Ocean started life in 1983, founded by David Ward and Jon Woods as a fledgling software publisher, working from the top floor of an old Quaker church just near Albert Square in Manchester (the town hall is there). In the beginning, they wanted to make really good computer games and games such as High Noon, Gilligan's Gold and Tornado Low Level seemed to point it that way. At the same time over in Liverpool (35 miles away) both Software Projects and Imagine were also making a name for themselves.

However in late 1984 Imagine ran into severe financial problems and were on the point of liquidation. Ocean saw that they had released a few good titles and so bought Imagine out, with Ocean then being able to use the name as an associated label to themselves. The idea originally was that Ocean would concentrate on original games and film licences, and Imagine would do more of the arcade conversions when the rights were bought.

The first fruits of this came to light in late 1984 when Ocean negotiated a deal with Konami to produce conversions of their arcade games, all of which would be released on Imagine. So we had Hypersports, Ping Pong, Mikie, Green Beret, World Series Baseball, Yie Ar Kung Fu I and II, and a few others. Konami decided in 1987 to set up their own label for releasing conversions, and while Nemesis was okay, Jailbreak was not so good, and after this they decided to let Ocean handle a few more..

Around about 1985 came the first wave of film licences, and so we had Rambo, with in the years to come Short Circuit, Cobra, Miami Vice, and a disastrous conversion of Knight Rider. Street Hawk was also so appalling it has never seen the light of day - and rumour has it Ocean's very famous musician at the time (Martin Galway) did an excellent version of the TV theme!

1986 saw Ocean's lowest point, with a string of really appalling releases. Martin Galway himself said in an interview recently that his music saved a lot of games' sales and that Ocean's salesmen would repeatedly thank him for it. When you look at some of the games, he was right. And with some he didn't write the music for, even more so. Look at Galivan, NOMAD, Madballs, utter rubbish. The only saving graces that year was an excellent conversion of Green Beret and Sensible's game Parallax (complete with epic Martin Galway theme..)

In 1986, Imagine also negotiated a deal with the arcade publisher Taito to release conversions of their games. And so the likes of Arkanoid, Legend Of Kage and Slap Fight were released - the first and last being well received. Arkanoid of course was the first C64 game to have digitised samples and music at the same time, albeit on the static title screen. It is one of Martin Galway's finest compositions. Also, it's one of only a few games that support the use of the Neos mouse, and indeed more obscurely, paddle controllers. If you have a pair of Atari paddles like me, you'll find this is even better than the mouse for Arkanoid - seriously.

1987 saw Ocean completely changing around with a fine set of releases, with Head Over Heels being a superb conversion from a Spectrum classic, and Wizball being my all time favourite game ever. The plot, the superb music, the whole concept was unique, and how Zzap! 64 never gave it a Gold Medal remains a mystery to this day. Well, it did until recently. Julian Rignall, who used to work at Zzap! 64 at the time, told me that it was Gary Penn (the then editor, now producer at DMA Design, the programming house who produced Grand Theft Auto) that made the editorial decision not to grant it one. The Great Escape was also atmospheric, Mutants was superbly executed with some inspiring music by Fred Gray, and with a superb conversion of Konami's Combat School (appearing on Ocean rather than Imagine) it was looking good.

Also in 1987, Imagine tied up a deal with Spanish game producers Dinamic. Their games soon had a reputation for being frustratingly difficult, with Army Moves and Game Over proving such (cool Galway tune though.) - and eventually after the release of Basket Master in 1989, Dinamic went about releasing software in the UK themselves - and the games were still difficult!

In late 1988 the Imagine label started being phased out as Ocean thought that having two labels was seemingly damaging sales for some reason. The latter Imagine games included Salamander, Vindicator (an unofficial follow up to Green Beret), Rastan and then Renegade 3 in mid-1989. As far as I know, games after this were released on Ocean only. Also in 1988, Ocean 'poached' programming team Special FX from the hands of Software Projects after their excellent game 'Hysteria', with Gutz and Firefly being released in 1988. Contrary to popular belief, Ocean didn't launch Special FX as a sub-label, they just credited the programming house on the game.

Ocean also did their utmost to push sales of Commodore's C64GS console by releasing a lot of their games on cartridge only, such as Robocop 3, Chase HQ II, and also bought the licence from Psygnosis to convert Shadow Of The Beast to the '64. However as the games were £20 a cart here in the UK, they didn't sell at all well. Notable Ocean titles in their latter years included the conversion of Rainbow Islands, delayed for ages after programming house Graftgold got into legal wrangles with Firebird, and Ocean finally releasing the game, an excellent Simpsons game, Addams Family, Hook and most notably Hudson Hawk, a great game from a not so good film.

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