need to shut down the main reactor. To shut down the reactor, players need to collect parts for the cooling system. Unfortunately, these parts are scattered across Tau Ceti, which humans can’t access.
The player controls an armed glider that is responsible for exploring Tau Ceti and collecting the cooling system pieces. The story emphasizes that the likelihood of success is low, and yet, the player volunteers to take on the challenge.
Tau Ceti Main Characters
Many classic video games from the 1980s and ’90s don’t feature much of a story or even developed characters. Not every classic game is like that, of course, but a large majority tended to focus on the gameplay over any other aspect of the game. Tau Ceti is a special case because it has a pretty involved and detailed plot. It does, however, lack in the character development department.
Rather than play a main character, players play as the armed glider sent out on the second Tau Ceti expedition. The game indicates that the player’s character has volunteered to pilot the glider on the expedition, but not much else is known about the pilot. The chances of success are extremely low, but the pilot decides to volunteer anyway. Throughout the game, the player controls the glider, not a character. This wasn’t an uncommon way to play games back in the day. Games like Space Invaders (1978), TNK III (1985), and Thexder (1985) all feature a piloted piece of machinery. These playable vessels could be anything from tanks to high-tech suits of armor, or even a spacecraft. In Tau Ceti, it happens to be an armed glider.
The armed glider’s main goal is to scout Tau Ceti for pieces of the cooling system. Without the cooling system, humanity will never be able to shut down the automatic defense system protecting Tau Ceti. The defense system is also keeping humanity from returning to the colony they once inhabited.
Tau Ceti Titles in the Series
Despite how well the original Tau Ceti did upon release, it didn’t spawn a massive franchise like many other retro video games. The few titles in the series include:
- Tau Ceti (1985)
- Academy (1986)
- Tau Ceti: The Special Edition (1987) – An extended, “upgraded” version of Tau Ceti released for the 128K Spectrum and Amstrad CPC.
Tau Ceti Cheats, BASIC Commands, & Guides
Tau Ceti came out during a period when it was commonplace for developers to build cheats and exploits into their games. Modern gamers aren’t strangers to using cheat codes, but most games today either don’t have them or include them as Easter eggs. Back in the 1980s and ’90s, cheats were a lot more influential to how a video game played. Most games were short, grew more difficult in a short amount of time, and relied on players picking up power-ups that spawned on the map. Most games only gave players a certain number of lives or a time limit. If players lost all their lives or failed their objective, they’d receive a Game Over and be forced to start over. Many games didn’t feature saves either, so if a player got a Game Over, all their progress would be lost.
Developers often addressed these obvious obstacles by building cheats, cheat codes, or other exploits into their games on purpose. Some of these cheats would be game-breaking, like giving the player complete invincibility or unlimited lives. Fortunately, Tau Ceti does have a few cheat codes floating around. Unfortunately, they only work with BASIC commands.
Tau Ceti BASIC Command Cheats
The following cheats should work for most known versions of Tau Ceti, including the C64, CPC, Atari ST, PC, and ZX Spectrum. To get these cheats to work, load or reset the game, then execute the following BASIC command before running or restarting the program:
- Unlimited Ammunition: POKE 15335,173
- Unlimited Flares: POKE 15173,173
- Unlimited Missles: POKE 18590,173
Using a Tau Ceti Manual or Guide
Most players who have completed Tau Ceti recommend that new players use a guide or a manual. This helps players stay on top of where they are and what they’re supposed to be doing. This is no different than video games that used to have printed guidebooks players could purchase and use to help them complete a game. For many years, especially before gamers had easy access to the internet, this was somewhat common practice.
- My Abandonware has an entire Tau Ceti Manual available for free use
- Lemon64 also has a free Tau Ceti Manual
- C64 Wiki also has a solid guide that will help beginners on their journey to Tau Ceti
- RZX Archive also has a Tau Ceti video guide for those who prefer video walkthroughs
Tau Ceti Cheats FAQs
If players Google “Tau Ceti video game cheats”, the FAQs that pop up aren’t relevant to the game in question. They are either asking about the real-life star Tau Ceti or they’re inquiring about the Tau Ceti within the Starfield game, a modern and unrelated video game. Googling “Tau Ceti video game” turns up similar results. Almost all of the FAQs ask about the actual Tau Ceti star, which is part of the Cetus constellation. The star is surprisingly similar to the sun, which is why the video game focused on a planet (Tau Ceti III) orbiting this particular star.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Cheeky Commodore Gamer / CRL.