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Ocean Software

Updated on May 2, 2017
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Martin has been a software developer for many years. This is mixed with a passion for retro machines and game,

Ocean Software Company Logo

The famous Ocean Software logo
The famous Ocean Software logo

Ocean Software

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

Over the next ten years 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 1980's and into the 1990's they went on to develop many 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-to late eighties.

Green Beret on the ZX Spectrum

One of the best arcade conversions on the ZX Spectrum - Green Beret
One of the best arcade conversions on the ZX Spectrum - Green Beret

Early releases from Ocean Software

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 Commodore 64

Frantic stabbing action on the C64 version of Green Beret
Frantic stabbing action on the C64 version of Green Beret

Official Licenses by Ocean Software

As the defunct Imagine Software label was acquired, things took off further.

A deal was struck with arcade giants Konami which allowed Ocean to convert a number of their 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 following arcade classics:

  • Hypersports
  • Green Beret
  • Ping Pong
  • Mikie

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 loosely 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 machine and its' games.

Green Beret ZX Spectrum - Level One

Ocean Software move 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 decided on 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 classic titles, and are still talked about today in the old school gaming community.

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

Wizball

Wizball on the Commodore Amiga
Wizball on the Commodore Amiga

Match Day II

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

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.

It was a horizontally scrolling game which involved navigating around a landscape shooting at various nasties, and transforming the monochrome setting into a truly colourful land.

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 a greater range of movement, increased 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 Commodore 64.

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

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, which was a big hit on pretty much every 8-Bit machine of the decade.

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 proper.

With roughly three hundred rooms to explore and a planet to save, Head over Heels was a fantastic game that made it onto the Commodore 64, Amiga and the Atari ST.

Ocean Loader Version 3 used with Gryzor

Ocean Loader Version 4

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 (sadly 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. As many of you will remember. games could take a few minutes to load from cassette tape.

The excellent sports game and arcade conversion Hyper Sports was the first title to make use of this feature.

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

Daley Thompson's Decathlon

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

Daley Thompson's Decathlon from Ocean Software

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, the 'n' and 'm' keys on my rubber keyed Spectrum bit the dust!) 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 as the game character.

Robocop 3 on the Amiga

Media break featured as a plot device in Robocop 3 on the Commodore Amiga
Media break featured as a plot device in Robocop 3 on the Commodore Amiga

Ocean Software in the 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 (debatably) worlds first 32-Bit console the Amiga CD 32.

One other notable 16-Bit classic game was another of their tie-in licenses. Robocop 3 was met with acclaim and positive reviews.

The game really was 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.

This was another impressive title from DiD and the game was actually better than the movie! For me it's a classic 3D game that paved the way for the likes of Wofenstein 3D and Doom.

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 by Ocean Software

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 expensive 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

Any other fans of Ocean software?

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    • RolyRetro profile image

      RolyRetro 5 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!

    • profile image

      Doomster 6 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.

    • Zakmoonbeam profile image

      Michael Murchie 6 years ago from Parts Unknown

      Wow, what a great trip through my childhood :)

      Awesome hub and a rate up, loved it !!

    • RetroBrothers profile image
      Author

      Martin Allan 8 years ago from Sunny Scotland

      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.

    • profile image

      uridium5 8 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