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Franklin (above), though you may not realize it playing Flying Ace, is the black kid in the Peanuts gang.  He seems to be the only one who is grounded in reality, along with Schroeder, in the comic strips.




















































Every now and then, a game comes out with a "Holy cow!" factor.  For me, it was Warhawk and Ridge Racer on the original PlayStation and Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast.  Sure there are games that have come out that are probably multiple times better than the titles I mentioned, but those titles are the ones that kicked the door down, smacked me in the face, and said "You WILL enjoy this!", and they were right.

I had read about Snoopy Flying Ace, and was reluctant to embrace it, as many licensed games have been so-so to poor, and the only other Peanuts game I've played was, well..w

 Snoopy vs The Red Baron on the Atari 2600.  I don't remember if I liked it, it was such a long time ago.  But if I did, the current-day me would like to have some words with my old self.  State of the art for the time?  Maybe, but I'm leaning towards "no".

Anyhow, with the XBLA release of Snoopy Flying Ace, I didn't know what to expect when I downloaded the demo. I had heard it played like Crimson Skies, but I refused to get my hopes up too high.  After playing the short demo, I had to download the whole thing.  Just that little bit of play gave me a feel of 2 of the modes of play, the Ring Race and the Dogfighting.  Hooked.

The game takes Snoopy's imagined battles with the Red Baron in The Great War, and turns them into cartoon warzones based in the arctic, Paris, Egypt, Germany, all with obvious creative liberties and inclusion of slightly-modified but easily recognizable landmarks throughout the playfield.  The artwork is really good, where some my cry for cel-shaded (cartoon-feel) graphics, these work well, but Marcie and Lucy look strangely alike.

The lack of voices allows for more room for graphics and gameplay.  This gives Snoopy's "voice", an odd-sounding high pitched Q*Bert-like voice, and Woodstock's voice, a bunch of beeps and tweets, a clear but simple roll.  And I speak for everybody when I say, thank God the Peanuts gang don't have voices, those kid-voices work for the cartoon, but I doubt it would for this game. I don't want to listen to you, thanks very much.  The other sounds are solid, the Peanuts cartoons jazz piano and music sounds at first out of place, but grew on me as I played.  Example: a quick rim-shot and a few piano notes accompanies a shot down adversary.

Our Hero: "I've come to kick butt and drink Root Beer.. and I'm all out of Root Beer."

Things explode nicely, and the weapons give an oomph to them that you can notice, the one exception is the toxic missiles.  They look pretty, they do lots of damage, but I just can't feel the weight of the damage they cause.  There are a number of weapons, and each are available for each plane, and are even switchable if you feel you don't have enough power after having eaten it.


Dirigibles Over Paris: Zeppeligeddon 1915

You're recruited by Lieutenant Schroeder of the RAF, and you jump in, paws first.  The object of the game?  Simple.  Drive the Red Baron and the Germans into surrendering.  The single player campaign goes by pretty quick, maybe a couple of hours, but the return draws are online co-op missions, and getting Gold Medals in every mission.  Those missions include: Bombs Away (bombing runs), Birds of War (rescue missions), Ring Race, Follow the Leader, Big Guns (land-based gun battles), Reconnaissance Missions (protect the weak NPC), Zeppeligeddon (air battles), and Bully Fights (waves of enemies).  Honestly, the missions of battle are where my loyalties lay.  The other missions are good, but I want to blow some stuff up!  You'll face Flying Aces such as Colonel Van Pelt, Cadet Rerun, Corporal Pig-Pen, and The Red Baron himself who, when he's on his game, will take you off yours.  You'll notice the aces as their names and a black spade float next to them as they fly.


Battle of Ice: Frozen Fjord 1916

Multiplayer has got some legs, and for the first week of release, before the word has really spread about how good this title is, the sessions are plentiful.  There are a few stutters online, just like any other game, but it's an otherwise smooth and enjoyable experience.  After you get shot down, you can re-arm your plane with better, more versatile weapons.  The modes are what you'd normally find in many multiplayer games:  Dog Fight (deathmatch), Team Dog Fight (team deathmatch), Capture the Flag, Dog Pile (kill the guy with the ball), Team Dog Pile, and Pigskin (football-ish).  For me, Dog Fights and Capture the Flag are where the good times are.  One reason, U guess, could be I don't get killed or die as much or lose as much as I do in the Deathmatches as I do in the Dog Piles or Pigskin.  But modesty forbids me to admit that.

If you have a full room of 16 online, you will notice how busy and confused the areas get.  There are submarines, boats, some sort of serpent with guns, environmental hazards, implanted guns- all firing at you, as your enemies hunt you down.  It can be overwhelming at times!  There are repair kits (somewhere) and there are power-ups like the ghost (invisibility) and Super Speed.


Reconnaissance: Paris 1915

Each mission is playable online, which is becoming a common option for videogames, and Flying Ace is no different, and they hit it right.  The only hiccup I have seen in co-op, is my co-op partner choosing one mission, being debriefed about a second mission, and jumping into a third mission. Choosing "Follow the Leader" lead to a debrief about defending an Allied base in the desert, and a bombing run in Paris.  Just a little confusing in that department, but enjoyable nonetheless.  I was reluctant to go online at first with my choice of pilot, Franklin, for obvious reasons, but I found this game is very playable without the headset on.

Overall, Snoopy Flying Ace is a great way to experience the closest thing to Crimson Skies since, well, Crimson Skies!  At only $10 on XBLA, there's no reason you shouldn't download this title, it's got more game and more fun in it than many full priced retail titles.  On a side note, I made it to the end of this without saying "SHOOT that Fokker!"

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