Review: Snoopy Flying Ace

When you think of the Peanuts gang and that lovable beagle Snoopy, it’s likely you don’t immediately recall Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge. It just doesn’t seem too likely of a union, now does it? But wait. Toss Snoopy’s vicious nemesis into the mix, the Red Baron, and his penchant for World War II-era dogfights with the venerable fighter pilot. Starting to make more sense now? It should. In Smart Bomb Interactive’s highly enjoyable yet sufficiently challenging downloadable title, Snoopy Flying Ace, the meshing of Crimson Skies and the cast of Peanuts seems like a match made in heaven. Even more of a definitively arcade-type experience than Smart Bomb’s previous outing, Snoopy vs. The Red Baron, this adventure borrows more than a few pages from the cult Xbox hit and writes a fantastic story all its own.

For the paltry sum of just 800 Microsoft Points, you take to the skies with Snoopy in his famed Sopwith Camel and explore a range of game play modes. The solo campaign missions offer a variety of different outings, annotated with a quirky few scenes accompanied by text to act as your briefing. Familiar characters such as Linus and Woodstock take on new roles as your guide to several different missions. You’ll take on the insidious Lucy van Pelt retooled as a German general, even Pigpen and Rerun. Good ol’ Charlie Brown is spotted a few times over, but honestly not as much as I would have liked. Each mission assigns you clear objectives to complete before you can unlock the next. You may need to defeat a handful of squadrons, defend a location via anti-aircraft guns, or simply defeat an opponent within a set amount of time.

Admittedly, the missions themselves can get pretty rough despite the ease and finesse of which the flight controls have been implemented. The triggers have been mapped to control of your weaponry (Steampunk meets future weapons — missiles, swarm missiles, and various other niceties at your disposal), the analog sticks maneuver Snoopy (or the pilot of your choosing, even your Xbox 360 avatar!) through the air, face button B manages special weapons, and shoulder buttons allow for simple barrel rolls and loop-de-loops. There’s virtually no real learning curve to getting acquainted with this simple control scheme and allows you to jump right into the action with minimal consulting of the tutorials or menu screens.

Zooming around in the air, you’ll note that flight itself is actually quite forgiving. The only real thing you’ll need to keep a close eye on is not mashing your finger down on the fire button (the right trigger) since your guns will overheat very quickly. Use some discretion when aiming for your targets, lest the outline on the center screen surrounding your reticule fill up and you find yourself resorting to special weapons.

Combat is actually very relaxed and almost retains a sort of casual tone that reminds you never to get too serious even in the midst of a heated dogfight. This is ironic to me, as I had quite a bit of trouble passing most of the missions even on “Cadet” difficulty, but once you settle in to play, you’ll see what I mean. Since the Peanuts influence is all but lost in the game’s varied environments, perhaps that’s one link to the legendary comic strip that serves as a reminder of what Charlie Brown and his buddies learned and subsequently taught through their You can switch between different special attacks while flying, and this adds an extra layer of strategy to the wackiness playing out on-screen.

Seasoned veterans might blaze through the game’s solo campaign, as many of them can end in a matter of minutes save for the particularly lengthy zeppelin battles. In fact, it’s possible to complete the missions in a matter of hours. But the fun doesn’t stop there. You can take the show on the road with a variety of online multiplayer modes, co-op modes, and social game types. A full-fledged leveling system complete with different ranks rewards players for putting in real hard work and hours into their multiplayer game. Simple dog fights may be a bit shallow, but game types such as Pigskin or Dog Pile offer variants on the same old tired tune of “fight to the death.”

Snoopy Flying Ace looks and sounds fantastic, and it plays like a solid, licensed Crimson Skies. I found it to be a perfectly acceptable way to spend a few hours on the 360 shooting down my friends and feeling like the tough guy Snoopy who means business when it comes to fighting the Red Baron. My only real complaint would be that the game can actually be quite difficult. What’s more, while the Peanuts characters are sure enough present, the game as a whole feels as though it was only skinned as a Snoopy title rather than built from the ground up as a tribute to the universe. This is only a minor complaint, though for a title branded with the Snoopy name, I admit I was expected a little bit more Peanuts flavor. Still, a very solid offering and one that you owe it to yourself as a casual flight sim fan or even a Peanuts fan in general looking to get a chuckle out of gunning down Lucy van Pelt.

What are you waiting for, ya blockhead? Give it a shot.

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