Release Date: Out Now! Dec. 21st for North America.
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Thanks to Ubisoft for providing a copy of this game for release.
This game supports Kinect, but those features will not be reviewed in this article.
It’s that time, the time for a movie tie-in game to come along, make me hope that it might actually be good and then brutally crush my soul, leaving me a desolate husk of a gamer crying brokenly into a cushion. And so it was with a heavy heart that I went into the Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn (to give it its full name) expecting the worst but emerging with a slight smile on my face, because this game isn’t actually half bad.
The games main story mode is based around the events of the film and has the intrepid journalist Tintin, always determined to find a good story, getting caught up in a tale composed of three of the previous Tintin books. As the game kicks off he purchases a model boat that holds a secret scroll within, and thus he sets on a mission to find the other scrolls and discover some ancient treasure. Along the way he’ll encounter the rather barmy Captain Haddock who likes to spout insults that make little sense and relive moments of his ancestors past, who was a key component in the mystery. The game does a decent job of getting across the jist of the films story, and it’s an enjoyable enough tale, even if it does have a few points that don’t seem to make any sense, but it’s still advisable to watch the movie first.
If you’re expecting plenty of character developement along the way or even some great dialogue then you’ll be left disappointed, but the Adventures of Tintin does feature some rather good voice acting that brings the intrepid little journalist and his companion to life. it helps that they’re just instantly likable characters, as are most of the people in the game; sure, they’re not deep characters, but they’re amusing caricatures and pay homage to the original Tintin adventures perfectly, even if the stiff facial animations don’t manage to do the voice acting justice.
This caricature nature carries over to the graphical style of the game as well, especially with the thugs who have elongated faces. Yet there’s no shaking the feeling that this game was made on a tight budget as it’s a graphically poor game. The art design itself is nice enough, generally staying true to the source material, but the animations are clunky, textures are lacking and the environments are pretty simplistic affairs.
Tintin himself is also a bit of a douche in this game, happily breaking into people’s private property, stealing things that don’t belong to him and beating the living snot out of poor butlers who are only trying to protect their masters property. Seriously, this guy puts the whole phone hacking scandal to shame.
But it’s the gameplay that counts, and Tintin, to a degree, manages to deliver on this front, but in a way that might just surprise you. You see, the Adventures of Tintin is mostly a 2d platformer, harking back to the good old Prince of Persia days, albeit a fairly simplistic one. Little Tintin can jump around his environment, bounce off walls, pull switches and generally run around the place extremely well, and while the level design never gets above decent it remains strangely fun throughout, though I do recommend that you don’t question why anyones house would ever be designed in such a strange manner. . More fun is to be had when you enter an area full of those caricature baddies who are just waiting to get their arses kicked. Tintin is capable of using ventilation openings (what’s this fad about ventilation in games?), jumping up and down through trapdoors and performing stealthy take-downs in his unwitting opponents. As you progress through the game more challenging enemies are presented, such as the ones who wear full suits of armor requiring you to drop large weights on them or throw a banana skin at them so they slide into the wall and break their armour, leaving them vulnerable to your mighty spamming of the X button to punch them in the gob. Other enemies wield deadly guns, usually requiring some deft maneuvering around the area to get them into a position where you can sneak up on them, or you could just bounce a ball of their face which usually seems to work. It’s never a challenging game, yet theirs a sense of satisfaction and fun to be found from navigating an area gracefully, wiping out every enemy with some simply but effective tactics. But since this is a kids game (and it is, despite what the damn 12+ rating on the box claims) Tintin never kills anyone, instead stealthy takedowns are done by picking up enemies and slamming them face first into the ground, leaving them in amusing positions with little stars floating above their head. Similarly sneaking around hidden in a barrel and hitting people with the lid results in a charming cuckoo sound and more stars. It’s nice to know that this old-school 2D platforming is still fun, even if it is hard to shake the feeling that you’re playing an Arcade game.
Occasionally the game takes you out of this 2D platforming merriment and tries to, quite admirably, it must be said, spice things up a little by throwing you into an on-rails sword-fight against pirates, sections where you fly a plane or even levels where you drive a bike. In theory these add a nice bit of variety and serve to pad out a very short story mode, but in practice these sections are clumsy at best. The sword-fighting (clearly designed for Kinect) is sort of amusing, but quickly loses its charm; the place sections are mostly dull, though the occasional moment where you get to shoot down other planes is decent, and the bike sections are just plain meh. Yes, I used the word meh. It’s a good word.
But even with this mediocre padding you’ll run through the main story mode in about three hours. Maybe four, if you’re determined to find all the collectibles and earn yourself a shiny Achievement for doing so.
Happily there’s another mode to help take up your time, and it takes the decent 2D platforming of the story mode and plays around with it, introducing new features and better level design. In this mode you actually play through levels in Captain Haddock’s dreams using different characters, and with a friend if you should choose to do so. It might be an odd idea, but this frees them from the constraints of the film and allows for more interesting level designs, as well as the ability to play as multiple characters who also pack some interesting abilities. For example, our little read-headed journalist gains a grappling hook to help get around levels, while Haddock can now smash through certain walls. Other characters are unlocked as you progress through the various, al of which are accessed via a hub-level, and bring other unique abilities to the game, such as spinning canes to deflect fire from turrets. Should you be playing on your own you can swap between the levels two characters at any time, as well as go back to later levels with unlocked characters to claim all the hidden collectibles. But playing with a friend is certainly recommended.
Haddock’s dreaming also means the level designs get a little weirder, with levels often moving about, doors in the middle nowhere leading to other doors in the middle nowhere and more challenging platforming sections, and even the occasional puzzle thrown in for good measure. It also means that they get to play around with a more inventive boss fight against a giant pirate that you’ll have to fight three times throughout your adventure. Only occasionally does this Tintin and Haddock mode throw in the various little mini-games from the singleplayer, instead choosing to focus on the platforming. Wise Choice.
This mode should add-on another three or four hours to the game, and is a far more enjoyable than the main story mode which feels somewhat lacking throughout. However, Ubisoft seem to have made the wierd decision to omit an online co-op mode, instead favoring local only
If you still want a little more Tintin action there’s the challenge mode to dig your teeth into, but it simply tasks you with playing through more of those dull sections where you fly planes or drive bikes, and doesn’t really add anything to the overall quality of the game, apart from an hour or two extra playtime if you like to try to score the highest medals for each challenge.
The Adventures of Tintin: is a hard game to judge. While I could rarely shake the feeling that I was playing a game from the Xbox Live Arcade, I also found myself having quite a bit of fun with this game. Sure, it doesn’t look great, it’s short and it’s pretty simplistic, but there’s a weird charm to it all. Still, I could only recommend it should you find it going cheap, or you really love the movie, though kids should have a good time with this.
+ 2D platforming is still fun!
+ Tin-Tin and Haddock mode is good fun.
+ Great voice acting.
– Feels like an Arcade title.
– Looks like an Arcade title.
– Flying planes and riding bikes isn’t as fun as it should be.
Some decent character models don’t make up for flat textures, simple environments and some clunky animations.
Actually, the voice acting on offer here is quite good, and the music and sound effects work well.
The game does a decent enough job of telling the movie’s story, but it’s nothing special.
Simple, yet is somehow charming and quite fun.
In total you might get around seven or eight ten hours if you do everything and collect everything.
The Verdict: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn isn’t going to prove that movie based games don’t have to suck, but it’s actually a fairly enjoyable 2D platformer that kids should enjoy, and that even adults will find amusing, provided they can find it at a cheap price.