Based on the recently released motion picture of the same name, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn has had a hard time convincing gamers that it’s more than just another movie tie-in. Labelled as a platform videogame and delivered with graphics that show all the hallmarks of a rushed production, it’s hard to blame those who expect the title to under perform, but just as it the case with books: judging by the cover can often offer the wrong impression.
The core gameplay mode of The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is simply called Tintin. While many might suggest that this mode takes the form of an adventure videogame, it’s so limited that it plays more like a platform title with minor excursions. The player is presented with 3D environments for plot development, 2D planes for platform action and the occasional aside for plane and motorbike sections. Players will switch between Tintin and his faithful canine companion as the plot dictates, and in a strange twist it’s actually the sections where you play as Snowy that provide the most room for experimentation. It’s an interesting mix of gameplay modes that prevents any part of the videogame from becoming stale. Most players will undoubtedly find a definite favourite, though in terms of technical quality it’s the 2D platform action that truly sparkles, which is a good thing really, as the second mode, entitled Tintin & Haddock, relies solely upon this.
Tintin & Haddock is essentially a Metroid-light mode. Playing in a dazed vision of Haddock’s house conjured by his mind, the player flits between characters at will, progressing through some intricately designed 2D levels to find objects and return to the hub to unlock new areas and costumes. It’s a strange addition, but a pleasant one, and does a good job of bulking out a videogame in which the main campaign could easily be considered a little on the short side.
The Xbox 360 exclusive gameplay mode revolves around the use of the Kinect full-body motion-control device. Labelled ‘Challenges & Kinect’, the gameplay mode can still be enjoyed without the Kinect peripheral, but it adds a new dimension to the familiar sword fighting, plane flying and motorbike driving gameplay. These three activities have been redrawn as standalone mini-game distractions and are wholly welcome in their inclusion. Featuring their own progression chart and difficulty tiers, each mini-game will add at least an hour-or-so to the lifespan of the videogame, and an enjoyable hour at that.
Despite its well conceived array of gameplay modes and the noteworthiness of its 2D gameplay design, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn remains an obviously low budget production. There are many occasions where characters will slip into scenery, the lip synching in cutscenes is quite frankly awful and non-existent in-game. The bright colours only help to highlight the bland nature of the videogame’s locations when in 3D environments, and just as with the gameplay, the 2D direction is far more commendable than any other aspect of the videogame.
Despite its low production values, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is a surprisingly well devised videogame. It’s a wholly enjoyable romp both in its core gameplay mode and the surprising addition of the Tintin & Haddock mode. The videogame plays to many of the home console’s strengths – Kinect and co-operative gameplay first and foremost – and is a welcome addition to Ubisoft’s winter line-up because of it. The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is never going to rewrite the rulebook, but offering more than just a rehash of it’s motion picture source material has paid dividends.