Too often gamers have had to endure crappy games tied to an appealing license. While most of us have learned to steer clear of this stuff, clueless parents are usually seen buying these games for little Timmy or Sally without the knowledge that they are, in fact, feeding the machine. The more these games are bought, the more developers will strive to make them. And that makes me sad.
So it was hard to get excited at the prospect of reviewing what will obviously be a crap game, right? How could it not be? Let’s face it; the Peanuts license doesn’t exactly have much of a cachet with the younger crowd anymore. But against all odds, Snoopy vs. The Red Baron isn’t the train wreck that it’s supposed to be. It’s actually a very good game.
Snoopy vs. Red BaronFans of the Peanuts strip will immediately recognize the classic match up of Snoopy vs. The Red Baron as excellent fodder for the videogame. And because these *ahem* dogfights occur in Snoopy’s own fertile imagination, it gave the developers the ability to deviate from how we might expect a World War I flying action game to play. It’s safe to say that this game is about as far removed from World War I as you could possibly get.
Players control Snoopy as he flies an assortment of missions in his trusty Sopwith Camel. Missions occur in numerous “theaters” that are slowly unlocked as you progress through the game. Much like the excellent Crimson Skies for Xbox, in addition to mission objectives, each “theater” has a number bonus goals that you can choose to accomplish at your leisure. These generally involve shooting down colored balloons and locating hidden letters.
Sopwith Camel Lights
Combat and maneuverability is very smooth and polished. Controlling the plane is a breeze and there’s just enough of an auto-lock while targeting to make combat challenging, but not completely braindead.
Participating in combat and completing bonus goals allows you to purchase upgrades for your plane. The weapons fall into that gray area of “lethal-yet-kid-friendly.” You can acquire Woodstock-guided missiles, water balloons, a potato shotgun, and more. Though there are plenty of secondary weapons to choose from, most of them boil down to hitting the enemy for more extra damage. There’s just not a lot of finesse in using them.
You’re a good man, Charlie Brown!
Snoopy vs. Red BaronOccasionally you’ll encounter a special battle with an alternative control scheme. One has you controlling Woodstock’s plane as he’s towed behind Snoopy. This plays like a turret on-rails shooter where all you need to do is target and fire. There’s also a special control scheme used for the big boss battles where you shoot and dodge a la Panzer Dragoon.
While the challenge level isn’t exactly high, there are lots of missions and as the difficulty ramps up, you certainly won’t be able to sleepwalk through them. Of course this is a game clearly designed for the slightly younger set, so while flight sim vets won’t have any trouble, the difficulty level and forgiving controls appears to be well suited for less experienced players.
Curse you, Red Baron!
Oddly enough, the biggest weakness here is the license itself. As mentioned above, Peanuts is about as relevant to today’s youth as Felix the Cat. The dry, lifeless delivery of lines in the cut scenes speak to a simpler time when we all watched Peanuts cartoons because that was pretty much all that was on the TV. Listening to the voice talent in this game gives one the uneasy feeling that all of the child actors were given major doses of Ritalin before they tracked their lines.
The Regal Beagle
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.
Article by: Greg Bemis
Video produced by: Mark Fahey