Review – Snoopy Flying Ace

Hello everyone, we’re back at you this week with a look at one of the surprise hits of summer, Snoopy Flying Ace. First off, I’m going to admit this right now, I’m of an age where Snoopy & the entire Peanuts gang is nostalgia for me. Simple kids from a far simpler time & all that jazz. If you remember back, one of Snoopy’s many alter egos was that of the famous WWI flying ace, determined to shoot down the dastardly red baron. Now, how do you take those childhood memories and bring them up to speed in the modern time, while simultaneously keeping the enduring classic charm that Peanuts has always been known for? Well, the folks over at Smart Bomb Interactive have found that magic formula, and the result is nothing short of marvelous.

The game basically splits into two distinct experiences. First off, the single player campaign. For this you fly as the famed WWI flying ace facing off against the Red Baron and his hordes of minions across various locales. These tend to split off into facing wave after wave of enemy planes, or fending off attacks from enemy zeppelins. It’s a very simple and straightforward experience for the most part, though you occasionally veer off into other mini-events such as ring races and the like. Pretty standard fare here which can be finished in a couple hours. The game does allow for co-op play through the single player campaign which can be useful, especially through the zeppelin attacks.

Where the game truly shines though is it’s multiplayer aspect. Here you have numerous characters to choose from; iconic characters like Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, and so on can be selected, or you can even use your own avatar if you want. The selectable aircraft play fairly similar to each other with only minor variances in speed, health & maneuverability. Weapon wise, you have a huge variety to select from out of the gate, with the ability to use two separate special weapons. You’ve got your pick of homing weapons like the leech and the swarm, which hit your target and drain their health. Aerial mines that can swarm over a target, or blast them with one hit if they come too close. Or a choice of powerful close range weapons like the Blunderbuss (a shotgun-like blast) or the Rain Maker (a heavy machine gun). And for those that prefer a little more modern day weaponry, a point-blank EMP weapon is also available. All the weapons are immediately at your disposal, they don’t require any sort of leveling up or challenge completions to unlock.

The locales you fight within are numerous and varied, from mountainous canyons, to Snoopy-themed Egyptian monuments, to icy caverns. With vast areas and numerous power-ups to collect, there’s plenty of ground to cover for a daredevil pilot. Also to keep the action coming, every map has a world event ranging from dust tornadoes in Egypt to mechanized sea monsters in the tropical islands. These world events can keep even veteran pilots on their toes!

Taking a nod from certain other games, Snoopy Flying Ace features both a level-up system & kill streak rewards. The level up system is similar to games such as Modern Warfare 2, however there are no unlocks or anything attached to gaining levels. The only benefit so far to reaching the coveted “Flying Ace” level is access to the exclusive flying ace leader boards. Kill streaks are simple to use, and fairly achievable with even moderate skill. Getting 4 kills in a row gives you Woodstock as a tail-gunner to cover your rear, while 9 kills in a row turns your plane into Snoopy’s Dog House, which is lightning fast and maneuverable. Dying multiple times however gets you the blockhead death streak, which both labels you as a loser on par with Charlie Brown, but gives a major armor boost to go along with your blockheadedness.

Multiplayer features several game modes to keep you in the clouds. You have both the free-for-all dog fight & team dog fight. Capture the flag has you zooming around the map trying to keep the flag out of enemy hands, while dog bone is similar to Halo’s own oddball mode where you try to hold the bone for as long as possible. The last mode that comes with the game is pigskin, which is basically a flying game of football (minus the Lucy ball jerks). Pigskin is one of the more unique game modes which requires a solid amount of teamwork and strategy to score points.

Control wise, Snoopy Flying Ace is a very simple game to get a grip on. Left stick controls direction while the trigger buttons controls your main gun and special weapons. X & A control both your turbo booster and air break respectively, while B allows you to switch between special weapons on the fly. The right analog stick meanwhile controls your special acrobatic stunts. A quick press upwards lets you loop-de-loop over an unsuspecting foe, while flicking down puts you in a fast 180 turn. Left and right allows you barrel roll, which is useful for avoiding homing weapons and shaking off the effects of either a leech or a swarm. As for the controls themselves, they are extremely precise and accurate, and all the controls can be customized as needed.

Graphically, the folks at Smart Bomb have done a fantastic job creating a eye-pleasing world to blast your way through. They really paid homage to the original source material in making every character just as you remember them from the classic strips 30-40 years ago. Yes, it’s cartoonish to an extent, but that’s what I would expect from a comic classic like Peanuts.

I only have a couple minor gripes about Snoopy Flying Ace that I hope the folks over at Smart Bomb Interactive will address in the upcoming DLC for the game. First off, repeat after me… “The host is not god.” Basically, if the host disconnects, the game quits out to the lobby. This is an annoyance that happens a lot, and when it does it irks me to no end. I don’t think it’s that hard when a host disconnects to assign it to another host rather than force everyone out like that. Please, please, please fix this!

My only other gripe which I hope gets addressed is the balance issues with certain weapons. Certain homing weapons like the leech & the swarm are just too good at this point, especially when fired into a massive aerial melee. Basically I can just point myself in their direction, fire into the fray, and bout 75% of the time get a kill from it. Please try to tone them down a bit, and maybe emphasize some of the other weapons which haven’t seen much use, like the flail.

Final Thoughts:
Overall, Snoopy Flying Ace is a surprisingly good aerial tour-de-force. It may have a short single player game, but it’s got frantic rock solid multiplayer action that rivals even the top FPS games, easy to learn controls that anyone can quickly master, and that heartwarming nostalgia of the entire Peanuts gang in all their 3D glory. All this for only 800 MS points ($10), and you’ve got the recipe for one of the surprise smash hits of 2010. Saddle up my fellow blockheads, cause this is one flying shooter that you cannot afford to miss!


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June 2010
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