And so, this is the somewhat bizarre scenario Snoopy: Flying Ace presents. Loveable pooch Snoopy is, for some reason, in some sort of World War One style scenario, and is fighting on the side of the allies (as you do), against the dastardly Red Baron, and a few other "bad guy" characters from the Peanuts comic strip.
What follows is an arcade oriented flying game that, at least visually, has been aimed at families and children. With Snoopy taking to the skies, and some rather forgiving flight-sim controls, you don't have to worry about stalling, fuel, or any of the other things that plague pilots in real life, instead letting you focus on the fun parts - shooting the other planes down, and the presumably pun-intended dog fights.
Easily the highlight of Snoopy: Flying Ace is the fact it lets you take to the skies with a friend, during the co-operative campaign mode. While taking to the skies on your own is fun, with a friend in tow, it becomes a completely different experience. It's not entirely uncommon to see your friend taking a beating on the horizon, and dashing to the rescue, boosting as fast as your wooden crate of a plane will take you makes you feel like quite the dashing hero.
And although the campaign itself is depressingly short, while it lasts, it's a nicely varied experience, letting you do a lot more than simply flying around, shooting some planes down, with just the scenery changing.
Whether you're flying through some narrow hoops down a maze, defending a sphinx from attack, or trying to destroy a Zeppelin before it reaches your base, the objectives help keep things feeling fresh - and that's just in the first four missions. The ability to change the loadout of your plane, changing its secondary weapons before you take off also helps to add a bit of strategy to the proceedings, as if the one approach towards a mission isn't working, you're given the chance to try another - and certain secondary weapons, like the homing missiles, seem to work better for newer players than others.
There are a few problems though, no matter how much fun it is taking to the sky with a friend. Firstly, the enemy AI seems a little bit ropey, as rather than trying to dogfight properly, and outmanoeuvre you, they'll often just follow you round, simply trying to outturn you. What this often leads to is something of a ballet in the sky, with several planes just following each other round in a circle.
Occasionally, as well, the game can be a bit too hard. Even on the easiest difficulty, during our first showdown with the Red Baron, we kept dying, thanks to his incredibly unfair move, which seemed to mean our plane just spontaneously combusted upon him looking at us. Nothing seemed to fire from his plane - and although we're now presuming it was some sort of homing/leech missile that strapped to our plane and exploded, it was a pretty frustrating experience.
All this means that although it's packed with characters that'll make it appeal to kids, there's every chance that if they can handle the whole flying-a-plane thing (our own Sarah certainly couldn't...), they may well find the actual game a bit too frustrating, even on the easiest difficulties. It seems a bit strange that a game with so much appeal for children would be so comparatively difficult for young (and we guess old, seeing as Sarah's 21) players, but with an adult in tow, or a particularly persistent child, you should be able to weather the harder stages.
And although it is somewhat marred by a fairly short campaign, some ropey AI, and the occasional unfair boss, it is still a lot of fun while it lasts. For a father and son gaming session, Snoopy: Flying Ace could be the perfect partner - something that'll hold plenty of appeal for both.
- Simple flying controls - but that doesn't mean everyone can do them. As we found out.
- Co-operative campaign makes things a lot more fun.
- Snoopy looks good in those flying goggles.
- Short campaign
- Ropey AI
- Enemies who can seemingly destroy you just by glancing in your general direction.