The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn plays as a 2½D platform game for the most part, and is highly reminiscent of classic 2D platform adventures like Flashback, Another World, Prince of Persia and the first couple of Oddworld games. On other occasions the camera will swoop in to give you an up-close view of the action and kid you that it’s gone 3D, but the vast majority of the gameplay never really deviates too far from classic up/down flick-screen platform style. Most screens add two or three planes of depth and to be honest this is no bad thing, it keeps the gameplay simple yet addictive. There are some 3D locations to explore both as Tintin and Snowy, and playing as the white fox terrier you can track people by scent and squeeze into spots too small for Tintin.
The story sees young reporter Tintin trying to track down three scrolls hidden in three modle ships that uncover the truth behind Captain Haddock’s ancestor Sir Francis’s apparent cowardice, as he had allegedly abandoned and scuttled his own ship. You play as both Tintin and the elder Haddock as he tries to repel an attack on his ship (the Unicorn) from the Pirate Red Rackham and his crew. This involves a lot of swashbuckling sword fights played in an on-rails, ‘light gun game’ style.
Some chase scenes have you running away from pursuers “out of” the screen Crash Bandicoot-style. In others you’ll also get to fly a seaplane, ride a wobbly-wheeled motorcycle & sidecar through the desert and use an underwater scooter to avoid giant jellyfish.
For the platform action the controls are well laid out so you jump with ‘A’ (‘X’ on the PS3) and perform a very satisfying punch with ’X’ (Square), you can also grab enemies with ‘RB’ (R2) and throw them to the ground. Where a skinny ginger kid like Tintin gets the strength to do this from I don’t know, but we’re talking about a kid who can even blow up helicopters and trucks with his slingshot! Crucially the platform gameplay is extremely tight and feels just right whether you’re playing as Tintin, Captain Haddock or Snowy. The difficulty is set just right too, with a gentle curve that will end up challenging even experienced platform gamers-especially if they play the same-screen co-op levels (Tintin & Haddock) with a less experienced gamer or child. Whatever the player lineup, real co-operation is required and the game is fun and satisfying to play. Tintin manages to proffer more than a few original ideas while using plenty of familiar gameplay mechanics like climbing, swinging, wall jumping Mario-style, seesaws, exploding objects and boss battles.
The visuals certainly capture the essence of the movie, and the characters’ animation is smooth, with a lot of actions reminiscent of the source material, particularly the way that no bad guys “die”, they merely end up in an unconscious heap, bottom in the air with stars circling their head. If they fall in water they simply end up treading water, and don’t bother you anymore. The control is accurate and the game is pleasing to play, but in all of the various level and game types the game’s graphics are no more than passable by today’s standards. The fact that the game is multiformat and looks identical on the Wii explains everything.
For gamers of a certain age and fans of the animated 1970s TV series Hergés Adventure of Tintin just the sound of Captain Haddock exclaiming “Blistering Barnacles!” in his Scottish brogue will warm the cockles of their hearts and bring memories flooding back. Snowy the terrier and the Thompson Twins (two stereotypically bumbling English detectives) look and sound just like they should too, and the game, like the movie, is extremely evocative of Hergé’s original comic books.
The blurb for the game claims 20+ hours of gameplay and this is probably accurate, and is achieved by a set of challenges which will stretch the game’s lifespan and your affection for it to breaking point; Swordfighting as Captain Haddock, Plane flying (‘photo’ mode, ‘capture the flag’ and ‘dogfight’ in which you must shoot down as many enemy planes as you can in the time limit), and Sidecar and races and chases. This lot’ll certainly keep you busy especially if you want to get all platinum medals. These are the only levels in the game that use Kinect or PlayStation Move so if you’re expecting to play the entire game that way you’ll be disappointed. Personally I think these additional challenges are probably about as much Kinect/Move content as any game needs. The plane flying ones in particular seem to have some very tough score requirements if you want to get the top (platinum) scores or times. Mastering the way the plane’s speed boost works and learning the courses is undoubtedly the key but I’m not sure any of these minigames are good enough to keep you addicted long enough to get them.
The end of the story mode seemed to rush up a bit on me, but after that you can continue in the sizeable Tintin & Haddock co-op mode on your own if you wish, but this is obviously best played with a friend. In these co-op levels you get to play as Tintin, Captain Haddock, Snowy, the portly lady opera singer from the story, the Thompsons and Sir Francis, and can buy extra (weird) outfits and skins with which to change their appearance. Tintin & Haddock is set during a spell in which Captain Haddock has been knocked senseless by the bumbling Thompson twins, so they’re all a bit freaky, surreal and well… umm... French compared to the earlier story levels. The level designers really let their imaginations go on some of them. I mean, where else are you going to be able to strip a deep sea diver of his gear by throwing banana skins in his path while playing as an opera singer, or possess a ghostly painting and smash someone over the head, or run around and dig holes while upside down, playing as a little white dog???
I think the Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is an excellent tie in to the Spielberg movie, and although the graphics aren’t state of the art the gameplay stands up well, and manages quite a bit of variation, particularly if you use Kinect or PlayStation Move for the challenge levels.