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Heroes In The Sky (beta release)

Entry 347 posted in: 3. Gamebits

MadCap that's me! I am not really into ultra-realistic simulation games. I love a nice simulation but it needs to combine good old arcade fun with decent realism. One of my colleagues at work was deeply into Microsoft Flight Simulator but this has never been my cup of tea. I mean what is the purpose of flying an airplane over the Atlantic Ocean if you can't shoot down some enemies? But perhaps I am still pissed off because I never managed to land a plane on the tarmac.

One of the first games trying to combine fact and fun was, if my memory is correct, Corncob 3D. It was a DOS shareware game, created in the early Nineties (late Eighties?) by Kevin Stokes from Pie In The Sky. To quote the maker (in 1993):

Corncob 3D is a flight sim I wrote a few years ago. It features 16 colour filled polygon graphics. It is pretty much entirely obsolete now, but I'm still making money off it. I certainly learned a lot about marketing with it!

As is usual in those kind of games the starting point is a bit weird. Aliens seem to have invaded Earth in 1938 so there has never ever been a WWII. About a decade later you happen to be a freedom fighter with a plane that is well equipped with guns, missiles and bombs. The unregistered version of the game came with tree missions, in one of which you had to destroy a flying saucer that was hovering high in the sky.

This was truly an amazing game as it combined a flight sim with first person adventure. Not only could one fly a plane, but one could also jump out of it (preferably with a parachute), walk around with a pistol in your hand inside the flying saucer, use a car on the ground to escape, etc... etc... (I remember that I combined several shareware versions of Corncob 3D on my hard disk, each with different missions, so at a certain moment I had seven playable missions instead of the usual 3.) The parachute trick came in handy, as I never learned how to land the plane in this game either. It is a pity that the MVP website, that distributed the game nearly 20 years ago, no longer dedicates a page to this archaeological piece of software.

The next f(l)ight sim I simply had to try was Red Baron. As someone has written:

One cannot talk about classic combat flight simulations without mentioning Red Baron. This sim was the first in the Dynamix Aces series, which set the bar high for the rest of the collection. Initially released in a 16 colour EGA version, it was soon updated to a 256 colour VGA version.

I only remember that Red Baron always used to crash my PC, but people who have managed to make it run confirm this was a classic. My somewhat negative experience with Red Baron made me lose my appetite for flight and fight sims until I stumbled upon a free magazine copy of Crimson Skies.

That game had it all: a (somewhat dodgy) story, nice graphics and, the most important of it all, an automatic landing mode! In one of the missions you had to follow a train with your plane and pick up a passenger before the train disappeared into a tunnel. Flying under bridges or inside caves resulted in snapshots to fill a personal-stunt-scrapbook. But alas, on my configuration mission 6 always used to crash in mid-air and nothing could be done about it. After a while I deleted the game from my disk and gave the cd to someone who could get away with it...

So that was it. Until a few days ago. I spent some time on the Shot Online Golf simulation site, currently hosted at GamesCampus and found out they had a beta running of a flight sim called Heroes In The Sky.

Hmmm. GameCampus beta releases. Where did I hear that before? Oh yeah, here. A few months ago they tested a fishing championship game. A fucking fishing championship game! Sitting on a chair, waiting for a virtual fish to bite, turned out to be as exciting as the real thing.

But this promised to be something else. As usual the website was very vague with instructions. Basically it read.

1) Log-in first to play the game using your GamesCampus account.
2) Once you log-in, you can fly any plane you choose.
3) Then go get'em.

That is all. The game has a certain simplicity that we would call vintage or classic nowadays. The arrows make you fly up, down, left or right. Shooting is done with A (gun) or S (missile). You see some planes that are trying to shoot you down so you better shoot them down before they do. That's all. It's simple. I like it.

And most important of all: you don't need to land. This could be a hit. I'm pretty sure of it. Now let's kill those bastards.

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