Peanuts is not as popular as it once was. I remember as a kid reading many of the strips and absolutely adoring them. They were fantastically drawn, the characters loveable and the stories interesting for both child and adult to enjoy. When Snoopy Flying Ace was announced, I didn't really care much. "So what?" I said, "A flying game with Peanuts characters? How fun can that be?" I rue the day I said that because, by god, is it fun.
I feel like I've stepped into some alternate universe where a game I, and no doubt many people, haven't really noticed before has turned into one of the best dogfighting games since the absolutely superb Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge. I also feel like it's going to go exactly the same way as Crimson Skies. It didn't do well when released on the original Xbox but was loved by pretty much everyone who played it and I think the same will occur here. We just need to spread the news that Snoopy Flying Ace is brilliant.
But I'll start by saying, if you're looking for a solo experience, you're in the wrong place. There is a campaign mode, in which you take control of Snoopy as an ace pilot, but it only really acts as a tutorial for the fantastic multiplayer experience. The campaign is nice though but it is very short, you could probably complete it in a straight run of 2 hours. It does teach you the basics such as how to fly, how to use turrets and how to perform aerial stunts and serves as a great training ground to hone your skills against waves of enemies but other than that, there isn't much there.
The world of Snoopy Flying Ace is an interesting one. It is set during World War 1 in which the Peanuts gang have chosen there side. Charlie Brown is a member of the Allies whereas Linus is a member of the German army. Snoopy is on a mission to take down the Red Baron and, hopefully, the rest of the German army. It's all very exaggerated, much like Crimson Skies, with homing missiles, shotguns and leech missiles all playing a part.
In fact, it is overall very similar to Crimson Skies, right down to the way the planes fly, except being a little less complicated. You can boost and brake, you can switch between your two weapons and by flicking the thumbstick one way or another, can perform stunts either for fun or to avoid some nasty missiles. As churlish as it may seem, it has a very steep learning curve, especially if you go straight in online. There's a lot of customising to find your perfect plane. Do you go nimble but weak or slow but strong? Do you match this weapon with that or with another one? Things can get very hectic online so you need to consider it carefully. You'll also need to pick your childhood favourite to pilot your plane. Luckily for me, both Linus and Schroeder are playable.
Multiplayer is where the real action is in Snoopy Flying Ace. You have the standard Dog Fight and Team Dog Fight, which are the most commonly played ones. Here, it is a task to get a kill. Seriously. Things are so chaotic in the brilliantly designed levels that outgunning your enemy is second to outwitting them. You need to think cleverly to get the kill you're after. There are other modes as well such as Capture the Flag and, my person favourite, Pigskin which is essentially American Football in the air. With two full teams it can become a lot of fun. The game supports Avatars, so you can even fly the planes as your Avatar.
Everything is points based with each kill, capture or touchdown gaining you some points. This allows you to level up although it doesn't mean much other than letting you climb the leaderboards. There are some cool rewards you can get for kill streaks. After four kills in a row, Woodstock jumps onto the back of your plane and begin to take out more enemies for you. After nine kills, you can fly Snoopy's doghouse. It's little things like that that make Snoopy Flying Ace so much fun.
Snoopy Flying Ace has come out of nowhere to completely blow me away. I jumped into my first online match and I had so much fun with it I literally told everybody I could to play this game. It combines the cuteness of Peanuts with the brilliance of Crimson Skies and creates one of the most surprising packages of 2010 and probably one of the best online experiences of this year. Please, for your own sake, buy this.