Tau Ceti is a mix of action, adventure, and space simulation initially developed for the ZX Spectrum by Pete Cooke in 1985. The game was also ported to Atari ST, C64, and MS-DOS. An improved version, called Tau Ceti: The Special Edition, was released for the Spectrum 128K and Amstrad CPC in 1987.
Cooke, also the author of Tower of Babel, had the inspiration for the game playing Gyron, another ZX Spectrum hit. Gyron was using some interesting graphics routines, and Cooke studied them in order to replicate them. Soon he was able to create something similar to draw a 3D world with shadows and a day and night cycle. Today it doesn't seem exceptional, but you should not forget it was 1985, and those were 8-bit computers.
Of course, Tau Ceti is more than a graphic engine. The player's goal is to explore different cities and collect the items needed to shut down the central reactor. The cities are full of enemies, and you will have to use all the weapons of your "skimmer" to defend yourself and destroy the defenses. Beware, we are not talking about a shoot 'em up. You must be very careful and plan your attacks carefully if you don't want to be destroyed.
The screen is split into different sections. In addition to the 3D view (a squared portion of the screen), you also have the scanner and a command-line interface where you can issue commands - when you are not driving, of course. Text commands play an essential role in the gameplay and contribute to making Tau Ceti more than a simple action game.
If Tau Ceti received high reviews on all platforms, there is a reason. Some consider it the best game ever created for the ZX Spectrum and the Amstrad CPC. The C64 version was also highly appreciated, thanks to the great work made by the programmer that ported the code.
In short, Tau Ceti is a real milestone in video games history, and you don't want to miss it.