Snoopy Flying Ace Review

By Paul Semel - Posted Jun 04, 2010

While some might peg an arcade-style aerial combat game starring the shaggy dog from Peanuts as a kiddie game -- and it is -- Snoopy Flying Ace actually has enough challenge and variety to also make this an engaging romp through the unfriendly skies for older gamers who remember when people actually read the funny pages.

The Pros
  • Solid, arcade-style controls.
  • Good variety of planes, weapons, and (online) playable characters.
  • Kid-friendly, but challenging and deep enough to engage adults
The Cons
  • May be too cartoony for older Peanuts fans.
  • May be too frantic for younger Peanuts fans.
  • Some elements feel out of place from Peanuts canon.

When he’s not training for Wimbledon, selling insurance, or quaffing root beer with his pal Woodstock, Snoopy valiantly serves The Triple Entente as a World War One flying ace. And if that sentence doesn’t make any sense to you, then allow me to welcome you back to the planet Earth, might we recommend this funny comic strip called Peanuts. Written and drawn by Charles M. Schulz (1922-2000), Peanuts was one of the longest running, most influential, and darn funniest comic strips to ever graces the pages of newspapers.

Once you’ve gone back and familiarized yourself with the antics of Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and the gang — which you can actually do rather easily with the ongoing and lovingly assembled Complete Peanuts series from Fantagraphics Books — you can help Snoopy vanquish the dreaded Red Baron and his cohorts in this simplistically fun downloadable flight combat game.

 Snoopy: Flying Ace Review

Meet The Fokker, Charlie Brown.

Made by Smart Bomb Interactive, Snoopy Flying Ace is the sequel to Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron, a similar arcade-style aerial dogfighting game that Smart Bomb released in 2006. And like that prior game, Ace has Charlie Brown’s beagle flying into fictionalized battles from the first World War. But it’s not all dogfighting. Ace also has escort missions, piloting challenges, and a mission in which you have to take down a metallic zeppelin before it reaches its bombing target.

Ace also features a variety of planes, though aside from Snoopy’s beloved Sopwith Camel, most have wacky wing schemes and oversized accoutrements that make them seem more fanciful than aerodynamic. You can even, rather oddly, pilot the Fokker, the plane of choice for Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen. Or, as he’d be known on Xbox Live, TEH R3D B@R0N.

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Besides having a fleet of planes, you also have an arsenal of weapons. Machine guns are standard equipment on all aircraft, but you also get to pick two alternate weapons that you can swap between mid-battle. Besides such common armaments as “Comet Rockets” (a.k.a missiles) and “Blunderbuss”(shotguns), there are such silly ones as the “Tarpedo,” the tenets of which you can figure out for yourself.

What’s interesting is that while this game is cartoony -- it is based on a comic strip, after all -- the gameplay is, in some ways, more intricate than you’d expect. Your machine guns, for example, can overheat if you use them too much, while your alternate weapons can also run out. It’s worth mentioning that it will happen, since your enemies are flying aces as well, and you’ll sometimes have single-handedly take on squads of fifteen at a time.

Ace even does that audio trick they do in every recent war game, war movie, and cartoon or sketch comedy bit about war games and movies, where everything becomes all muffled and white noisy when you’re hit hard. Some of the humor might also go over smaller kids’ heads (like the Led Zep one), though if they doesn’t get the funny and rather obvious Star Wars reference, you might want to consider getting them a tutor. Still, this is not a realistic flight simulator by any stretch. Please don’t think you can play this and then fly a real Sopwith Camel. Or even a dog house.

Can’t Be A Coaster Online, Charlie Brown.

Besides a series of single-player missions, Ace also has online multiplayer, with mostly familiar modes: “Deathmatch” (which is called “Dog Fight” here), “Team Deathmatch” (“Team Dog Fight”), “Capture The Flag,” and so on. But the kicker (pun intended) is “Pigskin,” which is basically football if you could shoot the opposing team, there were no downs, and everyone was in a plane.

These modes also feature power-ups that can restore health, etc., though they are typically scarce and well hidden throughout the levels. You can even land and man an anti-aircraft gun in some modes, though they’re not impervious to machine gun fire.

As in single player, multiplayer also lets you chose from the same variety of planes and armaments. But you can also play as such other Peanuts characters as Linus, Lucy, Sally, Peppermint Patty and her hetero-lifemate Silent Marcie, Pigpen, Schroeder, and, of course, good ol’ Charlie Brown, all of whom are decked out in vintage W.W.I.-era flight gear. You can even use your Xbox avatar, though unless you look like a kid with a big nose, don’t. Just don’t.

 Snoopy: Flying Ace Review

You’ve Got Issues, Charlie Brown.

While Ace is a solid shooter, it does have some very minor problems. Though most, admittedly, are more about diversions from the original texts than actual flaws in the game or gameplay. The single player missions occasionally includes bombing raids, obstacle courses, and anti-aircraft shooting sections. But while Snoopy did once man an A.A. gun when he got shot down (if you remember the old song), he never rained death from above as a bomber in a zeppelin. But while this doesn’t fit the original source material, these parts do provide a nice palate cleanser from all the mid-air collisions.

Another conceptual inconsistency is the game’s Crimson Skies-esque steampunky art style. While Peanuts always had a simple and sparse look about it, on the rare occasions when Schulz showed Snoopy during the war, it was done with relatively gritty realism. There was never anything Jules Verne-esque about Schulz’s art. Again, it doesn’t make the game less fun, it’s just very incongruous.

You’re A Good Shot, Charlie Brown.

Snoopy Flying Ace is very much a game for kids, or for parents to play with their kids (assuming, of course, they don’t mind said kids playing a game where junior shoots at airplanes with readily-available parachutes). But they might also want to play it alone after junior goes to bed. As a forty-two-year-old who grew up reading Peanuts, and has since bought every volume of The Complete Peanuts, I had a real blast playing this simplistic but fun arcade game. It isn’t terribly deep or long, but then it’s not terribly expensive or taxing either. If anything, it provided a much-needed and fun diversion. Kind of like Snoopy’s adventures in the funny pages.