Snoopy Flying Ace is the latest release from developer Smartbomb Interactive, the developers of PacMan World Rally, and, more relevantly, Snoopy vs. the Red Baron. The experience from developing the latter must have carried over into their development of Snoopy Flying Ace, because SFA is the best Xbox Live Arcade Arcade game that I’ve ever played, as well as one of the best dogfighting games in years.
The single player campaign consists of 18 missions, varying from races to defense missions, all of which can be done Co-op with another player via XBL, or on the same console. The multi-player is where it’s really at, however. The game sports a surprisingly robust multiplayer aspect, with 6 game types, 8 stock maps (2 available for download at a reasonable 80 MSP), 12 pilots to select from (plus the ability to use your avatar as the pilot, which is a nice touch as avatars have been mostly useless until now), 16 planes (each with multiple skins), and 13 different weapons. One notably feature that sets SFA apart from most games is that if two people have XBL Gold accounts on the same XBox, both can play online with their gamertag at the same time, which is a nice feature.
The graphics are impressive, and incredibly stylized. The setting is a mix of World War I and steampunk, and I gotta say it works really well. The world is stylized to seem comical enough, without being ridiculous, and the same goes with the weapons and planes. Each of the planes looks different than the next, and the weapons mounted on them fit quite well. SFA sports some really nice effects, such as the armour power-up’s metal plating bulding itself onto your plane, and the effect of your plane recovering from damage. I wish I could put into words how cool it looks to watch the holes in your plane heal itself with a burning-esque effect, but you just have to see it for yourself. On that note, the game has a lot of charm to it. Seeing all the familiar Peanuts’ characters in the WWI-dogfighting-steampunk style world is really nice, and it’s also really nice to see how they’re integrated into Snoopy’s traditional daydreams of him being a…”flying ace” (I apologize for the pun, but I had to make it).
The soundtrack is oddly good for a XBLA title, featuring the orchestral-style tracks that you would expect from a serious movie based in the same time period. The sound effects for all the weapons are also good, and fit the weapon. There’s not a whole lot to say on the topic, as the sound fits really well, and helps build the atmosphere of a serious-but-not-too-serious experience.
The controls are the standard dogfighting fare, with the left stick controlling direction, the right stick performing rolls and stunts, a boost button, a brake button, etc. At first it seems that every other plane in the game is flying faster than you, and able to turn in ways that you can’t, but after a few missions, it all feels quite natural, and even moreso online against other people. Though, to be honest, having two weapon switch buttons can sometimes become cumbersome, as you’ll bump the one you don’t normally use on accident, leaving you momentarily confused, or out of ammo for your primary weapon.
All in all, Snoopy Flying Ace is a really well done game, with lots of variety, impressive graphics and sound, solid gameplay, loaded with charm and entertainment. For the asking price of 800 MS Points ($10), it’s worth the purchase, and then some.