Snoopy vs. the Red Baron - PS2 - Preview
Now here’s a crazy concept: take Snoopy, one of the world’s most popular cartoon dogs, and merge him into the world of aerial combat. “Boy, this is nuts,” I thought. “How in the world can a game like this work?”
Answer: you start with great gameplay, a good engine, solid flying mechanics, and a lot of cool missions. Then you add the license, making it Snoopy-rific for anyone who’s been waiting to see the white canine take control of the skies.
Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron is straight arcade action. The flight mechanics are wonderfully executed, even in the game’s incomplete state. Flying is a snap – the controls will not take you more than five minutes to grasp. After that you’ll be climbing, diving, rolling, and flipping as if you’ve been doing it your entire life.
Targets are clearly marked on your radar, while colored targets highlight the nearest enemy. A small health meter around the target shows how much life your enemies have left, letting you gauge the potency of bombs and fireworks versus standard gunfire.
Gunfire is unlimited, and aiming is simple – but not automatic. You have to work for your kills, just not very hard. Point your plane in the direction of the enemy you wish to take out and fire. Given that this is a kid’s game, enemies parachute out of destroyed planes. You can’t shoot the parachute, which would’ve been a cool feature, but I don’t think parents with young children would’ve appreciated it.
Missiles are fun, colorful, and feel like something you’d find in one of Snoopy’s dreams. Shoot a pack of enemy-seeking fireworks for a bright array of explosive fun. The colors burst into the air, damaging your target while creating a memorable visual display.
One of the other notable weapons is a powerful, Woodstock-guided bomb. The bomb is like one you’d see dropped out of a plane during World War I (which is where the game, based in a Snoopy dream world, is set). But you won’t drop it without knowing where it’s going to land. For about three to five seconds, the player will get to control Woodstock and guide the bomb from Snoopy’s plane to its destination. You’ll have to overshoot your target just a little in order to ensure the bomb will hit. If done properly, the enemy will lose the majority, if not all, of its armor, turning the vehicle to dust.
Enemies come in many different shapes and sizes, not just warplanes. Enemy ships fire deadly missiles from the safety of the ocean. Blimps drop spiked balls in search of a kamikaze opportunity. There are no human characters controlling the spikes, therefore nothing will parachute out of them upon impact. Their only goal is destruction. Large drills will come out of the ground and surround ally vehicles, preventing them from getting to their destination.
As the current missions are completed, others will be unlocked. They’re accessed via a main level hub, an environment that appears to be Snoopy’s backyard. Billboards designate the different worlds you can access, each of which has multiple missions inside. Though you could fly into the billboard and immediately start the next mission, you might want to first visit the local shop. Using coins collected during each mission, Snoopy can purchase bigger and better weaponry. He can also take a moment to train in his backyard, should the player need to be reminded of how to perform a certain maneuver.
Many of the missions require you to protect allies for a few minutes, or to escort them to a safer area. Both are surprisingly challenging. The game starts out with cakewalk objectives but slowly grows into something that even an older, hardcore player could get into. I for one am stunned by what the game brings to the genre. I’m not anti-Snoopy, but a Snoopy game? Based on WWI aerial combat? It’s hard not to be skeptical. You’ll have to play this one to believe it.
Due October 24th, Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron is close to becoming the best kid-targeted flight/combat game ever made. Its enjoyable, arcade-style gameplay brings back memories of other classic flight games, a genre rarely treated as well as it is being treated now. If you’re a kid or have kids, don’t miss this one.