By Marty Mulrooney
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is a video game based on the film of the same name (reviewed here), developed by Ubisoft Montpellier and published by Ubisoft. Tintin and Snowy must team up with Captain Haddock as they travel the world in search of the secret of the Unicorn, in a loose retelling of the film.
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn on PlayStation 3 is mostly presented as a side-scrolling platformer, with Tintin running through a variety of levels solving simple puzzles and defeating henchmen – who it must be noted are never actually killed or seriously injured. Instead, twinkling stars rotate around their heads once they are defeated. This child-friendly approach is admittedly charming, although it does snip away some of the edginess of the film as a result – Captain Haddock acts like his usual drunken self throughout the game despite never actually being shown anywhere near alcohol.
Although side-scrolling levels are the focus, there are several other gameplay types scattered between the main levels. Vehicle sequences have the player piloting a plane through the clouds or accelerating down dusty roads on a motorbike. Sometimes, the game will even show a more traditional third-person view – minus camera control – so that Tintin can explore locations in greater detail (such as the outdoor market near the beginning of the story) or so that Snowy can sniff the ground for clues and follow footsteps.
However, these additional moments feel tacked on and none particularly excel themselves – some of the later levels have the player taking control of Sir Francis Haddock whilst engaging in sword fights that amount to little more than waggling the left analogue stick. The game does support PlayStation Move but I doubt using motion controls would drastically improve matters. The game seems most comfortable and comes across most confident when played from a sideways perspective – it certainly doesn’t reinvent 2D platforming but it does manage to apply the Tintin licence to this style of gameplay with relative charm.
Although it may initially seem odd to find random beachballs discarded throughout Marlinspike Hall, throwing them at an unsuspecting enemy – aided by a clever trajectory line – is so hilarious that you won’t really care. Later, finding a friendly green parrot allows Tintin to hold the jump button to soar high into the air, adding some extra verticality to the proceedings. Sadly, although all of this is reasonably well done, there isn’t much variety and one location is much the same as the next. Sneaking up on enemies and knocking them out with a single button press is fun at first – and certainly preferable to alerting them and brawling against the lacklustre AI – yet after a while everything has been seen and done… over and over again.
The story helps to keep the player engaged despite this unfortunate sense of repetition. The voice-acting, although not quite the same as the film, is decent and the graphics, although basic and appearing slightly outdated at times, are well animated, bright and colourful. Unfortunately, the film looked so good that the game adaptation was always going to suffer in comparison. Furthermore, the storyline deviates often from the big screen version and this can feel slightly disconcerting and confusing at times, especially when elements from the comics that were absent from the film – such as the Bird Brothers – are clumsily reintroduced.
Perhaps even more bizarre, exciting action sequences that were present in the film are either omitted entirely or drastically toned down in the video game adaptation – the film’s thrilling motorbike chase through the streets of Bagghar is pitifully reduced to a pedestrian crawl along a seemingly endless dirt road here. The co-op mode does add extra value and is free of the constraints placed upon the single player game – it takes place entirely inside Haddock’s head and is therefore allowed to be much more silly. However, the gameplay is always the same; relatively fun but ultimately boring when repeated ad nauseam.
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn isn’t a bad game, but it never makes the most of its source material or pushes itself far enough. The platforming which makes up the majority of the experience is actually pretty good, but the brief length, easy difficulty and puzzling deviations from the film all take away from the game and leave it feeling underwhelming. I imagine that younger fans of the famous Belgian reporter might actually enjoy the experience despite its shortcomings. Everyone else – and that includes even the staunchest Hergé fan – would be better off revisiting the film or reading the comic books.
6 OUT OF 10