A Fantastic Aerial Combat Game From An Unexpected License
Snoopy Flying Ace is one of the most pleasantly surprising games in recent memory. First off, it is of a genre that I'm not a huge fan of, aerial-combat games. Whether they're aerial-only, or an aerial section of a larger game, I never seem to enjoy them. Second, the license is shocking. Never would I have guessed that the game to bring me to this genre would be attached to the Peanuts license, coming from a developer that I've never even heard of, Smart Bomb Interactive.
Flying Ace features plenty of campaign missions, set in World War I. You can play these by yourself or cooperatively on Xbox Live or locally through split-screen. There's also competitive multiplayer, which I will get to later. The game offers plenty of great weapons for you to use. Everyone gets a standard machine gun, but then you can pick two special weapons of your choice. There are a variety of lock-on weapons, area-of-effect attacks, proximity mines, and close-ranged weapons. You can play as classic Peanuts characters such as Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Pigpen, Pepperiment Patty, and more, either with their awesome military gear on or with their classic clothes from the comic strip. The missions offer a lot more variety than I expected. Fending off waves of planes, holding down an area with turrets, taking out a giant enemy zeppelin, defending your own giant zeppelin, and even racing are all included. The controls feel fantastic and make these a blast. Evading and barrel rolls are mapped to the right stick, and you can boost with the A button. All of these help create some awesome, fast-paced gameplay.
Of course, this game is a Peanuts one, therefore it can't be particularly violent. Don't expect crazy explosions with character's limbs flying out of their planes when they crash. The art style and graphics are very nice and fit the game perfectly. When ever a plane is destroyed the character will parachute out, rather than die, and there's plenty of cartoony sound effects that fit nicely.
No matter how awesome the single-player missions are they don't compare to the real reason you must own this game: the multiplayer. All of the great stuff I talked about earlier also applies in this mode, too. When you jump into the multiplayer menu, you'll notice everything is unlocked, including all the characters and weapons. This is nice, but it also takes away the feeling that you are progressing that make games like those from the Call of Duty franchise so fun. You will still level up, but they don't really mean a whole lot, other than earning a new emblem and title to go next to your name. They give you some nice statistics as well as lots of multiplayer achievements to keep you addicted.
There are six modes all of which can be played with up to 16 people. They are Dog Fight, Team Dog Fight, Capture the Flag, Dog Pile, Team Dog Pile, and Pigskin. Dog Fight and Team Dog Fight are your standard Deathmatch modes and we all know how CTF works. Dog Pile has you trying to capture a bone and holding onto it as long as possible, either with a team or free-for-all. Pigskin is basically football but with planes. There's even a nice little football field layout with goals on each side and they even put the score and timer at the top. One player gets the ball and he can pass it to others who need to fly it throw the goal to score.
All of the maps are consistently good. There are certainly some that I prefer over others, but none that stand out as being bad. They are filled with turrets that you can control, nice power-ups liked extra armor, speed boosts, invisibility, and infinite ammo as well as AI-controlled structures will pop out at random times and cause trouble. On one level, a giant armor-covered robot pops out of the water and attacks both teams.
Balancing can never be perfect, but it seems about right here. Whenever you lock onto an enemy with a weapon they will be prompted to evade and will have an opportunity to avoid it. At this point, it becomes what your opponent is not doing, rather than what you are doing, which is a nice change. There's also killstreaks that award you with a Woodstock gunner or Snoopy's actual dog house. You can decide to use a light, medium, or heavy plane. That is, one with low health and lots of speed, moderate health and speed, or high health and little speed.
Snoopy Flying Ace is 800 Microsoft Points ($10) on Xbox Live Arcade. At that price, the game is a steal. I'm sure you will sink more time into this game than a lot of full priced retail products. There's a fair number of missions that can be played solo or cooperatively, and then there's the incredible multiplayer mode that should keep you coming back for a long time.