There are very few things as iconic as The Peanuts Gang. Snoopy and company have been around for decades and yet we have seen very little of them in videogame form. Snoopy Flying Ace is not only the first time we have seen the gang on XBLA, but also quite possibly one of the best flying and multi-player games on the service; quite possibly this generation. Yeah I was shocked as well, but truly if you enjoy titles like Crimson Skies, this latest downloadable effort stands head and shoulders above several full-priced titles.
Now you may be getting excited at the thought of a new Crimson Skies, or simply not believe me when I tell you this game is that good, but there are a few things to take into consideration. First up Snoopy Flying Ace is a multi-player focused game. So much in fact that you have to look for the campaign missions from the main menu, they aren’t right in your face. Even then they serve more as a training ground as opposed to a real representation of what the game is like. Each mission unlocks new skins and teaches you new maneuvers, but for the most part you will find yourself wondering what all the fuss is about.
Once you hop online things change drastically. The multi-player is what will push this game into the must-own category immediately. On the surface the game comes across as a cartoony licensed title, but underneath is a complex airborne-shooter that will challenge even the most skilled gamers. The most basic principles you will have to come to grips with are the planes and weapons. Finding one tailored to your style will definitely take a few matches to master. Once you finally find your weapons of choice it is time to master the fine-tuned combat.
Getting around in Snoopy Flying Ace is a buttery as you would expect from a flying game. You maneuver around with the analog stick, fire weapons with the triggers and perform acrobatic moves with the right stick. Even though it is mundane and somewhat tedious I do recommend giving the single player game a whirl before hopping online if you want to get down the basic controls. Still anyone who has played Crimson Skies or something similar should feel right at home.
There are a host of modes to play online including the quintessential deathmatch and team deathmatch. In addition you also have capture the flag, a variant of king of the hill and my personal favorite Pigskin. In this mode you basically play out an aerial game of football that enforces team work, so you might be better off finding a party of friends that will actually communicate as opposed to relying on the standard fare you find on Xbox Live. My online tests ran relatively smooth and for the most part there was always a game available, although the standard deathmatch modes definitely are more populated than the others.
Visually the game looks really slick on most counts. The levels deliver a variety of environments and the Peanuts characters themselves are nice representations of their cartoon counterparts. The frame rate remains steady throughout even the most intense action, but the single player menu could have used a bit more refining. The sounds are a mixed bag as the explosions and gunfire are excellent, but the music just tends to lose its impact a little too quickly. Overall the game is presented well enough to be passed off as a full-priced game, and that is nothing to scoff at. The game also supports Avatars and even premium clothing, so you can imagine the hilarity that will ensue with some of those crazy outfits online.
Snoopy Flying Ace is a game that even with a cartoon license behind it, manages to appeal to the most hardcore of flying game fans. You will be surprised at just how deep the combat can be, not to mention how addicting it is to get into a good 16-player skirmish over Xbox Live. If you are looking for a single player experience this will likely not be your cup of tea, as the focus was clearly made to create a robust online endeavor. However, if you still dream of the days of Crimson Skies Snoopy Flying Ace will more than satisfy your hunger for aerial combat.
Review copy provided by publisher.