Let’s just skip to the end: Tintin is a mostly 2-D platformer with a healthy dose of fisticuffs. Now, this was the bit that really got my attention: I always thought of Tintin as a tenacious investigator, uncovering trickery and crime and solving mysteries. I never had him down as a fist-slogging super-hooligan – that was always Asterix’s area. But I did a bit of research after playing the game and – surprise! Tintin was actually quite a bruiser! Particularly in the earlier stories, he wasn’t afraid to chuck his weight around a bit.
Which is just as well, because there are tons of goons to flatten in The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn: The Game. Hand-to-hand combat is certainly forgiving, and while our hero has a pretty limited repertoire (actually just consisting of one combat command, ‘thump’, and a stealth attack), there are the odd environmental tricks that can be used on enemies and a few things that can be picked up and thrown around the place for various amusing results. Nevertheless, Tintin can take on swarms of rascals without too much trouble simply by hammering away with one attack.
Other than the fighting, the rest of the game is mainly the 2D platforming mentioned earlier, interspersed by a couple of simplistic detection and investigation sequences and a handful of short arcade flying and driving scenes to break things up. Oh, and once in a while the 2D platform sequences will break into ‘cinematic’-style 3d sections, where most of the challenge comes through grappling with the whimsical wandering camera angles.
Ubisoft certainly have a long and storied history of quality 2D platformers, and with their stable of famed designers it’s no surprise that Tintin’s platform bits fair zoom along with a slick-yet-cartoony style and a few really interesting levels. Tintin himself (and Captain Haddock too, in co-op play) is an incredibly agile chap, able to mantle athletically onto platforms with ease and with the ability to jump goodly long bounds. Most of the challenges in the platform sequences are pretty straightforward, and this brings me nicely round to talking about the target audience here.
This is pretty much a game for a younger audience, as is the movie upon which it’s based. Therefore the difficulty level is pitched at a forgiving level. Personally, I don’t think this should follow logically – just because you’re under ten years old doesn’t mean you should be coddled in your games. This from a man who grew up on Manic Miner. We didn’t have it easy in MY day.
That said, the lack of real difficulty does mean that Tintin never gets annoying or frustrating. Any gamer will leg it through without too much trouble, and non-gamers who give it a go are unlikely to get stuck for any real length of time. Aside from the platforming sections, the other arcade bits which are used to break up the running ‘n’ jumping are generally more interested in providing a fast-paced interlude than in really stopping a player in his tracks.
The characters are played well, balanced on a razor’s edge between hammy and ridiculous, whilst being endearing enough to draw the player in to their world. Of course, anything I say in favour of the story is actually probably just in favour of the movie, but I found Tintin to never get particularly annoying.
You never seen a Belgian investigator without his faithful dog, do you? Well, except Poirot, of course. He doesn’t have a dog. But Tintin does! Snowy crops up from time to time as a playable character, either sniffing out tracks to follow or being stuffed into tiny tunnels in order to reach areas Tintin can’t. Again, these sections bring a slight change of pace and, in the case of the tracking, a new approach to the game.
Of course, a game like this is never going to be top of the table when it comes to strenuous system requirements. Tintin is extremely easy to play on any halfway-modern machine, so it’s a good option if you’ve got an aging machine. Naturally, when I installed it on the Chillaxe, it just sort of looked at me indignantly as if to say ‘is that all you’ve got?’
So it’s a fairly good 2D platformer (in an admittedly sparse modern marketplace) interspersed with a couple of passable action scenes, the odd simplistic puzzle and a few paraphrased scenes from the movie. Nothing really in the way of originality. Then again, Ubisoft are good at this stuff. After decades of developing games very similar to this, you’d really hope that they had the hang of it by now, and they do. This is the sort of thing Ubi could release all day long, with very little problem. As a birthday present for a young fan of the movie, this isn’t such a terrible choice, particularly with the possibility of co-op play. However, a year down the line, if you asked them if they had enjoyed the present you got them, don’t be surprised if they stare at you blankly, having completely forgotten all about it. Just, perhaps, console yourself with the knowledge that while they were playing it, they were probably having a pretty good time.