Pop*Star Pilot

Intro screen #1 Intro screen #2
Intro screens 1 & 2
Zone 1 game screen Zone 2 game screen
Zone 1 & 2 game screens
Zone 3 game screen Zone 4 game screen
Zone 3 & 4 game screens
Zone 5 game screen Game over screen
Zone 5 game screen, Game over screen

Pop*Star Pilot was the first major game that it's author Nick Marentes released after taking a long hiatus (about 16 years) after sales on his last major commercial game (Gate Crasher) dropped off after only around 40 copies, back in 2000. (Nick did keep active with some utilities, a 4K RAM BASIC game experiment and a few other smaller, free projects during this time, which he has posts about on his website). By the time Nick got into this project, CocoFests had started gaining attendance again (after a decade of gradual declines) and the Coco community seemed to be getting invigorated (including from two podcasts starting a year apart around this time). For that reason, and also that Nick wanted to try some new programming techniques (including double buffering with the hardware scroll to allow smoother scrolling than the hardware normally allows, and palette tricks for animation/effects and to create some screens with more than 16 colors), he decided to tackle another Coco 3 game, requiring 512K. It would include the above mentioned techniques, 4 main zones of different themes to fly through, special balloon sequences for bonus points, Nick's first use of checkpoints, digitized sound effects, etc. He also added a token system; if the player gets enough of them by the time they complete level 4, they get to go to a special bonus Zone 5 (the very beginning of this bonus level is shown above). Even the game's title screen features palette tricks to to have a vertically scrolling checkerboard background while the title scrolls colors horizontally.

The basic gameplay is that you are piloting a fairly slow plane, and you have to fly horizontally over varying terrain (and not collide into it). There are numerous balloon launchers scattered around; you either have to dodge them or shoot them. Different color balloons are worth different points, and two colors have special meaning: Red balloons will temporarily enable multifire for the player (with up to 3 shots on the screen at once instead of the normal 1) and White balloons - if you shoot 4 of these in a row without shooting any other colored balloons in between, you get a larger point bonus. You also have to shoot fuel canisters so you don't run out of fuel and crash, TNT explosives to open up parts of the later Zone's, Teleporters to get to certain parts of later zones, Check points (every time you die, you start back at the last checkpoint you shot), free lives and the previously mentioned tokens (you need at least 25 tokens and 4000 points by the end of Zone 4 to qualify for Zone 5).

The game is a lot of fun and shows off some of the graphics capabilities of the Coco 3. It borrows elements from classic side scrollers like Scramble, but adds in a lot of extra and more modern gameplay elements to make a unique experience.

And did Nick succeed in finally increasing sales on his commercial games, after the declines he experienced in the later 1990's to 2000? Yes. He has way more than doubled his previous commercial game's sales, showing that the Coco commercial game market has increased since 2000.

NOTE: After many people played the commercial release, Nick discovered that a lot of people were not getting past Zone 2. Upon further review (including some of us in the Coco community helping play test) he decided to swap Zone's 2 and 3 from their original order, so that the difficulty is more gradual. If you have purchased the game previously, you can get the revised 1.1 version with new Zone order for free from Nick's website (click on the Pop*Star Pilot link from the purchase page link below). The above screenshots label the original zone order.

Title: Pop*Star Pilot

Author: Nick Marentes

Publisher: Nick Marentes

Released: November 2016

Requires: Color Computer 3 ONLY, 512K RAM, disk, joystick.

Click here to go to Nick's order page for Pop*Star Pilot.

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