by Ryan Sandrey
reviewed on X360
The world's most famous Belgian
It is quite the time for comic book characters to have videogames released. Not only have we just been graced by the presence of Batman: Arkham City but a young Belgian reporter has seen himself appear in a video-game as well as a film recently. That's right: Hergé's famous character Tintin has seen 3 of his short stories made into a film, The Secret of the Unicorn, and that consequently has seen a tie-in game made by Ubisoft.
Now, children's films rarely see a good tie-in game, with the likes of Open Season and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs not winning any plaudits for being outstanding games. That is mainly due to the target audience: those games aren't aimed at the so-called 'core' gamer. However, with a franchise as boundary-traversing as Tintin, it's fair to say that The Adventures of Tintin: The Game (called The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of The Unicorn in Europe) will have a broad appeal amongst fans of the comics, young and old. So, does the game break the mould of children's film tie-ins and manage to actually be an enjoyable experience for all ages?
It's not a unicorn, it's a horse with a sword on its head
The main bulk of the game is spent in the Story mode, which is obviously based on the three comic books and the film of the same name. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, you play as Tintin and his trusty dog Snowy as you gallivant about sticking your noses into other people's business like any good journalist does. Alas, phonetapping isn't your weapon in The Adventures of Tintin but sheer dogged determination is. After purchasing a model ship, based on a legendary ship called 'The Unicorn', you're apprehended by mysterious villains and the boat is stolen. However, pre-theft you discovered the boat hid a tiny scroll inside it, and you set off to find the meaning of the scroll and uncover the secret of the actual Unicorn itself. A news-worthy story it most certainly is, and luckily for Tintin but unluckily for you, it won't take too much of your time to uncover it. Weighing it at just over 5 hours, the campaign isn't exactly time-consuming nor particularly challenging, with the storyline just doing enough to encourage you to play on.
What The Adventures of Tintin lacks in longevity, however, it makes up for in bare-faced charm by the bucketload. With gameplay that lovingly borrows elements from a whole variety of games, including Alan Wake-style usage of flashlights to kill insects and Prince of Persia influenced platforming, and a variety of different challenges around themes such as sword-fighting and flight, the charm is inherent right down to the mechanics. The constant button prompting feels like hand-holding at times, but then again it is directed at those who may not play video-games all that often. With this in mind, it makes it all the more baffling why one of the toughest puzzles in the game offers no indication that you have to rotate the items, meaning that the learning curve escalates from easy to almost impossible in one go. This just doesn't make any sense, pointing to a puzzle earlier in the game being cut without the explanation being moved elsewhere.
With a little help from my friends
Despite this minor blip, The Adventures of Tintin continues to bombard you with charm throughout, with the game presented in a child-friendly cartoon manner, akin to the style seen in the film. Whilst it's not going to be winning any awards for graphical excellence anytime soon, the simple aesthetics compliment the game well. The cut-scenes, however, are average at best, with terrible textures and low frame-rates indicating that the same cut-scenes have been used for all versions of the title. The audio design is also average at best, with none of the actors from the film lending their voice to the game. They are all replaced by a handful of averagely talented voice artists. The music makes up for this, however, with simple tunes mixed with orchestral anthems depending on setting and location.
By far the most charming (and surprising) mode included in the game, however, is Tintin and Haddock mode. Playable in co-op or single-player, the mode is a jaunt through the damaged psyche of a dazed and confused Captain Haddock. Best playable after the story mode, you fight your way through a variety of levels that are akin to The Adventures of Tintin if Hergé had been Lewis Carroll rather than himself. With a whole host of playable characters from the film, including Thompson and Thomson, and an additional 4 hours of gameplay time, Tintin and Haddock mode is a fun and enjoyable addition to the game, particularly with friends. Rounding off the collection of modes is a series of challenges, based on flying, sword fighting and driving, which provide a challenge and Kinect compatibility, if you want to get arm ache when sword-fighting.
The Secret is...
There are some problems with The Adventures of Tintin, such as incidental dialogue being wrong in the subtitles and the occasional crash or two, but none of them detract from the enjoyment that can be had simply playing through the game. If you're unfamiliar with the film or stories, it doesn't matter as you'll be quickly up-to-date once you've played the game. It is a brilliantly charming game that, whilst not doing anything ground-breaking or new, provides an enjoyable experience that despite its relative ease will keep you hooked throughout.
An enjoyable cartoon romp through an engaging campaign. Tintin and Haddock mode is amusing and engaging with its over-the-top action being a surprise package.
Short campaign, some stability issues