The lights are on
As any veteran gamer knows, chances are good that a game
based on any other form of media (movies, television, books, and to a lesser
degree, comics) will suck. Luckily, a few games defy expectations by breaking the mold
and delivering a fantastic, genuinely fun experience. Snoopy Flying Ace is one
of those games.
Why on earth did they make a giant, slow blimp a bomber?
Let me start by adding a condition: This game requires Xbox LIVE Gold to truly enjoy,
and I am assuming you have it if you are reading this review. There is a
single-player mode, but the story is forgettable and the challenge is usually
negligible. It's always enjoyable to take down wave after wave of enemies in
dogfights, but other challenges like aerial follow-the-leader and rescuing
Snoopy's little bird friends get tiresome quickly. It doesn't help that the
only competent AI is the leaders of each squadron, like Lucy or Charlie Brown,
but even then the only enemy I ever needed more than 30 seconds of focus to
shoot down was the Red Baron himself, who dodges attacks with ridiculous ease.
Verdict: It's a
decent diversion and it serves the purpose of a training mode for multiplayer,
but I wouldn't pay $10 for it on its own. Don't buy this game if you don't
have Xbox LIVE Gold.
Multiplayer is a whole different ballpark. It's fast-paced,
exciting, and challenging. You'll match skills against players of every level,
and while matches can occasionally be lopsided, it's never boring whether
you're playing against 1 opponent or 15.
The Red Baron Avatar Reward
There are 100 levels divided into 20 ranks, and those who hit
the ceiling are rewarded with a spot on the Flying Aces leaderboard as well as
the Red Baron Avatar Reward. It should take an average player 10 to 30 hours to
reach Flying Ace status, depending on their level of skill. I've seen players with
k/d ratios of 0.5 or worse slowly grind their way up, as well as virtuosos that
maintain a 2.0 or better average all the way to the top.
Power-ups add another dimension to the game, and using them
to your advantage can make a big difference. There are standard pick-me-up
power-ups like a speed boost or a temporary shield that makes you invincible
for a few seconds, but the really good ones are earned, not scattered around
the map. Four kills in a row gets you a Woodstock Gunner, a tiny yellow bird
standing on the tail of your plane and wielding two six-shooters to deter
enemies trying to hit you from behind. Nine kills without a death replaces your
plane with Snoopy's iconic red Doghouse, which is not only faster, tougher, and
more maneuverable than other planes, but also provides a floating crosshair on
your regular gun that helps lock on to enemies much more accurately. Killing
someone with a Woodstock Gunner rewards 7 points instead of 5, and a Doghouse
kill gives 10, making them choice targets for every other player.
The Much-Coveted Doghouse Plane
The key to success in multiplayer lies in deploying your
arsenal effectively. Besides your regular machine gun, there are 13 secondary
weapons. Weapons are equipped two at a time, switching back and forth between
them with the right bumper or B button. (Assuming you use the standard controls,
as there are 3 sets of controls to choose from) Each one has a different
effective range, and the trick is choosing the loadout that fits your play
style. Do you tend to fight up close? Try the EMP or the Molten Flail. Prefer
to do your business from a distance? Reach for the Leech or the Comet Rockets.
Got a different strategy? Customize accordingly. There are plenty of ways to
bring the pain to your rivals.
Multiplayer offers a wide variety of game modes to choose
from, but a few are clearly the most popular. Dogfight and Team Dogfight are
perpetually crowded, Pigskin (think football in planes) gets more players on
weekends, and Capture the Flag usually has a couple people ready and waiting in
the lobby. Less popular are Dog Pile and Team Dog Pile, where a single person
or team must hold onto a glowing bone for a set amount of time. It's a solid
mode, but gets a lot less love for some reason.
Maps are varied from Egyptian ruins to a massive dam, but
all share a few common elements: 2 distinct sides for teams to spawn on, and 2
turrets. Spawn points are fairly well placed, and usually you'll avoid cheap deaths
just fine. The turrets are key to domination. Learning their range on each map
and employing them effectively can mean the difference between 10 kills and 20.
Learning which weapons are most effective at destroying turrets is just as
is definitely where the fun is at, and my minor gripes don't add up to much of
anything in comparison to the fun I've had with it. A quick match can be had
any time you like, but it holds up for lengthier play sessions as well. Again, do
not buy this game unless you subscribe to Xbox LIVE Gold.
Two new DLC packs were released after the game launched, one
meager, the other substantial. I've decided to give them each their own review
The "Dogs of War" map pack is really simple: 2 new
multiplayer maps for $1.
"Dogs of War" Map
Verdict: 50 cents
a map is a hard deal to beat. Grab this DLC with the spare change you've got
from buying that other XBLA game.
The "Suppertime of Destruction" expansion pack really adds
to the replay factor. It packs in 2 brand-new planes, 3 added secondary weapons,
5 new multiplayer game modes, 3 extra Achievements, 11 additional costumes, and
30 more plane skins!
This DLC is more than just a fresh coat of paint, too. Some
of the additions can make a big difference for your strategy, especially the new
"kite class" planes:
The Whirlybird is small and fast, just like its pilot.
The Whirlybird is simple enough: A sniper rifle attached to
a helicopter. Said rifle really packs a punch too, taking down most planes in
only 1 or 2 hits. This is the only plane capable of hovering in place.
The Dragonfly is piloted exclusively by your avatar.
The Dragonfly has a weapon called the Jammer, which is
basically an electric beam that shoots straight from the nose of the plane. At
first it feels week, but if you can keep it locked on one opponent long enough,
it will sap health and turbo at the same time and jump to neighboring planes!
Both of the above planes have much greater speed and maneuverability
than the rest, but at a trade-off of far less armor.
The 3 new weapons might come in handy too:
Finally, the 5 new game modes almost double your options for
playing online, but are a bit lacking in the replay-value department. Here's
how I would rank them:
Top Dogs - Shoot down the other team's "Ace" (a
player with upgraded armor) to win.
Dirty Boy - One team is "infected" by Pig-Pen's
dust cloud, which gives them low health, but a single touch to a non-infected
plane equals a one-hit kill. Teams swap halfway through.
Team Wild Woodstock - A variation on Capture the
Flag, players work together to try to grab as many flying birds as possible, and
then return them to your team's cage for points.
Wild Woodstock - Same as above, minus the
Turret Defense - Requires at least 4 players to
start, as the objective is for a team to hold both turrets at once for a set
time to win. This mode is so unpopular I've never played a full game. The other
players always quit before the end.
The rest of the additions from the DLC are purely cosmetic,
but it's fun to have them anyway. Costumes like Franklin's football gear are
cool, as are the new plane skins. 50 Gamerscore has been added in the form of 3
fairly simple Achievements.
Destruction" Expansion Pack Review:
Verdict: For a $5
expansion pack to a $10 game I might expect a bit more content than offered
here, but it's worth it if only for the two new planes. The Whirlybird has
become my personal favorite.
Overall, Snoopy Flying Ace is one of the best deals on Xbox
LIVE Arcade at $10, and it gets better when you add in the cheap DLC. Grab the
demo, play every last one of those 30 precious free minutes of multiplayer, and
decide for yourself. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
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