Ocean Software

Ocean Software

Ocean Software was one of the biggest developers of arcade games within Europe during the 1980s and 1990s. Based in Manchester, England, they were formed by David Ward and Jon Woods.

They became one of the biggest players in the 8-bit game market developing lots of titles for retro computers such as the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and the Amstrad CPC range.

Towards the end of the 1980s and into the 1990s they went on to develop titles for the Commodore Amiga and the Atari ST.

They are well remembered for developing many licensed games such as arcade conversions and for also capturing a lot of TV and movie licenses which became popular during the mid-eighties.

Ocean company logo

The famous Ocean logo
The famous Ocean logo

Early releases

To begin with the company started off developing computer games 'in-house' during 1984. Their early games included Hunchback, Gilligan's Gold, Moon Alert and Hunchback II - all of which were reasonable hits on the ZX Spectrum and the Commodore 64.

Towards the end of 1984 the company aquired the recently defunct Imagine software (who had been a software rival) and went about publishing software rather than developing it.

Green Beret on the ZX Spectrum

One of the best arcade conversions on the Speccy
One of the best arcade conversions on the Speccy

Green Beret on the Commodore 64

Frantic stabbing action on the C64
Frantic stabbing action on the C64

Official Licenses

As the defunct Imagine Software label was aquired (who were already well known in the ZX Spectrum games scene), things took off further.

A deal was struck with arcade gaming giants Konami allowing them to convert Konami games to home computers.

Consequently popular games such as Gryzor made their way to the likes of the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad and Commodore 64 computers.

The Konami conversions (such as Hypersports and Ping Pong) were released under the Imagine label and were extremely big sellers.

Under Imagine they converted the Konami arcade classics:

Not only was the license for Konami won, they also won tie-in deals with a number of television shows and movies. Ocean then released games such as:

  • Cobra (an action scrolling platform game loosley based on the movie)
  • Highlander (a beat em up game featuring swordplay for one or two players)
  • Rambo (an eight way scrolling shooter based on the movie)
  • Robocop 3 (released on 16-bit machines and based on the movie)

We have interviews with the developers behind Cobra and Ping Pong on our dedicated ZX Spectrum Games site - please have a read if you're a fan of the ZX Spectrum

Green Beret ZX Spectrum - Level One

Back to original titles

In 1987 the company decided to publish 'original' computer games again and moved away from the license tie-in's.

Some of the tie-in games had been met with little enthusiasm - and Ocean went for a change of tack.

This ended up being a good move as games such as Match Day II (the excellent football game and sequel to Match Day), Head over Heels (the seminal isometric arcade puzzle adventure) and the well known Wizball were met with a lot of enthusiasm.

All of these games are considered to be classics and are still talked about in the old school gaming community.

Wizball in particular is remembered as being a truly innovative computer game.

Wizball

Wizball on the Commodore Amiga
Wizball on the Commodore Amiga

Wizball

Another truly original game, Wizball was a smash hit on the C64 and also on the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC 464, Atari ST and the Commodore Amiga.

Wizball was a horizontally scrolling game which involved navigating around a landscape and shooting at the various nasties.

The aim of the game was to collect droplets of coloured paint with which to colour the level you were currently in. Each level began in three shades of grey, and required three colours to be collected to allow the player to complete it.

Controlling your wizard (a little ball type fellow) you had to move around the levels, aquiring the paint and collecting pearls. These pearls would give your little ball more powers such as greater movement, stronger firepower and so on.

The concept of the game was unique and is widely regarded as one of the greatest ever games to grace the C64.

Ocean had done it again and Wizball is a true classic retro game.

Match Day II

Match Day II on the ZX Spectrum
Match Day II on the ZX Spectrum

Head over Heels

Head over Heels on the ZX Spectrum
Head over Heels on the ZX Spectrum

Head over Heels

One of the most remembered games from the 8-bit era has to be Head over Heels. On each 8-bit machine that it was released on it was a big hit.

Taking the isometric view from their previous game Batman (the isometric 'filmation' engine had originally been pioneered by Ultimate), Head over Heels was a brilliant mix of puzzle solving and adventure.

Jon Ritman and Bernie Drummond really came up with an original twist to the particular gaming genre: the player actually controls two characters, namely head and heels.

Each character began the game separately, with each one having different abilities. Eventually the player would put the two together - opening the game up.

With roughly three hundred rooms to explore and a planet to save, Head over Heels was a fantastic game that made it onto the C64, Amiga and the Atari ST.

A classic arcade game.

Ocean Loader

As the years rolled by the company were generally regarded as publishers of good software - and the 'Ocean Loader' that they put out with some of their cassette based games was quite unique.

On the Commodore 64 (not on the Spectrum or Amstrad machines - although plenty of games by the company made full use of the AY Sound - The Addams Family being a great example of a well composed AY tune) the game would display a loading picture and play a tune whilst the game was loading up (which could take a few minutes to load from tape).

The excellent sports game conversion Hyper Sports was the first game to use this feature.

This loading technique was quite a technical feat at the time and still remembered fondly by C64 gamers today.

Loader Version 3 used with Gryzor

Loader Version 4

Daley Thompson's Decathlon

Daley Thompson's Decathlon on the Spectrum - high jump
Daley Thompson's Decathlon on the Spectrum - high jump

Daley Thompsons Decathlon

One of the most famous games from the company was Daley Thompson's Decathlon.

The game was based on the popular arcade game Track and Field and attached world famous decathlete Daley Thompson to it.

The result was a smash hit game that also invented the phrase 'joystick waggler' due to the nature of the intensive gameplay.

Daley Thompson's decathlon goes down in history as the game that wrecked many a joystick (and keyboard!) but kept you coming back for more.

It sold very well on each 8-bit machine it was released on and two sequels were also developed featuring Daley.

Robocop 3 on the Amiga

Media break featured as a plot device in Robocop 3
Media break featured as a plot device in Robocop 3

16-Bit era

Ocean continued to release quality titles in the 1990s as the 16-bit machines such as the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST took over.

Some of their titles were even released on the 32-bit Amiga CD 32.

One classic game was another tie-in license: Robocop 3.

The game was really top notch and oozed atmosphere with superb in game music (which was akin to a movie soundtrack) and sound effects.

There were excellent cut scenes featuring characters from the movie which linked each portion of the game nicely.

The 3D graphics were amongst the best you could get (at the time) and the developers got the mix of action and atmosphere just right.

Robocop 3 was another impressive title - and the game was probably better than the movie! A classic 3D game.

Robocop 3 on the Commodore Amiga

F-29 Retaliator

Flying over the desert in your F-29
Flying over the desert in your F-29

F-29 Retaliator

F-29 Retaliator was a flight simulation released towards the end of the cold war.

The game was released in 1990 on the Commodore Amiga (and also on PC format - if you had a high-end PC it would run fine).

The graphics were very detailed (at the time), with cities, bridges, roads, mountains, islands and moving vehicles on the roads.

The cockpit had 3 displays available to set up in a number of configurations.

F-29 was a very good flight simulator with a variety of missions, cutting edge graphics and fast gameplay. Once again the company (along with Digital Image Design) had come up with a top-notch game.

F-29 is remembered by many Amiga gamers as a classic retro flight simulator.

Amiga and PC comparison of F-29

More by this Author


Any other fans of Ocean software? 5 comments

uridium5 7 years ago

Guys

This is a seriously good article on Ocean, they have to be pretty much the best software house back in the day, along with USGold, Ultimate and the like. Back in those days, the loaders were almost as good as the games themselves....haha, you don't have loaders anymore as they only take a few seconds to load ;-)

p.s Do we get to request reviews for you to do? If so I would love to see one for Robin of the Wood by Odin.

Phil


RetroBrothers profile image

RetroBrothers 7 years ago from Sunny Scotland Author

Thanks for the nice comments! If you look at our brother blog (ZX Spectrum games - it's in the links section) you will find lots of reviews in there. We will aim to add Robin of the wood to it soon.

And yeah - Ocean were one of the best.

Mart and Bri.


Zakmoonbeam profile image

Zakmoonbeam 5 years ago from Parts Unknown

Wow, what a great trip through my childhood :)

Awesome hub and a rate up, loved it !!


Doomster 5 years ago

I remember playing many Ocean Titles on the zx spectrum, and still have the cassette tapes to this day, I am now approching 40. I do remember a pc game of theirs (Inferno with ASF providing the music / sound track) I would love to see this title ported over to the Playstation 3.


RolyRetro profile image

RolyRetro 4 years ago from Brentwood, Essex, UK

Head over Heals shoud be in anyone's top ten Spectrum Games, and Green Beret was pretty good too. Ocean were a classy outfit in their day.

Nice hub!

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