PrintStar's Blog
Ramblings of a Fortran Nut
January 23, 2010 by Jeff

Day 23 – Corncob 3D

Today’s game is a nutty, abstract flight simulator from Pie in the Sky Software. Corncob 3D is a a combat flight game where the player takes a pre-World-War-II fighter plane to fight aliens who invaded Earth in 1938. The plot of the game really is that silly, but it makes the game entertaining. The graphics are abstract, most likely due to the hardware available at the time.

The game’s packaging is quite odd. Everything is started via a batch file, CORNCOB.BAT, which is reasonable. However, this batch file then proceeds to launch a series of executables. The oddest part when starting the game for the first time is the game prepartion steps. On the 486, I had a few minutes to walk away as the game proceeded to decompress jpeg images for use with the game.

This step was odd, but apparently necessary as the decompression algorithm was surprisingly slow. After getting pas decompression, the story was explained using pictures:

After a few screens such as above and a brief animated movie, the user is presented with a surprising main menu in all text:

The text-based menu was a shock after the animation and graphics, but the menu is understandable as Corncob 3D has plenty of options, some quite complex. I decided first to try a training mission, but the menu system informed me that training missions were considerably harder than simple combat missions. I instead opted for a normal combat mission for my first attempt, which brought up the theater of operations menu.

I opted for Atkinsville on my first flight. Once happy with the settings, the game can be started. It is apparent that the batch file kicks off yet another executable to run the game at this point.

The graphics in Corncob 3D are pretty basic, but they are adequate for the game. The controls are simple, with the plane’s stick being controlled via the number pad, the rudder controlled by Z and X, and the gun fired with SPACE. There are a pile of other commands for throttling, dropping bombs, controlling flaps, etc., and the necessary commands can always be seen by pressing F4 at any point.

The plane itself is a bit hard to get used to. The controls come off feeling a bit “squishy.” Trying to aim the gun is hard because the keyboard control simply isn’t accurate enough for the game. I believe a joystick, which this game supports, might be a necessity for Corncob 3D. As a younger man, I did often have joysticks for my computers, so I would imagine I originally played Corncob 3D.

The graphics in Corncob 3D are very basic. Most enemies appear as spheres or a combinartion of spheres. I believe that the black spheres are fuel depots and the white spheres that appear as eyeballs are anti-aircraft guns. The alien enemy, inexplicably, has no aircraft that “chase” the player around the sky. However, the enemy does fire missiles at players as they fly by. Luckily missiles can be shot down by the propeller plane.

I decided to try out the training mission as well since I didn’t do particularly well in pure combat. One nice feature is that the game allows the player to set their aircraft to invincible mode, making learning and flying much easier. I was able to complete the primary objective of my training, destroying a flying saucer, by flying directly into it. I also successfully landed my plan at my base in a safe enough manner that I’d assume it would have worked even using a standard plane rather than invincible. I tried the same training mission with a real plane several times, each time managing to smash my plane into the ground after suffering heavy damage.

Corncob 3D is a simple game with a ton of promise. It is unique in being a realistic (with respect to flight controls) simulation that was available as shareware. The graphics are simplistic but, considering the release date, somewhat impressive in being smooth and seamless on a 486. I highly recommend this game to anyone with a joystick, and I plan on looking for a game port for my 486 as soon as the Retrochallenge ends.

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