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 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
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
Green Beret on the Commodore 64
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:
- Green Beret
- Ping Pong
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 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
Head over Heels
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.
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 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
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 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
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