The words “play the adventure of the movie” usually drives fear into the most seasoned gamers as blockbuster tie-ins are notoriously lame. Directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by CGI guru Peter Jackson, the recently released Adventures of Tintin film oozes with stunning motion capture and 3D animation which Ubisoft have translated perfectly into the game.
With scenes adapted from Hergé’s much loved comics The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure, the adventure starts with Tintin’s companion Snowy, sniffing out a bargain at a quaint street market in Belgium. Within moments of purchasing a curious model of an old ship, whippy haired Tintin discovers the ship conceals a clue to a fabulous treasure and he quickly finds himself in the middle of a treasure hunt race that leads him through some iconic locations including grumpy and hallucinogenic Captain Archibald Haddock’s ship “The Karaboudjan,” Omar Ben Salaad’s Palace and the exotic city of Bagghar that fans of Tintin will instantly recognise. Happily, this isn’t just a run-through-and-punch-baddies-and-collect stuff affair as there are some genuinely inventive ideas with challenges and puzzles that will satisfy a young audience but is enjoyable for older gamers too.
The opening level is set within a dusty old mansion house. Rather than it being a steady platformer and visiting room on room, Tintin slides between wall cavities and jumps up through cellar floorboards to progress which brings a sense of depth to the scenes. He has to contend with moving platforms and can use collected items like glass jars or beachballs to hit levers or baddies whilst of course timing his jumps and attacks. You can do sneak attacks from barrels if you hide and creep along, you can lay down banana skins or drop chandeliers on bad guys heads, all of which bring a diverse range of ‘take down’ animations. Making your way through the house, although linear is actually huge fun with cinematic camera angles down hallways, charming use of doors and levels and some excellent dialogue from henchmen as you pass through.
It’s really well presented with lots of immersive attention to detail, like the beautifully echoic record static effect that drifts through the speakers in the boiler room whilst onboard the rusty tub “The Karaboudjan”. There are swimming challenges or areas of complete blackout where you pick your way carefully through with a torch followed by some super frantic chase scenes as you try to escape thunderstorms or crooks on your tail, hunting down you and your treasure map that mix up the pace and require different skills. Unlike so many other movie tie ins, where once you’ve learnt how to shoot or move, you simply repeat this ad infinitum through different movie locations till you hit a boss at the end, Tintin needs to use his brain to logically as well as physically work out what to do. It’s not only in keeping with the plucky reporter character, it’s genuinely well thought out and gives a sense of real adventure, mixing exploration, puzzle and combat (which is appropriately managed for it’s target audience as with stars around their heads and cuckoo sound effects are only ever knocked out, never killed).
It’s not all side view platform action either as some levels involve sword fighting on historical pirate ships, piloting a plane through underground caverns or riding and shooting from a motorcycle and side car through a dusty desert, where the perspective totally changes. As Snowy, you can also dig underground or sniff out a trail, which again brings a new type of gameplay. It’s not difficult (although if you miss an item, you can’t go back to collect it so planning is important) but has a refreshing engaging plot set against brilliant locations that are sustained right to the very end scenes where amidst some rocky ruins, the nature of the secret treasure is finally revealed. The cut scenes are of a good length with excellent vocal performances whilst the loading screens although a bit too slow are at least interesting as shows you a 3D model of your current location.
Sadly, the single player campaign is quite short and can be overcome in around 6 hours but also included is a challenge mode where you can compete for high scores racing or shooting whilst flying or riding plus there’s a fabulous local co-op multiplayer mode where you can play as classic Tintin unlockable characters as you pick your way through Captain Haddock’s dreamscape. Collaboration is key to the multiplayer levels as one character, depending on their unique ability opens the way up for another or you both have to flick switches at the same time. The more things you collect, the more you open up other levels with 21 levels to explore. Some items can only be obtained with certain characters once unlocked but in the meantime, you can spend points on giving Tintin a giant head or Captain Haddock a swimsuit – it all adds real value to the replayable aspect of the game which is also fully compatible with Playstation Move and Kinect for Xbox360.
If Tintin clearly demonstrates one thing, it’s that if there is genuine, close collaboration between the filmmaking and videogame making teams over a realistic period of time (in this case 18 months), then movie tie in games can feature high quality graphics, environments, characters and gameplay. Tintin and the Secret of the Unicorn is charming and well presented. It looks, sounds and most importantly is great fun to play. Not just for fans, this has some innovative gameplay ideas that are executed really well which makes it a wonderful adventure for gamers of all ages.
Playing the PS3 version of The Adventures of Tintin, there really isn’t a lot of difference. The variety of the Xbox360 version is all present and correct, with the 2D platforming combined with the 3D sequences and the small bursts of sword fighting, plane flying and sidecar riding.
But it is these three activities in the challenge levels that offer the only real difference between the two versions of the game. On the PS3, the developers have taken advantage of the Move controller to add some physical interaction to the game. Sword fighting is by far the most fun, with the player having to block and parry before thrusting at pirates. But even the plane flying and the shooting whilst in the sidecar both work really well. It would have been nice to see the Move integration in other parts of the game, especially considering how well it works. As it stands, the Move controlled challenges feel like an afterthought.
With the main story, Captain Haddock’s side story and te challenge levels, there is quite a lot of content here. As with all movie tie-ins, the game is aimed at the younger gaming audience. But surprisingly there is actually plenty here for the more experienced gamer to enjoy as well. Don’t expect a challenge, but you will be entertained, especially if you have fond memories of the Tintin books. For a video game based on a movie, The Adventures of Tintin bucks the trend and is actually quite good.