mesoian's Snoopy Flying Ace (Xbox 360 Games Store) review

I was shocked, I was surprised...

I first saw this game at this year's PAXEast. The Dev or booth guy or whathaveyou was looking rather lonely. No one was playing his game; people were far too distracted by Crackdown 2 behind it, Hydro Thunder to it's left or Limbo to it's right. So, carefully sifting through the rows of waiting participants, I picked up the sticks and started a new game. 
 
The first thing I instantly noticed was the likeness of the game's controls to Crimson Skies. Quickly flicking the right analog stick in various directions to pull of maneuvers, getting the drop on chasing enemies by pulling swift S turns, using rolls to evade barrages of homing rockets, it all felt good, spry,  familiar.  It wasn't long before I was raking in the kills, the 8 player bot arena hardly standing a chance against my prior expertise. Secondary weapons recharged automatically over time, the active weapon charging slower while the secondary chambered weapon charging quicker, each being able to be swapped in our out at any time. The variety of weaponry was pretty good, though many, like the burning flail or the silver bullet, seemed rather useless during seriously play . The Kill Streak bonuses made me giggle as, after gaining 4 kills, Woodstock flew to my plane, sat on the tail, pulled out what seemed to be 2 dirty harry-esque revolvers and began shooting akimbo at any planes that happened to get behind me. I began to cackle as I reached 9 kills and my plane turned into Snoopy's dog house, fitted with an automatic rotary gunner. 
 
The ambiance of the game, however, made me feel...a little strange. It's certainly not bad; taking place in a faux world war one, the peanuts gang takes sides on either side of the European front, Lucy and Pig Pen fighting for the Germans in full pre-SS regalia; Shroder, Peppermint Patty and Marcy fighting on the side of the Brits. It's all fine for the crazy wacked-out fiction of the peanuts comic strip. But it does feel a little strange having to associate these classic characters with a pre-nazi establishment. Lucy sporting the iron cross makes you feel a little odd. The fact that you could kill Woodstock with well placed machine gun fire was a bit uncomfortable.  But that was more of a hang up for me the anything. If anything, it was a mechanism that actively made me think about what I was seeing, and that is quite welcome in any game, even if it is rather silly. Too often do we take whats being shown to us for granted, tossing it to the side as quirk or happenstance. 
 
So, here we are with the full retail version. Most of the game was untouched, it still plays great and I still had a load of fun with it. I was quite adept at online multiplayer, getting quite a few wins in the normal dogfight deathmatch. Team deathmatch followed suite, though it did display how small some of these maps could be when playing 8x8. Capture the flag was the normal affair, though I found it quite odd that one could score the flag, regardless of whether or not their own flag was present at their base. This lead to most games I played surrounding around everyone doing their own thing. Teamwork never really seemed that important. The most interesting game mode was the Pigskin mode, which is a makeshift American football game played with planes. Players had the option to pass the ball to other players to ensure their team scored if plane damage became to high. Unfortunately these games usually ended up being rather one sided. The matchmaking for Snoopy Flying Ace seems a little haphazard, rarely ever adding people for team balance. It wasn't uncommon to see 5-1 matches with the matchmaking adding more people to the already unbalanced team.
 
So it's fun right? Well, there is one glaring problem with the balance of the game that seems to be a bit of a problem. Thus far, it seems like if you use the 'squito mines and the emp, you can fly ahead of everyone else playing on the leaderboard. Because you can constantly scatter 'squito mines everywhere and they recharge so quickly, it's very possible to liter half the map with the stinger mines, allowing you to rack in easy kills without putting in much effort. At the end of a game i played last night with this configuration, I had 25 kills (which wings the game) 42 assists and 1 death (which was accidentally self inflicted while pulling an S turn too close to the ground). I'm not even sure if this is something that can be fixed, but many dogfight matches seem to have a lot of people in medium grade planes, 'squito mines and either EMP or leach missiles equip to pressure other players into traps. But, all that being said, I never got killed with mines all that often, and if you know to look for it, it seems pretty easy to avoid, so, who knows. It may just be a preemptive worry. 
 
So do I recommend it? Absolutely. If you have 10 dollars, you are damn near obligated to buy this game because you will have a blast. It does my heart good to see cheap XBLA games bestowing the same amount of fun that big budget titles do, and with more really great XBLA games on the precipice, my worries for this summer are well alleviated. 
 
Buy this game. Do it now. It is excellent.

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