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Swings don't stop being fun just because you got old; your inhibitions just prevent you from sitting on them. Snoopy vs the Red Baron has more in common with a children's playground than any high-tech flight simulation, and manages to defy the lowered expectations of licensing hell as a result.
The fact that Snoopy's daydreaming himself through a fictional account of World War I aerial combat means you don't have to worry about realism poking its ugly mug into the fun. Heck, his Sopwith Camel practically hovers when you put on the brakes, and the weapons you can buy from Pigpen's shop range from Roman candles and potato launchers to a lightning rod and flaming boomerang. The more conventional machine gun can also be upgraded, along with your health, and the stunt meters that let you dodge flak.
The controls are just about perfect, from basic yoke control to targeting and evasion. Get within alternate weapons range, whether you've armed the snow thrower or a pilotable Woodstock Missile, and red pointers light up around your target's borders. Get closer, and the reticule lights up red to show you're within gun range, where pretty much any shot inside the target box will do damage. The L2 and R2 triggers barrel rolls, and the Y and B buttons set off regular and u-turn loop maneuvers. Younger children can get the feel of it with a little guidance, even if they'll probably need some help getting through the harder missions and climactic boss battles.
At no point does Snoopy vs the Red Baron look like a budget title. The graphics of each of the six main environments reflect thoughtful design and sharp art direction, from the bright green canopies of the Woods of Montsec to the gritty Mines of the Matterhorn, and a mildly darting camera puts you convincingly in the skies without getting on your nerves.
The 3D cut-scenes, featuring borderline creepy renders of the Peanuts stars, don't come off nearly as well, but at least the developers had their priorities straight. As for the soundtrack, you'd think listening to actual children run you through tutorials and give mission orders would be grating, but it actually brings out the inner toddler, getting you in the mood.
On the other hand, while some of the 20+ missions show inspired flourishes, like those that involve Woodstock's glider, too many opt for generic escort and below-the-radar missions, and you could play through the entire thing in a long afternoon.
The experience is certainly fun, thanks largely to the outlandish weapons, spot-on controls, and endlessly amusing multiplayer options, but a touch too familiar.
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