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Snoopy and the Red Baron - The Atari Times

Snoopy and the Red Baron

An epic battle, and a dear friend, come home
by Brian C. Rittmeyer

June 14, 2001
The funny pages just haven't been the same since we lost Charles Schulz. When the man who brought us Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus and all the rest for 50 years announced in January 2000 he was going to retire the Peanuts strip on Feb. 13, 2000, it was a shock we didn't want to believe; when he died in his sleep from cancer the night before the last strip was to appear, it was a tragedy we didn't want to accept. Many newspapers have gone on publishing "Classic Peanuts," while others have stopped carrying the strip entirely. But Peanuts is and probably forever will be a part of our popular culture.

When one thinks of Atari 2600 video games with licensing tie-ins, those that first come to mind usually aren't good - E.T. and Raiders of the Lost Ark among them - games that carried big names but weren't exactly great examples of either 2600 programming or good video games in general. Ironically, or rather tragically, they're also among the most common, but they were not the only Atari games to have licensing tie-ins. A great game that may be hard to find, and comparatively expensive when it is found, is Snoopy and the Red Baron.

I picked this game up on eBay back in 1998 for roughly $20 - for me quite a lot to spend on an Atari 2600 game, but this was a game I had heard good things about, and I was determined to get it. Turns out all those good things are deserving and I wasn't disappointed. Forget the percentages on music, graphics and gameplay - they're always so hard to figure out - this is just a good game.

Anyone familiar with Peanuts will recall Schulz often put Snoopy in some World War I fantasy, usually as a World War I flying ace. (Schulz himself served in World War II.) This single-player video game pits Snoopy, flying his machine-gun armed doghouse, or rather his Sopwith Camel, against his notorious nemesis, the Red Baron, and, despite the limited capabilities of the 2600 hardware, does so amazingly well.

It takes eight hits for Snoopy to down the Red Baron, and likewise for the Baron to send Snoopy down in a ball of fire. (After the Baron downs Snoopy, he corkscrews away in victory.) It takes four kills to advance to the next level. In between shooting, Snoopy can also catch the Allies' stolen treats, such as Popsicles, root beers and burgers, that fall from the clouds, just be careful not to shoot them! The treats get added up on the screen between rounds, along with the number of Baron's downed, after which the fight is on again.

When the game first starts, and you realize you're flying Snoopy's doghouse, it's hard not to smile. The screen consists of blue sky, white clouds and multi-colored mountains at the bottom. A little flicker gives the image of Snoopy's scarf fluttering in the breeze. The game's music - at the opening, end of level, between level and start of level - is good, although the opening tune can be a bit harsh, especially if your television sound is up too high. Sounds during gameplay are the sufficient engine sound, gun fire, treats falling and crashing effects. Dog fighting with the Baron is enjoyable, although his hiding out of reach in the clouds can get annoying. Usually the best way to hit the Baron is to come in behind him and let loose - hits show as holes on Snoopy's doghouse, but you'll have to keep track yourself of how many times you've hit the Baron. 

The cartridge itself is interesting for its red checkered label, featuring the image of Snoopy atop his bullet hole-ridden dog house, the Baron off in the distance, and Snoopy thinking "Rats!" It carries the "Peanuts" name in the upper right, under an image of Snoopy lying atop his doghouse.

The game is simple to play, some may say too easy - most will find themselves ending their game by turning the machine off rather than running out of lives. But it's a good, solid game made all the more special by the cherished character - Snoopy - it brings to life. It's a shame this game wasn't updated for future systems. It comes highly recommended - a few do show up on eBay from time to time, sometimes boxed, but be prepared to pay - a search of completed auctions in June 2001 found prices ranging from about $10 to as high as $40.

Snoopy and the Red Baron

(c) Atari

When inserting your Atari 2600 game, don't wait for the title screen. Just get into the game, man!
Never thought I'd see the day where a beagle flies a doghouse.
Head to head with the Red Baron. Snoopy must win out!
Ah! Root beer! The elixir of life. Lots of these treats just mysteriously drop out of the sky.
Snoopy and the Red Baron
System: 2600
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Action
Graphics Score: 80%
Sound & Music Score: 85%
Gameplay Score: 95%
Control Score: %

Final Score: 95%

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