Review by Aaron White (@aaronub4t)
I first fell in love with the Ocean Software label back in the winter of 1984. It was Christmas Day and I remember getting up and opening a really big present which turned out to be my very first home computer, a Commodore 64. I noticed a couple of smaller presents near the tree so I unwrapped those and that was it, I was immediately drawn in by Ocean. One of the smaller presents turned out to be a copy of Roland’s Rat Race and I couldn’t help but notice the striking cover art, the Ocean logo and the fact that it was all housed in a clamshell case. I remember on the day playing the game to death, and it took me quite a while to complete the game. Through the years my library of Ocean games grew aswell as purchasing a lot of the Hit Squad re-releases and my affair with Ocean was never far away. Film licenses, arcade conversions, they were all in there, sometimes good sometimes bad but mainly on the whole I have very find memories of the Ocean label from the 80’s and 90’s.
To my surprise a few months ago I was made aware of a Kickstarter campaign by Chris Wilkins and Roger Kean. They were trying to raise enough funds to produce a book about the History Of Ocean Software and naturally I jumped at the chance and ordered a copy of the book and i’m happy to say i’m glad that I did.
From reading the very first page, the feeling of nostalgia and that tingly sensation I had that Christmas Day in 1984 came flooding back to me. Lots of former employees are interviewed throughout the book and all have a different story to tell. The infamous (dungeon) pops up regularly and is the most common thing I think that sticks in the people’s minds that used to work there and a general impression is that at least in the early days it was a real honour and a pleasure to work for Ocean with their work hard play hard attitude. Some bemoaned about the strict deadlines and often having to work through the night 24 hours a day (through fogs of smoke as many of them were smokers) for several days running to finish a project on time and get it to the duplicators, although I do get the vibe off a few of the former employees that they were rather bitter towards Ocean with either having being sacked or not paid for something that they did or didn’t do. Also, in the book, there is loads of brilliant cover art from a lot of the releases throughout the years and even the stuff that they released under the Imagine label. It’s got a few interesting stories about games that either started production or started life on a drawing board but for one reason or another the products never got released. One really interesting fact I never knew but learnt about was the that Ocean thought they had the license to do the arcade conversion of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the bag so far as going through with the first stages of the cover art only to then find out that the deal had fallen through. In my opinion, this is a massive shame as I think (and I’m sure a lot of people will agree with me) that ImageWorks made a complete and utter pigs ear of the arcade conversions and I’m sure given the chance Ocean would’ve done a sterling job!!
Unfortunately in 1996 Ocean was sold off to Infrogames who seemed to just swallow the Ocean brand whole and spit it out again and was really never to be seen of or heard of again, the last game that was released by Ocean was Mission Impossible on the N64 back in 1998
I won’t go into any more detail about the book but I believe it is an essential purchase to anybody who is a fan of Oceans work or anybody who is just generally interested in finding out about one of if not the biggest and most famous software distributors of the 80’s and 90’s. They will be doing another run on the book in January sometime as the initial batch sold out completely. The price is £25 and worth every penny and I’ve also learnt today that they have just made available a PDF version of the book priced at £7.99 so the choice is yours. I know which one I’d go for if I had the choice again and it’s the actual physical book all the way for me, anyway, if you do decide to purchase it then enjoy and happy reading.