OCEAN, simply say this word to anyone of my gaming generation who grew up with the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and the Amstrad CPC, and you will instantly see a smile of recognition. Ocean was the largest UK based Publishing House back in the day. Responsible for bringing arcade titles to the home computer and some very infamous movie game licenses, OCEAN is perhaps the most known of anyone who played games on their home PCs. So it was with taste of true nostalgia that took me down memory lane one more time as I flicked through the pages of The History of OCEAN.
The History of OCEAN has been carefully put together by Chris Wilkins and Roger M. Kean and it is a testament to their passion that this book is more than just a look back at the catalog of games OCEAN produced between the 80s and 90s. They actually took the time to reach out and find as many of the people who worked at OCEAN to learn directly from them how they made the games loved by so many and also a great look behind the curtains at a very different generation in video games and a good look at the UK gaming scene as it really grew.
The high gloss finish of the book is simply striking and turning every page reveals something amazing about OCEAN and the people who worked there. The structure of the book is also right on the money for me, with the focus remaining on telling the story of OCEAN and not just losing itself in the nostalgia of the games they produced. When they do highlight the games, it is lead into and followed by talking to the very people who brought those games to life. Starting by talking to the two head guys at OCEAN, David Ward and Jon Woods to talk about what their vision and hopes for the company were to interviews with many of the staff who played a role in the company throughout its tenure. The detail that the interviews go into gives an honest and frank look into that era of UK video gaming as well as home computing, refreshing honesty that as someone who grew up playing their games which then set me on the path to have a passion for gaming every since is a real joy.
The range of games that OCEAN released was staggering but for me, it has to be the constant stream of movie licensed titles that defined OCEAN for me. If there was a 80s/90s action movie then OCEAN had the license to make a game for it. Now in my mind some of those games were great; Robocop, Batman the Movie for example and some were not so great. Simply reading through the index in the back of this book and seeing all the names to then flick through the book to find that very game to learn about how it was developed, who by and how it impacted the company direction is as intriguing as it is fascinating.
Now as someone who played OCEAN games on my first home computer, the Commodore 64, then onwards to the Amiga, it is a shame that the book really only focuses on the 8bit computers though it does mention both the Amiga and the Atari ST. To read about OCEAN from its creation and all the way through its huge success to the merger with Infogames this began the decline for them as a games developer sadly. There is really not a page turn in this book that does not uncover some tale or truth that fans from that generation can appreciate but I would also recommend this book as something to educate those of this generation as a great tool to show them where gaming really started so they can appreciate even more the current generation of hardware and gaming.
The History of OCEAN is a tremendous look back at a time in UK video gaming and home computing which for millions of youngsters like me back then, captivated us and took us to different worlds. But to learn how it all came to be, to know the names and faces responsible for the good memories and some bad ones, enhances it all for me and because there is a great balance of looking at their games, the people who made them and then the rise and selling off of such an iconic software house is something that definitely belongs on your bookshelf.
*A copy of the book was supplied for review purposes, OCEAN: The History is currently available from Fusion Retro Books For £19.99