Snoopy: The Flying Ace was a game I was looking forward to from Namco. It’s built from ground up and isn’t using one of the existing Namco franchise characters (Pac-Man, Dig Dug, etc.) as basis for the game. So what can Namco do with completely brand new material?
Flying Ace puts you in the shoes of Snoopy as he flies his Sopwith Camel against the Red Baron to save his comrade in arms, Woodstock. To do this, Snoopy has to collect a bunch of balloons scattered throughout the sky in order to raise Woodstock’s nest. This is basically equivalent to collecting all the rings in Sonic games except Snoopy does it by riding his dog house in the air. If you get hit by the Red Baron or any obstacles, like a cloud of lightning, you lose some balloons you collected. Yup, this sounds pretty much like Sonic. The game is linear in that it keeps moving Snoopy forward, although you can move back by doing loop-the-loops to catch any balloons you might have missed. Once you finish a level, the next stage opens up (no world maps or anything like that here).
You can collect bonus points by running into a bird friend (they all look like Woodstock), who will flock around you and give you bonuses for every balloon you collect. You can get up to four Woodstocks to follow your flying dog house.
The animation is silky smooth and the game moves at a slower pace so you can play with one hand. If you happen to get a root beer power up, the rate of climbing and diving increases but otherwise the pace is rather pedestrian. Even on the smaller wireless phone screens, there’s no mistaking that this is authentic Peanuts artwork. I liked the graphics that come with Flying Ace. There seem to be multiple layers of background animation; one for interactive objects such as storm clouds and one for the plain background which you won’t interact with. This is a step up from other Namco titles I’ve seen in the past. A mini map appears at the top of the screen, which also doubles as a good indicator as to how far you have to go until the level ends.
Coins are less frequently available than balloons and can be picked up periodically throughout a level. Coins are accumulated and can be used to connect to the carrier network to redeem and view Peanuts comic strips. This is a decent way to incorporate some online connectivity into a single player game. We all like Peanuts cartoons, so it’s a smart way to tie in the content without making the gameplay too contrived. I liked it a lot and it actually encouraged me to replay stages I already played just to pick up those missing coins so I can try to unlock another comic strip.
My only gripe is the speed of play. I wish there was a fast arcade version versus the one exhibited in this game. This would help increase the difficulty. Ultimately, Flying Ace is a simple but addictive game with a unique online connectivity mode that promotes replay of its material. I enjoyed it a lot because of the Peanuts franchise and the slick presentation which does the Peanuts license justice.