Review by Norman Major III
A great game based on a licensed franchise comes out so rarely that when it does happen it can be easily overlooked or misunderstood. Snoopy vs. the Red Baron does so many things right but will never get the attention it deserves because only a small niche of the market will give it a chance.
Peanuts fans should definitely have this in their collection. It captures the spirit of the comic/cartoon through excellent voice-overs, crafty story design, and a good sense of humor. Even though the graphics are well done it is a little awkward to see the Peanuts gang rendered in 3D computer animation.
The artistic direction and level design make you believe that you are in Snoopy’s fantasy WWI universe. The crazy enemy design, from the drillers to the Red Baron himself, all lend themselves well to the Peanuts world.
Between levels, you will be flying around the Peanuts baseball diamond picking up your choice of special weapon, visiting Marcie for training sessions, buying upgrades and weapons from Pigpen’s Shop, and choosing a mission to play. All in all, this is a good way to approach what could have been a simple and boring menu. But choosing a mission to play by flying into a billboard is as strange and out of place as it sounds.
Once you are in a mission, though, it all works well. The controls are simple and effective. They are not very deep, you basically have an unlimited-ammo machine gun and one special weapon of your choice, but the mission s are varied enough that it doesn’t become to repetitive. The developers included a button to handle the 180 degree turn mechanic, popular with a lot of flight combat games. The control of the Sopwith Camel, your standard combat aircraft, is tight and you will have little trouble mastering tight turns, flips, speed boosts, and turn-arounds. Each of these tricks uses up a trick meter that replenishes over time. This keeps you from continually boosting and flipping out of trouble, so you will have to use a little strategy.
The special weapons are fun, 10 in all, but there isn’t too much incentive to use one over another, except in special circumstances, since the game is relatively easy and short.
The complete single player campaign features 22 missions, and each mission is a pretty straight forward affair. For example, one mission asks you to escort a ship to harbor, then escort a set of trucks to base. It’s a simple matter of circling around the trucks and using your weapons to destroy everything else. This keeps the game simple, stress free, and fun. It allows you to feel like you are a real “flying ace”. Health comes in the form of a root beer icon and is distributed pretty liberally throughout each mission. What keeps you coming back is the ranking system, as you try to garner a General ranking in each mission. There are also plenty of collectables in each mission such as balloons, coins, and letters that spell out Peanuts character’s names. These allow you to unlock characters for the multiplayer mode.
There is also a multiplayer mode that allows you and some friends to battle it out in three different types of gun and run events. This can be a fun little diversion, but lack of online multiplayer keeps it from being anything you will spend a lot of time with.
There are plenty of unlockables, from planes and playable characters to weapon upgrades. These are great for Peanuts fans and completists but none of it affects your ability to complete the game.
Graphics and Sound
The basic presentation is good, with a good menu system for tracking your collected items, such as the balloons and letters you shoot down during missions, and your ranking for each mission. Cut scenes can be skipped, which is a nice touch. However, the autosave feature is a little annoying because it takes you to a save screen and takes a little longer than most games with an autosave feature.
The music is great as it switches from jazzy, Peanuts-esque tunes to dramatic, orchestral pieces during missions. The sound effects are equally satisfying, and Snoopy’s victory laugh is hilarious.
Overall, Snoopy vs. The Red Baron really succeeds at creating an arcade-like flight combat game, while maintaining all the charm and humor of the Peanuts Gang. While this game is good for everyone, kids and Peanuts fans will get the most from it.
Snoopy vs The Red Baron is available for the PlayStation 2.
For more information visit: Namco Bandai Games