When I bought my second hand C64 I got a lot of games along with it. Among those was also a game called Ocean Ranger. The title sounded good, so I gave it a go and it turned out to be one of the best C64 games I’ve ever played!
Naturally I was very excited to try out the PC version of the game and usually having great expectations isn’t really a good idea, as you usually end up disappointed, but not in this case. The game is maybe lacking a few minor things, but it’s still just a good! There’s no speech at the beginning and the sound is PC speaker only, but apart from that, the gameplay stayed the same.
You are a very lucky young officer, for you have been given the newest frigate, the U.S.S. Ocean Ranger to command. It is your duty and privilege to command the ship with its fine crew all throughout the world. Running dangerous missions into enemy waters you need to take great care. Luckily the ship you control is far more advanced then anything the enemy can throw at you, so you do have a great advantage even if outnumbered!
At the very beginning the game will ask you to select the graphic view (and I strongly urge you to select the EGA graphics). Next the question about the mouse will appear. If you state you have a mouse you’ll be able to move the pointer with it (which is a welcomed addition) and fire (although I suggest you don’t do that, as it’s easier if you play the whole game simply using the keyboard).
Don’t worry at this point. The game is cracked, so when you’re asked to enter the password, you can type in just about anything and the game will begin!
OK, the first thing you’ll see now is the portfolio selection. Theoretically this means the game can support as many players as there are portfolios (up to 10 players), playing in the hot seat, although this game probably wasn’t meant as a multiplayer game.
When you create a portfolio you also get to select the theatre of action (Bering Sea, Southeast Asia, Central America or the Persian Gulf) and the level of difficulty (Basic Training Duty – the easiest, Regular Forces Duty, Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Council – the hardest). The more unfriendly the theatre is, the larger the number of enemies will be, so for the first time I suggest you try out the Bering Sea Basic Training Duty (not much action off the coast of Alaska, so just the thing to get acquainted with the ship). After selecting this (and you can change the level and the theatre before every mission) you proceed to the mission briefing and the mission begins.
At the briefing you’ll get the basic info about the mission. You’ll see where the primary and where the secondary targets are, what you need to destroy and what kind of conditions you’ll have to face. After carefully reading through it (although once you get used to the game, you won’t really care much for that anymore) you proceeded to the supplies.
Here you can supply your ship with weapons and fuel. Since your ship’s carrying compatibility isn’t unlimited you should carefully select the equipment to take with you. You will be able to return to home base and re-supply yourself during the mission as well, but you need to be careful at this point. The easy scenarios aren’t a problem, but the more challenging ones will demand a lot of fuel and various weapons, so make sure you select wisely. To help you, I’ll explain what the functions of the weapons are:
76mm shells are fired from the ship’s gun and are the only weapon with which you’ll destroy the sea mines. You can also shoot down the planes with it and destroy enemy ships with it (both at a close range). On the other hand, you can’t apply it against a submarine!
Sea Sparrow Missiles will take out planes as soon as they appear.
Harpoon Missiles will take out enemy ships while they’re still so far away, they won’t be able to hit you.
Depth Charges are the only effective weapon against submarines. There are some missions where you won’t even encounter a sub, but there are many missions where there will be plenty of subs around. It’s therefore a good idea to have a healthy supply of depth charges (if you run of other ammo, you can always fall back to your trusty 76mm gun).
You also have some chaffs, which will confuse the enemy radar. There are a few you can carry and if used with the radar jammer you shouldn’t get attacked by too many enemies at once (otherwise they can gang up on you and sink you). Also mind the distances, so you won’t run out of fuel. You have some reserve, but not a lot.
Now you’re ready to start the mission itself.
You start at your home base with the anchor dropped, ready to embark upon you duty. The upper part of the screen represents your view. You can look in all four directions (you can switch between them with the function keys). The lower part of the screen has quite a few features to it. The left side shows you the compass, the time and the weapon selected. In the middle are two screens. Both can show up to 7 different screens, giving you different information. I suggest you to have the target and the radar screen on (I’ll explain later on). And to the right of them you can see your speed, coordinates and fuel level.
As soon as an enemy is near by you will be notified and a rectangle will appear. When it is black, you won’t be able to hit the enemy (it’s either out of range, or you have a weapon selected that isn’t appropriate for such a target). When it turns white you should fire away! Firing with the gun you’ll probably need more then one shot to destroy planes and ships – mines explode right after being hit. Subs are the hardest (and those are already the only 4 enemies you’ll encounter).
By switching to maps you’ll be able to see which way to go and when you’ll reach the mission target area (where again you’ll have to destroy a certain type of an enemy – like anywhere else). I suggest destroying as many targets as possible (even outside the mission area) as this gives you more points and always try to complete both the primary and secondary missions before taking a shore leave. You can return to your home base during the mission (if you don’t run out of fuel, or are sunk), but make sure you just restock and return to the mission. You don’t want to disappoint your superiors now, do you?
There are also a few more screens inside your cabin. Three are of great importance: maintenance, damage and the map. I’ll explain them all later, together with the control keys for the game.
After every completed mission your portfolio will get updated and if you perform well enough, you’ll get a decoration. The one you really don’t want hurry with is the Purple Heart. The only way to get it is to get sunk. Hopefully there will be a friendly ship near by, otherwise your career is over and you get to enjoy the inhospitality of your captors.
You should also realize that there’s no way to save the game. You can exit it after completing a mission and that mission will stay recorded in your portfolio (the same goes if you failed it), but you won’t be able to return to that status after playing the next mission. So if you’re killed the portfolio will be closed. You can always delete it and start anew, or you can leave it there (as a sort of high score list) and open a new portfolio.
F1 - front view (ahead)
F3 - left view (port)
F5 - right view (starboard)
F7 - rear view (stern)
1 - gun
2 - sparrow missiles
3 - harpoon missiles
4 - depth charge
5 - chaff
6 - jammer
8 - maintenance
9 - damage reports
0 - sea view
- - map
= - big map
\ - map coordinates
MAIN SCREEN SCREENS
[ - left screen
] - right screen
You can switch between 7 views: small map, target type, water level, weapon, hits, mission coordinates, and radar. I suggest you have the radar on one screen and the target type on the other (helps when you encounter an enemy).
a - accelerated mode
tab – drop/raise anchor
p - pause
+ - fire (you can also do that by klicking the mouse)
f - fuel reserve
s – sound on/off
space – next target
enter - returns to front view
OK, so here you go with the explanation on how to play and I hope you’ll have as much fun with this game as I used to have.