Last year, I reviewed an average WW2 flight combat game called Heroes Over Europe. This time around, we're going back a generation to World War I with Snoopy Flying Ace.
Man, World War I was so much more fun!
Okay, okay, it's true that Snoopy Flying Ace isn't exactly the most historically faithful World War I game out there. It does take place entirely in the mind of a particularly imaginative beagle, after all - you are cast in the role as iconic canine Snoopy, as he pretends to be a WWI flying ace, patrolling the skies above Europe and dueling with his nemesis the Red Baron. In the end, this gives us a lighter, more cartoonish take on the Great War - which might horrify history professors, but it makes for a great game.
Snoopy's WWI ends up feeling almost steampunk in a way, featuring biplanes with giant guns and rockets strapped to their wings, dogfighting around massive zeppelin battle fortresses. Rather than just using a single jam-prone machine gun, Snoopy's arsenal consists of more imaginative and anachronistic weaponry like massive fireballs, a railgun, and even a miniature plane that flies around to hit your enemies and explode like a tiny kamikaze.
At first, the missions all seem interesting and varied, with objectives slightly differentiated enough to hold your attention, and they're nicely varied up with more low-key, peaceful missions like playing follow the leader with Charlie Brown or collecting Woodstock and his pals from minefields. About halfway through, though, they start repeating, and some of the later missions are literally exact copies of earlier missions just set in a different place.
Still, despite that shortcoming, Snoopy Flying Ace still manages to worm its way into your heart. The online multiplayer is hectic and neatly varied, with the team-based modes shining brighter than the every-man-for-himself ones (in which you will almost invariably get blasted by someone you don't see coming out from the sky above you).
But more than that is that the game manages to perfectly capture the sort of nostalgic charm that Peanuts is known for. Whether it's Snoopy doing his happy dance when he completes a mission, the bright and cartoonish landscapes, or just the sheer absurdity of dogfighting against "Corporal Pigpen," Snoopy Flying Ace has a charm and whimsy about it that's hard to ignore (and that's not even counting the multiplayer kill-streak reward which turns Snoopy's plane into the iconic red doghouse).
Factor in that it's just $10 on Xbox Live, and you've got yourself a winner. It's a well-designed game that might not be the deepest title in the world, but it'll hold your attention and keep you entertained much longer than some full-priced games might.
You're a good game, Charlie Brown.
Bottom Line: A whimsical, imaginative take on World War I that has you fighting for freedom and for fun. The missions get repetitive, and there are only three types of planes with different skins, but the combat itself is entertaining, the weapons are cool, the multiplayer is a ton of fun - and it's jam-packed with lovable charm. Plus, it's just $10.
Recommendation: For $10, you could do a whole lot worse. It's definitely worth your money.
Game: Snoopy Flying Ace
Developer: Smart Bomb Interactive
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Platform(s): Xbox 360
Available from: Xbox Live Arcade (800 MS Points / $10)
John Funk never did get the red doghouse killstreak reward.