When I was a kid, it wasn’t truly Halloween unless I watched the Peanuts TV special in October. But I didn’t watch it to see if Linus would finally meet The Great Pumpkin, or if Charlie Brown would get candy in his sack instead of rocks. No, my favorite part of the Peanuts Halloween special was Snoopy’s WWI Flying Ace fantasy. Yes, Snoopy’s ace pilot was my favorite of his many personas. And I bet you can guess what one of my favorite Christmas songs is, too. So you can imagine how pleased I was to see a Snoopy: Flying Ace video game for download on Xbox LIVE last week.
Snoopy: Flying Ace is a sequel of sorts to Snoopy vs. The Red Baron, a PS2 game I reviewed back in 2006. It was a kid-friendly airplane combat game, with an engaging single player story mode and a few fun multiplayer modes that had some untapped potential. While the sequel’s single player mode is a bit lacking this time, they’ve really fleshed out the multiplayer modes for a fun, family friendly online experience.
The single player modes offer some basic navigation, dogfight, and escort/protection missions, but most will be able to zip through those in a couple of afternoons. You’ll only want to play through the single player modes to get familiar with the controls and unlock all the cool weapons and planes. Speaking of which, there’s lots of customization to be had with all the aircraft, characters, and weapons to choose from. You can play as Snoopy or several of the other Peanuts cast, or even your own Xbox LIVE Avatar.
The multiplayer modes are where it’s at this time around. You can play co-op with two players on a split screen, or go online with LIVE. There are standard dogfight and ‘capture the bone’ modes, as well as others like a Pigskin challenge that combines aerial combat with the game of football! Other than a little lag time every now and then, the online modes are great for fans of multiplayer challenges.
The simplified flight controls are easy to get into and figure out, which is good because the learning curve is a little steep when jumping right in. The graphics are much improved from the original game, and the music is a nice mix of foreboding orchestra and classic Peanuts jazz. And if you listen carefully amidst all the explosions and gunfire, you can hear Snoopy’s trademark wacky laugh as he takes down another foe in the sky.
While I wish the single player modes were as good as they were in Snoopy vs. The Red Baron, if you like multiplayer Xbox 360 games, Snoopy: Flying Ace is well worth the 800 points (around ten bucks). It really puts the ‘dog’ in ‘dogfight!’ Also a great gift to play with dad on Father’s Day!
Snoopy: Flying Ace is rated E-10 for Everyone 10 and up with an ESRB descriptor of Violence. But I would let just about any age kid play this game. While it is a little weird seeing the Peanuts cast in WWI garb shooting down each other with machine guns and missiles, the only things that get hurt are the planes. The game does a great job of clearly showing that everyone shot down safely survives with a parachute, and everyone is ready to get back in the action after a few seconds to spawn.
Reading skill is a must as all the instructions are in text only. While the flying controls are simplified, some younger players might still be intimidated by the sharper learning curve and challenging online opponents. But Snoopy: Flying Ace is still one of the best online multiplayer family games on Xbox LIVE. Even my teenage brother Jeff and his friends loved it, and they usually don’t play my cartoony games!