Corncob 3D is the first flight simulator that I ever played and I have many fond memories of it from my early gaming days on a 486 50MHz PC running Windows 3.1. It was released in 1992 by Pie in the Sky Software, a company that apparently shut down after its release because it has no other releases on record. Like many early games, my family got it in a retail store for something like $10.
You might be wondering, what kind of a name is Corncob 3D for a flight simulator? Frankly, I was wondering that myself until I looked it up. The game has nothing to do with corn or corncobs. The name corncob is actually a reference to the plane that you fly in the game, the classic F4U Corsair, which was nicknamed the Corncob Corsair.
As the opening scenes show, the game takes place in an alternate history where World War 2 never happened. What event was so important that it would stop Hitler's insane grab for land? An alien invasion of course! A picture shows the U.S. Capitol building in flames (even though stone probably doesn't burn very well) and one can only presume that a horrifying army of flying saucers descended to the planet and all hell broke loose.
With aliens invading, the U.S.A. takes up arms against them, which is where you come in. We aren't shown much of the war aside from your role, which is serving as a pilot of a Corsair. Strangely, you never see anyone else fighting the aliens, and you always start out at a tiny little airstrip with one or two planes and nobody around except for a little guy who appears to be giving you the middle finger and looks like he was drawn in MS Paint. Who is this man, and why is he giving such an insulting gesture? We may never know, but I did find out that it is possible to shoot him and not feel so bad about it on account of the finger.
When you start the game you can create a pilot dossier, which is like a profile in most modern games. It essentially allows multiple people to play without screwing each other up. Also, even if you die you can resurrect your player and keep going. The dossier keeps track of your stats and any medals you may earn for killing aliens. After selecting a pilot you can then select a campaign or training mission to get familiarized with the controls.
Flying the plane is pretty simple and while you can still stall out, it is hard to crash the plane unless you try or are shot down. Controlling with the keyboard is possible, but using a joystick is much more fun. Landing is relatively simple and does not require the landing strip. Merely decrease throttle and slowly drop, nosing up as you reach the ground and then hit the brakes. The plane also has flaps and a good assortment of all the most important instruments, including a valuable rear view mirror that shows anything approaching your six.
The plane is equipped with three types of weapons. The first is the machine guns, which slowly fire large red circles and make a popping sound. The aim of the machine guns is rather poor and it requires you to get in close range to perform attacks. The second is the missiles, which seem to be in limitless supply and look like white barrels. Third, you have a supply of bombs, which plummet directly to the ground and are very effective for aerial bombardment of alien structures.
While the game is based on flying planes, it is also possible to walk about on foot. If you crashland in the middle of nowhere, you can even call a van to pick you up and save you the trouble of humping it back to the airstrip. On foot you can also fire a weak weapon that shoots large red circles rather haphazardly, allowing you to attack the alien bases. Being on foot is not without risk, however, as you are vulnerable to capture by alien ground vehicles, which are shaped like triangles with a ball at each point and a whip antenna. In an amusing touch, upon capture you are shown your fate, which is cleaning alien toilets for the rest of your miserable life.
However you choose to attack, your main goal is to essentially destroy the alien forces and structures. Each map has targets on it, generally large pulsating and colored spheres that explode violently. In addition, there are fuel tanks (black circles with little legs) and strange prism wireframe structures that don't appear to have a purpose. You can't just go and attack the aliens without them defending themselves though. Most of the bases have an assortment of AA cannons and flak guns, as well as the aforementioned ground vehicles and flying UFOs. Most threatening are large missiles that pursue you wherever you go, but they are easy to dodge and gun down.
The game has sound, including MIDI music at the beginning, but it is pretty simplistic sound. You can hear explosions, guns firing, and your aircraft engine, but not much beyond that. It is about what you would expect from a game made in 1992, before most PCs had a Soundblaster 16 card.
In conclusion, I enjoyed this game a great deal as a youth. It was my introduction to flying and, although it doesn't give you much help in figuring out what you should be doing, it does have its charms. After playing a game like X-Plane, it is hard to go back to MS paint 3D graphics with no textures and solid colors, but still a lot of fun. Judging a game against its modern competitors is unfair and this is one game that was quite advanced in its time and is still fun to fly in today. If you want to try it, download the shareware that is scattered around the Internet, including this very website! If you have DOSBox it will run perfectly in it. Now get out there and kill some aliens!