The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn review – Thundering platforming typhoons!
With a movie on the horizon, based on the cult classic books by Belgian artist and writer Herge, the time is finally right for a Tintin game, even if it takes its inspiration more from the film than directly from the original source material.
But can the intrepid young reporter and his faithful canine make a successful leap into another new medium, or are we playing Tintin: The secret of the never-any-good movie adaptation video game?
With a mix of puzzle and platforming at its heart, Tintin plays out like any standard game in the genre, save for it being addictively simple and easy to navigate through. Levels consist of several obstacles, hazards and puzzles, with a henchmen scattered around that needs a quick one-two to the face, while also allowing for brief moments of stealth in which players can sneak up and deliver attacks that would make a WWE wrestler proud.
Environmental hazards need to be traversed, while levels themselves offer up a few creative ways with which to take care of any nearby goons, such as throwing a beach ball onto a chandelier, which causes it to crash through on top of them, or using your loyal pooch Snowy to unlock doors and fetch keys for you.
Speaking of Snowy, he features in a few segments of his own, as he tracks down clues and people for you, while also adventuring on his own in more claustrophobic levels. Similar gameplay mechanics are used, save for a few touches where he needs to use his more robust canine abilities to get through.
The levels are well-designed and slightly tricky, but won’t tax your grey matter too much, while keeping track of your objectives is straight forward and clear. For a game targeted at kids, it works well, giving the little ones enough motivation to get through a compact and concise level, without stumping them too much.
Otherwise, all the standard platforming ideas are present, such as boss battles and item collection, while the game tries to mix things up with a few more sections that stray from the established core of the title.
You’ll find yourself piloting a rickety old plane through storms and large caverns, sword-fighting in the past, as well as fighting back against enemies while driving through busy streets on a motorcycle. Compared to the polished and quick gameplay of the platforming segments, these breaks from the norm don’t do much for the game,but they’re mercifully short.
Adults looking for a nostalgic trip are going to be in for a letdown however, as the puzzles are a breeze to get through, while the difficulty level itself is almost non-existent. Still, the Tintin game isn’t really meant for us older gamers, so who could really fault the developers on that.
A co-op mode has been added in as well, using the platform gameplay to allow two players to solve puzzles together, all taking place inside the fevered mind of the recovering alcoholic Captain Haddock. Teaming up, there are treasures to find and dangers to avoid, and it keeps the action going for quite a few hours after the main credits have rolled once the brief storyline has finished. Admittedly, the challenges are silly and sometimes tedious after a while, but they should be given a go at least once.
Visually, the Tintin game looks like it was pulled straight from the film, but whenever a character opens their mouth, you can’t help but but notice some stiff animation and lip-synching. The rest of the game performs adequately, running at a constantly smooth frame rate, keeping the action intact and focused.
Solid platforming sequences peppered by some lacklustre variety, Tintin sometimes struggles to find an identity for itself, switching between gameplay genres like a schizophrenic during a brutal therapy situation.
But when the game focuses on platforming, it does it superbly and wonderfully, mixing up the sequences between Tintin and Snowy to provide some truly fun gameplay. Teaming up with a friend for some of the more esoteric levels that take place within the deluded confines of Captain Haddocks subconscious makes for a solid experience that doesn’t detract from the game at all.
Design and Presentation: 7.5/10
Barring the cut-scenes which seem to suffer from a case of uncanny valley syndrome, the visuals perform well enough, and don’t look like they would be out of place from either the film or the original books. Soft lines and warm lights work well, while some of the stages take place in imaginative locales.
Unpolished chase and race sequences feel sluggish and unnatural however, and the time spent on these would have been better off developing more addictive platforming levels.
The Kinect sequences could have been better designed however, and feel clumsy and archaic at times. Fortunately, they rarely pop up, and a player can do more than enough with just the controller itself.
If you’re looking to buy your young ones a game that isn’t overly violent, hard to master and has a gentle learning curve, then you can’t go wrong with this one, especially if they’re all giddy after seeing the film.
For those adults who pick up the title for some sort of nostalgia rush, they’ll be disappointed with the easiness of the title, but the co-op gameplay should be tried out with a friend at least, as solving puzzles together helps to keep the action flowing once the end credits have rolled.
A well-designed platform-adventure game that is faithful to its film source material and graphic novel lineage, that becomes compromised by some annoying gameplay sections which should have been left on the cutting room floor. But if you need a quick distraction to get away from the kids, then you won’t go wrong with this quirky game.
Reviewed on Xbox 360
The adventures of Tintin: The secret of the Unicorn was reviewed by Darryn Bonthuys