Ben Rayner reviews The History of Ocean Software…
When you look back at all the games you played in your younger days, you cant help but think of Ocean Software. One of the behemoths of gaming during the 80’s, Ocean were responsible for creating not only some of the best licensed games around such as Rambo, Robocop and more but they were responsible for a host of original titles that would later become wildly successful franchises.
I fondly remember spending hours on end, missing dinner and sometimes forgetting to even drink, playing Worms, a series which is still going strong today and as addictive as ever. Even Ninja Gaiden, which was known as Shadow Warriors way back when, started its life thanks to Ocean.
So when I had the chance to read the newly published in depth history of the eponymous publisher, I couldn’t resist the chance to find out more about the company’s humble roots.
Thanks to the tireless work of Chris Wilkins and Roger M. Kean who had an unfathomable task of getting into contact with ex-Ocean staff at events around the UK, the book offers a slice of nostalgia from open to close.
Filled to the brim with interviews and the personal insight of key team members from programmers, artists and other previous staff at Ocean, each with a different story to tell, you get a real sense of what it was like to work for one of the biggest English gaming companies of its era.
It certainly seems to have been considered an honour by all involved to join a team of fun yet ridiculously hardworking individuals who came together thanks to their passion for bringing games to those fans at home.
Although as you read on you get a sense of bitterness creeping in as not everyone perhaps enjoyed it at the time, considering the strict deadlines and often having to work around the clock in order to get projects done
Sure, some of the information you’ll mine from the book you could probably gather by trawling the internet for hours on end, but having it collected in one extremely well put together book, printed to high standards is something worth valuing. It’s not all history either, as the book delves into examples of games that never left the drawing board or some that made it as far as the production stage but no further due to the stars not aligning or licensing mistakes for example.
It’s tidbits of information like this that are great at making you realise the work involved in getting these great titles from arcade to home console.
While filled with interesting stories and interviews, it’s not all solid text through a thick tome of history. The book is littered with examples of artwork (including that of the great Bob Walkin) used at the time which is simply stunning, something that always reminds me how cover art for games today have taken a completely different route. One which, at least in some cases, isn’t always for the better.
Sadly Ocean’s life was fairly short lived, being sold off to Infrogames who merged the two companies together in a way that didn’t seem to utilise the new acquisition at all, and a move that still confuses me today. It’s hard to deny that Ocean had a great run, and inevitably ended on a high with Mission Impossible for the N64 in 1998. A game that I was too young at the time to really care about review scores but again I remember fondly spending hours playing before heading back to my local games rental store (remember those?) and paying a little extra to keep it for that bit longer.
That in essence is Ocean’s legacy. Despite what happened, they were responsible for games that many of us will have spent entire days playing which we still fondly remember and would no doubt play again!
Quite simply, if you’re a fan of Ocean’s catalogue of games or a retro fan who wants a rather personal history lesson then this is an easy book to recommend. Its put together well, printed on quality paper and offers a great glimpse into one of the UKs biggest software houses during the 80’s.
You can buy The History of Ocean Software from Fusion Retro Books here.