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Years of playing bad licensed games have made me so cynical that my first reaction to playing a good one is confusion. Why would anyone bother putting much effort into a game like this when older gamers will just scoff, and younger ones won’t know the difference? But I guess Namco-Bandai and developer Smart Bomb have a different philosophy, because Snoopy vs. The Red Baron is way, way better than you’d think it would be. I know you’re probably much, much too cool to buy this game for personal use, but if you have a child in your life, you can pretend you’re buying it for their benefit, then play the hell out of it late at night with the curtains drawn. No one needs to know!
Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron is one of those rare games that was certainly designed to appeal to younger games, but can capture the attention of anyone. It has solid gameplay, a good presentation and a nice ranking system that makes you want to replay levels.
But that’s a pretty minor criticism. There’s nothing terribly original about Snoopy vs. The Red Baron. It clearly takes a lot of design cues from other games. There’s a little Crimson Skies, a little Starfox, and even some Diddy Kong Racing. They took a bunch of good ideas from those titles and assembled a rock solid action game for the younger set. In this era of crappy kids games selling in huge numbers, the developer didn’t have to do that. They could have half-assed it and probably made a good amount of coin. But they didn’t. And for that, we thank them.
Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron is a solid combination of some classic characters, with arcade flight action, throwing in enough variety and imagination to give most folks a fun day or two of playtime. Add in some decent multiplayer modes, and you have pleasant family game for the Holiday season. Needless to say, aficionados of Charles. M. Schultz should also pick this game up, and hey, for $30, it’s a modest charge compared to the recent spate of overpriced Next-Gen gaming.
Whether cruising the sky for balloons (a potential bonus), diving in the middle of combat, or flying just for fun, Snoopy's controls are top-notch. They use a style that falls somewhere between Star Fox 64 and the old arcade game Afterburner (which, after many years, is finally getting a console update). You have complete freedom over where you want to go. Directions can be switched by turning manually, or by pressing the circle button to perform a reverse roll. Enemy evasion spins are executed by tapping the L2 (left) and R2 (right) buttons. The other shoulder buttons let you increase or decrease your speed, which is very useful for maneuvering in combat.
The light analog sensitivity of the plane, and how you'll naturally conform to its actions, is not at all common. Most aerial games, even the good ones, have something notoriously wrong with their controls. It's nice to see that Snoopy Vs. the Red Baron has broken the trend.
It may not be the best flying game out there, and it might be centered around an out-of-date license, and it might seem really weird that the family-friendly fare of Peanuts has suddenly merged with the likes of machine guns, smart bombs and exploding vehicles. But make no mistake, Snoopy vs. the Red Baron is a very solid offering and is one of the most enjoyable flight combat games to his the platform in the past year.
Unfortunately, there are still a few blemishes technically. The graphics are at times basic and some of the textures just don’t look that good. While the environments are bright and colorful, they’re occasionally repetitive in terms of scenery. It’s nothing crippling to the game’s presentation, but it’s not exactly a technical showcase either.
Overall, Snoopy vs. the Red Baron is a fun, simple flight combat game that should appeal to fans of all ages. It might not be the longest or most technically advanced game out there, but it makes up for it in terms of presentation and just plain fun.
All told, Snoopy vs. the Red Baron is a good example of the right way to produce a video game based on a licensed property. The underlying gameplay provides a nice mix of tried-and-true concepts from the air combat genre, while the integration of the Peanuts characters and situations is handled in a way that's faithful to Charles Schulz's original stories. When you play the game, you really get the idea that you're the famous World War I flying ace piloting the Sopwith Camel to victory against the nefarious Red Baron.
Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron is a decent introductory flight combat title for kids and Peanuts fans. The story pitting Snoopy against the Red Baron and his Flying Circus is an engaging one, and the missions are varied enough to keep your interest. The uselessness of the unlockable "secrets," along with some of the linear levels and non-distinct weapons, may start to turn off some flight fans. But as an intro for kids to the genre, Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron is a good start.
Snoopy isn't loaded with depth; you'll likely see everything you need to see the first time around, making it a rather shallow game, but while it lasts, there is, surprisingly, fun for all ages to be found here. Yes, I'm just as shocked as you are.
Top Dog is a simple deathmatch where you fight until you reach a reach a set number of kills, Flying Aces has you fighting for a set amount of time, and King of the Skies only allows you to be shot down once, and when you are, you return to the fight as a ghost. These multiplayer modes are a mild diversion, but given the limited options, they won't keep you entertained for long.
Given how similar most of the combat is, there's not a lot of depth to Snoopy vs. the Red Baron. Still, it would make a great game for a younger gamer in your life. The simple gameplay and relatively low difficulty serve as a great introduction to the genre. It's also fun enough that you might find yourself getting involved in it, too.
I'm torn with Snoopy vs. The Red Baron. Kids might love it, although I'm sure I'm just idealizing and they would balk if they opened up a birthday gift that they thought should have been San Andreas or Halo 2 instead. You might be able to sit down for a few minutes of a two-player dogfight, or show your kid around and impress them with your incredible flight skills, or just sit back and watch them enjoy themselves with something that is easy to support. Still, this is yet another cutesy game that is veiling the usual raison d'etre of video games — killing — and isn't anything new. Peanuts characters should soften the blow of the dropping biplanes, but really, maybe you should pick up a later volume of those complete Peanuts collections, and show your children a true work of art.