This article was written as part of the Make a Wish Week Amigathon. Donations are now being accepted to help fulfil the dying wishes of terminally ill children.
In the same year The Edge brought us ‘Garfield: Winter’s Tail’ they were also busily beavering away on a licensed tie-in game for an even older, equally cherished comic strip star; Snoopy.
Being the frugal types, the team led by the notoriously sue-happy Tim Langdell opted to revisit their original 1987 Garfield title for inspiration, and thus an all new multi-platform action-adventure game was born. And by ‘all new’ I mean ‘Snoopy: The Cool Computer Game’ aka ‘Snoopy and Peanuts’ lock, stock and barrel recycles the gameplay mechanics, the primitive fetch-quest adventure genre and even the graphics artist and musician who worked on ‘Big, Fat, Hairy Deal’.
With dogged (ha?) determination, coders, Glyn Kendall, Justin Garvanovic and Sean Griffiths, graphician Jack Wilkes and musician David Whittaker plugged away at the Atari ST and Amiga versions of the dubiously titled ‘Cool Computer Game’ until it had had its shots and was ready to leave the pound to be ported to the Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, DOS, and CDTV platforms.
Based upon the 1950 United Feature Syndicate comic strip, ‘Peanuts’, and ‘The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show’ Melendez Productions TV series it gave rise to in 1983, The Edge’s interpretation was released to coincide with Snoopy’s 40th anniversary. Analogous to its Beagle muse it was targeted squarely at the younger sector of the gaming market.
Taking the role of the leading dog, you’re joined by a cast of your Peanuts costars, including Woodstock, Schroeder, Lucy, Linus, Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty. Unfortunately they rarely move a muscle as we watch, choosing instead to reposition themselves off-camera for us to discover the changes upon our return to the flick-scrolled screen they inhabit.
In one scene Lucy even jumps out of the paddling pool with no frames of animation whatsoever without waiting for us to leave the area before performing her Houdini routine. She’s in the water, then on dry land in the blink of an eye. ‘Economical animation’ you could call it.
Where the effort has been made to animate the characters it’s exceptionally polished, a commendable facsimile of the stylish, timeless genuine article. A shame then that the same attention to detail hasn’t been applied throughout.
All the key settings have been incorporated from Charlie Brown’s house and garden (featuring Snoopy’s doghouse, and the mailbox Chuck is often seen waiting by to receive a Valentine’s Day card that would never arrive, not a kosher one anyway) to your school (which one is a matter of great debate amongst aficionados), to the park (home of the Kite-Eating Tree) and local neighbourhood (wherever that may be, again there are half a dozen theories to keep us guessing).
Snoopy fans tell me they’ve identified something in the series they cheerfully refer to as ‘humour’, yet in-game it has undergone the same savage approach to shortcut taking as the animation. I can’t say I noticed either way personally – it must be a very subdued undercurrent of belly-bursting hilarity, buried deep within its multifarious layers of social and philosophical commentary.
I really tried to like the show, it’s just so dreary it makes you work harder at it than should be necessary for the sake of entertainment. Why is it everyone sounds like they’re doped up on Prozac and nothing ever happens? If I wanted to experience a parallel reality I’d sign up for more overtime at work instead and at least get paid for it.
To that effect The Edge captured the authentic vibe and characterisation of the show perfectly. The settings are mundane, the pace plodding and the plot dreary. Then you’d expect them to nail the sentiment given their close collaboration with Snoopy’s daddy, the late cartoonist Charles M. Schulz. If he couldn’t keep them on the right track, who could?
“Though not directed towards youngsters, this is the area where it will find most of its fans. Definitely not for lager louts or those who are partial to a quick game of Alien Space Zombie Death. Having said that Snoopy’s appeal is limited, and, with a small amount of brain work, fairly easy to solve.”
65% – CU Amiga (March 1990)
And now the moment you’ve all been waiting patiently for; what’s our motivation? Why do we find ourselves in Snoopy’s home town of deliberately vague geographical location, and what is it we’re aiming to accomplish? Could it be saving the universe from alien invasion? Perhaps rescuing your girlfriend from the gnashing jaws of a rottweiler dognapper?
Well *deep breath* …wait for it, this is going to be epic! Sally’s little brother Linus has had his security blanket pilfered and you – embodying the deuteragonist’s role – must retrieve and return it to him before the neurotic little tyke bursts a blood vessel fretting over its whereabouts. That’s it, you need to track down a blanket and hand it to an emotionally stunted sprog to stop him squawking. It’s ironic really because in the cartoon Snoopy is usually the one trying to steal it, leading to slapstick shenanigans aplenty.
You can’t blame The Edge for this anti-climax to be fair to them – it’s totally in alignment with a typical story-line taken from the original source material. I think the idea was for the prosaic scenarios to serve as a microcosm to express more sophisticated themes, aside from being a bit of fluff to keep five year olds amused.
Under normal circumstances fulfilling your reconnaissance assignment would take all of five minutes so the developers plumped to artificially extend the longevity by allocating Snoopdog with only a single inventory slot. This results in the necessity to walk all the way to the end of the map to collect an object at a pace that would bore a snail to tears, only to have to return to the beginning to deploy it in solving some pedestrian yet obscure puzzle or other, all within a time limit of 45 minutes.
“The main fault with Snoopy is that it is too similar to The Edge’s earlier hit, Garfield, and thus the same criticisms apply. Snoopy can only hold one object at a time, and this means that a lot of walking to and fro is required. However, walking between each screen is a very slow process, and considering how much is needed, the novelty soon wears off only to be replaced by frustration. If this fault had been changed, Snoopy would have been a very nice arcade/adventure; as it is it comes over as a sadly flawed game”.
61% – Amiga Action (April 1990)
As I said The Edge didn’t just pluck the blanket schtick out of thin air. Believe it or not Linus’ security blanket plays a pivotal role in the cartoon, and in some episodes even develops humanesque sentience. In the first season of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show beginning in 1983 our pal blanky makes no fewer than six starring appearances according to IMDB, from which I lifted the following abridged précis:-
Snoopy’s Cat Fight (Linus and Woodstock fight the cat next door for Linus’ blanket)
Snoopy: Team Manager (Linus loses his blanket)
Linus’ Security Blanket (where it takes the starring role in a short called ‘Security Blanket’)
Snoopy’s Football Career (Linus claims someone stole his blanket; the search leads to a likely culprit)
Chaos in the Classroom (Linus’ blanket has a mind of its own and begins to annoy Lucy)
It’s That Team Spirit, Charlie Brown (Snoopy uses various techniques to get hold of Linus’ blanket including acting like a vulture)
Season 2 is a fair bit less blanket-centric, it only being one of the headlining attractions of a single episode:-
Snoopy’s Robot (Linus starts a clinic for kids that have security blankets. Snoopy goes to visit Spike in the desert taking Linus’ blanket with him.)
…and that’s without even touching on the feature-length specials or comic strip, which are also a hotbed of security blanket melodrama. If you’re still in any doubt as to the momentousness of Linus’ security blanket to the Snoopy universe, consider that Linus van Pelts’ Wikipedia page includes a section dedicated to his bed linen which alone totals 1,016 words or 5,786 characters! Yes, I counted every last one of them. Gee whiz and gosh darn it, they were simple times if this passed for entertainment back then.
“But cute characters alone maketh not the game! The most noticeable fault with Snoopy is the slow, somewhat somnolent, pace to the game which fails to excite. Again, excellent characterization, but the game itself would appeal more to a younger age group who will appreciate the joy of actually being able to control Snoopy.”
63% – ST Action (January 1990)
With the £24.99 1989 floppy disk version you only have the option to enable sound effects, despite the reviews at the time suggesting you could flip between music and effects. On the contrary, the later £34.99(!) CDTV update – rebadged as ‘the case of the missing blanket’ – released in 1991 includes music, speech and sound effects, along with a new title screen. Otherwise it’s the same game. Either way, the opening music track is a digitised rendition of ‘Motorcross’ by Vince Guaraldi who composed the score for seventeen Peanuts TV specials, and the 1969 feature film, ‘A Boy Named Charlie Brown’.
“Snoopy – The Cool Computer Game is presented in the same style as Garfield’s Big Fat Deal. The characters are large and well drawn; at least we recognised all the members of the Peanuts cartoon strip. Anyone with a soft spot for Snoopy should take a look.”
75% – The Games Machine (Atari ST version, January 1990)
To check your current progress you can look at the clipboard found on the pavement, or visit the park where a scoreboard displays your, well, score, obviously. That’s what they do. Similarly, studying the collectable watch will inform you how much time has expired. You always begin at the same time making 10.00am the 11th hour, if you know what I mean. Not that you’ll be cutting it that fine once you know what you’re doing – it takes all of two minutes to read the walkthrough from start to finish.
On a positive note the developers went the extra mile to introduce a few neat touches that while having no bearing on the outcome of your quest will leave a big smile on the faces of dedicated Snoopyphiles. Any additional steps required to experience them you’ll find are covered in the walkthrough for the Spectrum version.
For example, a puzzle involving throwing a football at the school wall results in a brick falling out, eventually culminating in the spontaneous conjuring of Schroeder. Charlie Brown’s precocious best friend proceeds to serenade us with a rendition of Beethoven’s 5th symphony as Lucy leans on his toy piano fawning over him, bewitched by an unrequited infatuation. It’s the mirror image of a long-running gag taken directly from the cartoon so no doubt much appreciated by those in the know.
Spoiler alert: in one scenario it emerges that the blanket was (not so well) hidden in Charlie Brown’s locker! Well, he had the key to it in his possession anyway – fairly damning evidence I’m sure you’ll agree. The jolly rotten little scallywag, I really expected better of him. Who’d have thought a Snoopy game would turn so sinister?
In any case, now I’ve regained my composure after that shocking revelation, may I suggest that my solution would have been far less tedious: get crowbar, open locker, find blanket. Job done. Watch Garfield cartoons instead.
Upon returning Linus’ blanket, a shade-wearing Snoopy is congratulated with the message, “You have finished the game Joe Cool!”, this being his undercover college student alter-ego. You’ll also find out your final score, which you can add to your CV when you grow up to impress prospective employers. Hey, don’t knock it, it worked for me.
Enhancing the replayability by a factor of 0.0143 (yes, I did the calculations) the blanket can actually be found in one of two different locations; the dryer in the van Pattens’ house or one of the school lockers, so why not play again right now for a totally new experience?
Because you need to paint the cat and comb the lawn? Fair enough then, as you were.