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Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron
Score: 79%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: NAMCO BANDAI Games America
Developer: Smartbomb Interactive
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Action/ Flight

Graphics & Sound:
Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron is brought to us by Smart Bomb Interactive, makers of the multi-platform Pac-Man World Rally, and distributed by industry veteran Namco/Bandai Group. Like many of you, I was rather surprised to see this title come across my proverbial desk. Was there a Charles M. Schultz event or memorial recently? Was an anniversary reached for something related to his beloved Peanuts comic strip? Either way, this game brought back many memories of my youth, watching the various holiday specials, hearing the famous theme song, and more.

The visuals strike nostalgic places as well, reviving a colorful cartoony look and feel. Characters are the highlight, with cute little details like Snoopy’s brown leather flying helmet, and his bright red scarf. Even the Sopwith Camel you pilot has some decorative designs and features, such as the distinctive French “bullseye” markings, brimming with machine guns, pumpkins and more. Some of the enemies which range from massive bombers, zeppelins and battleships, to lithe bi-planes, dart to and fro about levels, seeking refuge from the unrelenting fury of Snoopy and his pal Woodstock. Other sharp effects include some exaggerated, hand-drawn explosions, water ripples and splashes, and a plethora of zany weapons effects to top them all off. On the downside, some of the landscapes and environments are a little bland and blocky, with not a lot of variety, although given the stylistic presentation, this may be on purpose. There are also a few clipping issues and sometimes objects phase in and out, although the game runs smooth enough, thankfully. Lastly, the 3D cut scenes are a little too off for my liking, but at least they capture the essence of the classic Peanuts style.

On the sound side, this is a mixed bag as well. A rousing orchestral score buffets the many dogfights and on-screen action, but doesn’t have much variation. The classic Dave Brubeck “Peanuts Theme” is also here in all its cheerful splendor. The sound effects are also quite good, with rockets zooming and exploding, machine guns chattering, all merged into a destructive cacophony. However, the voice acting is stilted and awkward, although the voices just about match the original characters like Lucy, Linus, PigPen and so forth.

Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron takes you across several missions across six main locales as you battle in the quasi-historical World War I sky. Charlie Brown is held captive by the nefarious Red Baron, and it is up to Snoopy and his sidekick Woodstock, as well as a host of Peanuts characters, to retrieve their beloved Charlie.

Most of the missions take you through several objectives, from defending various characters or locations, to taking out fortifications, sometimes ending in elaborate boss battles, where your little buddy Woodstock is towed in a machine gun flying turret. As I mentioned before, some of the targets range from mainly aerial types, but also can run the gamut of submarines, anti-aircraft guns and more. Most take about 15-20 minutes to complete and are layered in segments, allowing for some variation from the semi-monotonous dog fighting. Overall it takes about 8-10 hours to beat the entire game. Some don’t even involve combat, throwing in some racing via checkpoints versus the Red Baron, as well as a few collection benchmarks to reach, such as balloons, letters and so forth. Some of these lead to unlockable characters in multiplayer.

Your Sopwith is bristling with all manner of guns, bottle rockets, pumpkin seed shotguns, water balloons and more zany inventions. You can also upgrade your plane across levels, from such areas as health, gun power and even the stunt gauge. The latter enables you to pull off some wicked turns, loops and spins as you try and evade the enemy.

Finally, multiplayer is pretty basic, and involves a wealth of dog-fighting action. You can play 13 different characters (each with their own distinct planes), and are able to tweak a ton of different options, like time limits, and even play against computer-controlled bots to fill out the respective teams. You get your standard Deathmatch (called “Top Dog”), “King of the Skies” is a sort of a last man standing, and lastly, “Flying Aces”, pits you against the clock to score as many kills as possible.

Let it be known, as soon as I saw the box art, I knew the title would be pretty simplistic. Sure enough, I was correct in my assumption. Starting with a handy, child-voiced tutorial that walks you through the various elements of control and gameplay, the actual missions themselves are pretty dang easy. The linear format leads you through the objectives, and with the huge arsenal of weaponry at your disposal, you will tear through enemies left and right without skipping a beat. This isn’t a great surprise, as the target audience is one under 10 years of age, although a few teenagers and other fans of the Peanuts series should get a kick out of it.

Game Mechanics:
The controls for Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron are responsive and simplified, using the analog sticks for movement, while trick moves and weapon assignment are for the face buttons, leaving the shoulder buttons for the turbo and brake maneuvers. The camera floats gently behind the Sopwith, and doesn’t get caught in any awkward angles, thankfully.

Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron is a solid combination of some classic characters, with arcade flight action, throwing in enough variety and imagination to give most folks a fun day or two of playtime. Add in some decent multiplayer modes, and you have pleasant family game for the Holiday season. Needless to say, aficionados of Charles. M. Schultz should also pick this game up, and hey, for $30, it’s a modest charge compared to the recent spate of overpriced Next-Gen gaming.

-Tybo, GameVortex Communications
AKA Tyler Whitney

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