REVIEW: THE PEANUTS MOVIE: SNOOPY’S GRAND ADVENTURE (Wii U)

snoopy's grand adventure cover

Movie games being sold to retail have gone the way of the dinosaur or the dodo, but no one sent the memo to Activision. While everyone else pushes free-to-play match-3 games to mobile devices based on popular films, Activision is still busy producing games based on properties like  last year’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and a game based on last weekend’s second biggest film in North America, The Peanuts Movie, subtitled Snoopy’s Grand Adventure. While it has a lot of imagination, creativity and some decent ideas behind it, The Peanuts Movie: Snoopy’s Grand Adventure is a barely above average game that might be a great buy for a very young fan of the movie that just came out, but not recommendable for anyone else.

While Snoopy is sleeping on top of his dog house, Charlie Brown and rest of the Peanuts gang go for a game of hide-and-go-seek. Upon awaking, Snoopy notices that everyone is gone and notices a trail of jelly beans leading away from where he last saw his friends and sets out on his “Grand Adventure”. I put “Grand Adventure” in quotation marks because everything the player goes through in the game are just fantastical elements of Snoopy’s own imagination. The game’s hub world is the backyard around Snoopy’s dog house with areas like a tree, a cellar, and a fence leading to the various theme worlds where the game’s levels are found. It’s not a knock against the game, in fact it’s a decent set-up that fits with the hide-and-go-seek game and an interesting way to link some very disjointed locations.

arm wrestler snoopy

Snoopy’s Grand Adventure is a 2-D platformer where the goal of each level is to get from the start to the end of each stage, collecting anywhere between 250-300 jelly beans and six beagle scouts, basically Woodstock in a scouts outfit, along the way. The controls for jumping and movement are pretty good, and the limited use of the most of the buttons on the controller, as in other than using the d-pad or the analog stick for movement you only use the B-button to jump as well as activating a Rayman-esque helicopter move to slow decent, make this an easy to learn game for the intended audience.

Additional abilities are rolled out at a reasonable pace throughout the game and come in the form of costumes that transform Snoopy into various incarnations of the character through the decades. Scout Snoopy for example, places you in a scouts leader outfit and grants the ability to climb vines and fences, while Joe Cool has a double jump and the power to freeze all enemies within proximity to create platforms. The suits are unlocked by finding keys to treasure chests which are never hidden, and while the suits add some much-needed diversity to the rather generic platforming, they’re never used to complete a level or solve any clever puzzles; Only to collect more jelly beans. In fact a lot of the times, I lamented getting a new costume because putting on any outfit takes away your helicopter float ability which I always found way more useful than any of the new power-ups.

Once a suit is unlocked, it’s never stored either, and you can’t switch between them at will. They always show up when you need them, as in if you see a fence, you know the scout outfit is not far behind. I liked some of the suits more than others, like the arm wrestler outfit that allows you to smash certain walls and perform a mid-air dash, and I wished the game would’ve been designed to take advantage of these abilities, especially if they were combined in some interesting ways. In playing this game I know that it’s not intended for someone like me, however the same could be said of the Lego series of games, and those games have gotten incredibly creative with how they mix-and-match character abilities to solve environmental puzzles.

snoopy ss2

Subtracting the costume mechanic, what you’re left with is a very by the numbers 2-D platfomer that offers little in the way of challenge. Enemies are easily taken down by jumping on their heads, and even when you get hit, the game offers you a very generous window to get your health back. Outside of the first area, the bosses are very easy to conquer chase sequences that won’t even make you break a sweat. There’s also no pit falls to speak of so it’s very difficult to die. The only real difficulty lies in collecting every single jelly bean and beagle scout in a stage. I did manage to collect a lot if not all the beagle scouts in a stage, but admittedly there was only a handful of stages that managed to find all the required jelly beans. due to the fact that the game requires you to replay early stages once you gather more costumes as early as level one. Normally this would be a good thing, but I never really found any incentive like other costumes or additional levels to be unlocked by gathering all the jelly beans in every level, and frankly the game was not that thrilling to go through once, let alone twice.

The stages where I found all the jelly beans in the most were the levels that turn into a 2-D flying game where Snoopy is piloting his dog house above the clouds. It was these stages that I was looking forward to the most, however they turned out to be the least interesting. You’re just flying in a straight line, avoiding easy to maneuver around obstacles and shooting blimps and rockets. I use the term “shoot” lightly as this game offers very poor feedback on not only what you’re hitting, but what direction your shooting in. In keeping with the non-violent, kid friendly theme, there’s no projectiles, only “rat-a-tat” sound effects emanating from your “plane” so when I “killed” an enemy, it came as quite a surprise to me.

Although the levels are not that much fun to get through, they are very diverse and nice to look at. The five hub-worlds are very unique from one another, going from a jungle, a temple, outer space and the Parisian underground as well as a few others. My personal favourite was the space stage as the game added gravity spots that allowed you to jump high or launched you across pits. The graphics are colourful, bright and have a very pleasing, almost claymation feel to them. As boring as it can be to play a game that’s intended for a much young audience, at the very least it’s much more interesting to look at than games targeted at my demographic that are filled with nothing but brown and grey.

snoopy ss3

I never came across any game breaking bugs in Snoopy’s Grand Adventure, one problem I experienced was with the game’s audio. In the first section of the game the music cut out completely and in other areas the sound effects like Snoopy’s cry after getting hit or collecting jelly beans dropped out entirely. When it was actually playing, the music was nothing to write home about but its absence was very noticeable and made slogging through some uninteresting stages even worse. I’m not sure if this is in any of the other versions of the game as I don’t possess any of them.

For the right age demographic, I can see The Peanuts Movie: Snoopy’s Grand Adventure being a game worth playing, but older Peanuts fans or those looking for a challenge need not apply. This is not a phoned in effort, as there’s some great environmental diversity and nice scenery. The controls are also fine, and I like some of the costume changes, however all of this is in service of a game that’s the definition of average. Certainly not one of the worst movie tie-in games in recent memory, but not one that makes you long for them to make a comeback either.

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