Snoopy Flying Ace: Big Fun, Small Package - User Reviews - www.GameInformer.com
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Snoopy Flying Ace: Big Fun, Small Package

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.

Single-Player Review:

Pros:

  • An excellent way to learn the game without getting slaughtered in multiplayer.
  • The variety of missions avoids repetition.
  • Surprisingly competent AI squadron leaders will give you a challenge.
  • Short and sweet. (Less than 2 hours to finish, only a bit longer to get all the medals.)

Cons:

  • Idiotic cannon-fodder enemies feel cheap to mow down.
  • Some challenges designed to offer an alternative to dogfight just feel boring.
  • Every challenge must be played twice, once for each difficulty, to get all the medals.
  • The above con wouldn't be so bad if the hard difficulty was, you know, hard. It's not.

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.


Chaos!

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 important.

Multiplayer Review:

Pros:

  • A variety of game modes keep things fresh.
  • There are always plenty of players of every skill level to match up with.
  • Well-balanced weapons ensure there is no true beat-all combination.
  • Endless replay value.

Cons:

  • When the host of a game leaves, the match ends abruptly.
  • I sometimes experienced lag while hosting games.
  • The matchmaking system is not very good at balancing the teams.
  • The map selection is lacking slightly, and all maps are chosen at random.

Verdict: Multiplayer 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 below.

The "Dogs of War" map pack is really simple: 2 new multiplayer maps for $1.

  • The "Kaiser's Spike" map has a mountain in the center with a tunnel running through it, a castle on one side, and a village on the other. Players must fly over or through the mountain to engage in battle, and occasional explosions rocking the mountain cause rocks to fall.
  • The "Aces Airway" map is a floating battlefield in the clouds. Every building is suspended by propellers, and visibility is low due to the clouds players must fly through. Turret use is absolutely critical here for success, as their effective range is greater than anywhere else.

"Dogs of War" Map Pack Review:

Pros:

  • It's only a dollar.
  • It adds some more variety to the online play.
  • Both maps feel distinctly new.

Cons:

  • What can you fault this for? It's just 80 points. You've probably got that much left over anyway.

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:

  • Thumpers are basically EMP generators attached to tiny parachutes. Launch these in the midst of a fray and watch the kills rack up as your opponents fly straight through a field of electric death.
  • Seekers don't do much damage, but these tiny magnetic missiles are so accurate and reload so quickly you won't care. Hammer slow-moving opponents with them nonstop for best results.
  • Lil' Yellows are tiny rockets guided by bird pilots that do better-than-average damage and are hard to shake, but where they excel is their range. Fire several in a row from across the map and the last thing your enemies hear will be maniacal chirping.

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:

1.       Top Dogs - Shoot down the other team's "Ace" (a player with upgraded armor) to win.

2.       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.

3.       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.

4.       Wild Woodstock - Same as above, minus the teamwork.

5.       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.

"Suppertime of Destruction" Expansion Pack Review:

Pros:

  • The new game modes are fun to try.
  • Added weapons give players more strategic options.
  • The new planes make a huge difference in how matches are played.
  • Adds even more replay value.

Cons:

  • Most of the new game modes aren't as good as the original 6.
  • New weapons are all spammed frequently.
  • Occasionally, the new planes feel cheap.

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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