Ubisoft gives The Adventures of Tintin the licensed game treatment, but packs some happy surprises in along the way.
It would be stating the obvious to assert that The Adventures of Tintin: The Game was meant for fans of the comic books, written by Georges Remi (or his pen name; Herge). But Tintin isn't exactly in the wheelhouse of current hot pop-culture, at least not with most kids. Now, if the new Steven Spielberg directed animated feature sparks the interest of a lot of new fans, that's great news for this very adequate game companion. If it fails to hit that mark, however, then I'm at a loss to decide who this game is really for. It rises above the standard class of licensed games but not so much that every gamer will want to check it out.
The Boy Reporter
The game doesn't do a great job of explaining who Tintin is or what he's about, so if you don't already know, don't expect to learn much. In the comics Tintin was a hardworking young reporter who'd often begin an assignment and then quickly get caught up in a worldwide adventure. Much like the comic from which it is based (the film, too), The Secret of the Unicorn begins with Tintin purchasing a model ship that secretly holds a rolled-up leaf of parchment with a riddle inscribed on it. And faster than you can say "Snowy" - we've got on international adventure.
Being that this is the first Tintin video game in over ten years, you'd hope that Ubisoft would make some efforts to illuminate the audience to what the series is all about. Instead they follow the mold of the film quite closely, but fail to replicate the features unabashed action set pieces. There's also a major drop off in the directing of the story and action, undercutting the game's best moments with lackluster pacing. It takes awhile to figure it out but this is really Haddock's story - Tintin's closest friend and sea captain - even though you spend the whole campaign as the inquisitive young man. While this may be true to the comic and film it's an off-putting choice for gamers who might not already be invested in the series. Overall the story ends in a very satisfying way, it just doesn't get there as strongly as it could have.
Have Dog, Will Travel
The lack of storytelling punch would be much less noticeable if the gameplay distracted from it, but alas it only highlights the problem. The Adventures of Tintin jumps between 3D and 2D sections, with an emphasis on side-scrolling platform levels. You're forced to come up with different ways to tackle enemy numbers but it's rarely more complicated than hopping to a higher level, dropping in behind an enemy and knocking him out with a single button press. Simplistic design isn't really a bad thing, in many ways it can be great, it just needs to be balanced with some sort of reputable challenge. There's none in the Adventures of Tintin. That said, the 2D sections show can be a lot of fun in short bursts.
The most difficult sections in the game - I use that term very loosely - end up being the flashbacks of Haddock's relative, a pirate with a murky past. Here you're moved around the ship in an on-rails sequence, and tasked with battling dozens of other pirates. These sections bring a great change of the pace of the game. Unfortunately, even while pirates are throwing bombs at you and blocking your attacks, these sections are still painfully easy. They are, however, a lot more enjoyable than the sections of the game where you walk around as Snowy, Tintin's dog, and sniff out a trail to find the next section of map for Tintin to platform. You'll even run into sections that bookend levels where you literally do nothing more than mash a button and release, hopping between grappling points. These sections add nothing, aren't interesting in the slightest, and could be taken out without any deficit to the story. The good news is they only take up a few minutes at a time.
Better In Motion?
Strangely, Tintin features a slew of mini-game challenges that, while still basic, actually provide some semblance of difficulty. Here you either race on a bike, snap pictures while flying a plane, or sword fight multiple enemies during a set amount of time. The objectives themselves may not be taxing for skilled players but the focus on action ratchets up things to a degree that would have been nice to see in the campaign. The downside is that they get quite boring after a few passes through. One way to breath life into them is to use either the Playstation Move or the Xbox 360 Kinect - both which work just fine for the gameplay.
Then there's a series of strange but awesome dream sequences, at least I think that's what they are. Essentially they're co-op missions (which you can play alone) that have Haddock and Tintin platforming through strange levels searching for collectibles and coins. This also allows you to unlock other various characters, each with their own traits, which you can then use as playable characters. Playing with a partner is the best way to experience these sections which, one could argue, are the most enjoyable in the whole game.
Charmed, I'm Sure
The Adventures of Tintin: The Game manages to stray far enough away from the usual licensed game pitfalls that it's worth checking out if you have an interest in the series or you're looking for a good game to play with kids. With a higher level of polish and some more stringent gameplay, the title could have been one of the best surprises in a long time. Unfortunately things never take off and the games overall direction remains minimal and risk averse. So at the end of the day The Adventures of Tintin is a sweet, charming rendition of both the comic and the film, so if you like either you should probably check it out.
Final Score 65%