PAX East ’10: Snoopy: Flying Ace
In the absence of a new Star Fox title, gamers everywhere have been itching for a new mammal to carry on the anthropomorphic animal-flight sub-genre. Fortunately for Xbox 360 owners, Snoopy is gearing up for his second trip into the unfriendly skies aboard the XBLA exclusive, Snoopy: Flying Ace. Following his multiplatform ‘dog fight’ – sorry – versus the Red Baron, Flying Ace is another arcade style affair designed for all-ages. During the show we were able to play a single splitscreen co-op mission that put the canine aviator in a battle across Parisian skies.
The first thing Anthony and I noticed while saddling up our biplanes was the vibrancy of Flying Ace’s graphics. Paris is rendered in a wonderful, cartoony yet detailed manner, complete with an accurate depiction of the Eiffel Tower grounding the entire stage. In fact, the Tower plays a central role in the mission’s objective as a German Zeppelin has snuck its way into Paris and has orders to bring it down.
As we circled the Zeppelin we received radio communiqués alerting us to the current objectives, which cycled between dealing damage to the Zeppelin and eliminating German squadrons that have been deployed to defend the offensive. Taking on the German fighters is fairly straight-forward given Flying Ace’s arcade style controls. I was easily piloting my plane with the left stick and using various special maneuvers to shake enemies from my six with the right stick in no time at all. Used in conjunction with the throttle and handy mini-map, it wasn’t terribly hard to start lining up bogeys and start bringing them down.
Weapons in Flying Ace seemed to be broken up into standard machine guns, rockets and the occasional flashy special attack, none of which consumed ammunition. Switching weapons is easy and crucial while your various weapons recharge between attacks. Most attacks are fairly simple to land given the all-ages design but are still fun to line up and unleash on your unsuspecting foes. Special attacks also have some spectacular effects animations that are sure to brighten up the sky while you’re jockeying for air supremacy.
Humorously, the enemy squadrons of the demo were lead by some familiar Peanuts faces. Certainly while growing up with the strip I never paused to consider the possibility that I would someday find myself battling Corporal Pig Pen and Lieutenant Linus in a World War I flight game – don’t ask me why they defected. Finally, leading the final wave was the pesky Red Baron himself, who was especially slippery towards the ordinance both Anthony and I continually lobbed at him. Once we had brought him down – every pilot parachutes to safety – we were free to finish pummeling the Zeppelin and let war torn Paris breathe a momentary sigh of relief.
It was clear from our time with Snoopy: Flying Ace that the title was happy to play it safe and not deviate too much from the genre’s formula. Although it didn’t do anything terribly new or revolutionary, it was obvious that a lot of effort had been put into the seamless and funny integration of the Peanuts license. Combined with the co-op ready campaign and the promised XBLA dog fights, – there it is again – Snoopy: Flying Ace looks to be a flying game that welcomes anyone to the cockpit.