Tintin video game review
TINTIN the video game proves to be a cinematic delight as the roving reporter unlocks the secrets of the Karaboudjan, faithful Snowy by his side. It’s jaunty, mischevious and suprisingly good fun, though sidecar combat will throw you in a spin…
I believe I was about 3 years old when I was first exposed to Tintin through the animated series on Channel 4. While I wasn’t exactly fussy about what I watched at that time, I do remember the charm and sense of adventure I got from watching THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: THE ANIMATED SERIES (despite the dodgy voice acting for Tintin himself). Fast forward to masses of technological developments later and we have a CGI cinematic release as well as an accompanying platformer game from Ubisoft that aims to recapture the magic of the ’90s animated series (as well as the one before that was way before my time) and provide a modern callback to Hergé’s original comic book series. While the CGI film has had numerous plaudits for accomplishing its goal in its own style, does the game cut the mustard?
I’m not going to lie to you, I was kind of dead-set against this game at first impression, what with the kid-friendliness and everything (not that there’s anything wrong with that, probably more to do with feeling of outgrowing this sort of stuff) but after slipping the disc inside my 360, some of that pre-game disdain was soon washed away by the cartoon ‘airiness’ and charm of the menu interface. You get to either play the single player adventure derived from the film, or a rather interesting take on setting in the multi-player mode (which is pretty damn fun, by the way). Obviously I wanted to get a feel for the integral core of the game as quickly as possible so I decided to go for the single player first…but not before checking out the game controls in the instructions/help menu (because that’s the kind of guy that I am). Not sure I should have bothered really as I found myself having to squint to see the font work of the instructions and had to reach for my non-existent reading glasses.
The controls turn out to be quite intuitive and you get action prompts popping all over the place during the game anyway, whether you’re lifting chest lids, moving heavy boxes or making Tintin do his best Batman impression with an anchor across the side of the Karaboudjan. It’s also a very nice touch how some of the gameplay hints are interspersed with the game setting environment, like textual instructions across the wall of a level for example. This definitely helps the presentation and initial impressions a bit.
What also helps the initial impressions is how relatively easy the TINTIN game is to get into more or less straight away. You’ll find yourself immersed in the fluidity of the gameplay and the rapid rate of succession in completing the various sections. Tintin – agile reporter that he is – can jump and dash across different levels without a sweat, sometimes pulling various levers, switches and boxes in place to reach other platforms and progress further in the game.
Enemy combat is well integrated in TINTIN and, while not being deep or sophisticated, very well suited to the bright and chirpy charm of the game (not to mention especially hilarious). You can either manoeuvre behind one of the enemy lookouts (if they happen to have their backs turned to you) and take them out when pressing the appropriate trigger button by picking them up and showing them what it’s like to be a human hammer, or engage them with hand-to-hand combat. You only need to use one button to attack which unyields a mighty hook (for a 17-year-old reporter) or two that has most of your foes literally seeing stars afterwards. Some foes can even be taken out with a well-aimed beach ball or bucket throw to the bonce or mid-riff.
The puzzles break up the the flow of the gameplay pretty well. While not being extremely challenging they’re not a laborious chore either. In fact, they border on “minor chore” at the bare minimum (this will probably happen when you come across the first model ship and have to manipulate it so that you reveal the hidden first scroll). So all in all, I’ll say the gameplay is almost acceptably simple, however some might find it a little limited. Oh, and did I mention opening the various chests scattered across the game to collect the golden crabs which thus reveals something “special”? Don’t worry, I shall not reveal what it is. I leave it completely up to you whether you think it was worth it or not, just for extra laughs.
On to the graphics and I’ll say that they are, for the most part, suitably chirpy, bright and almost effervescent with enough of a cartoonish edge to accommodate as a visual side-order to the film. The lighting is damn near very bright in outside environments (like when you reach the sandy environment of the town of Bagghar) but used very well in indoor environments to depict detail (case in point being during the exploration of the annals of the Karaboudjan). The characters look a lot like they do in the film (only without the CGI polish) however in some of the cut-scenes I can’t help but feel like a few corners were cut with the graphics to leave room for other things, like the attempt at variety witnessed in this game, and I also want to mention that the shadows are a little dodgy. Otherwise, graphics snobs and neurotics (such as myself admittedly… I’m currently seeking help) need not stand up and be counted as the sufficient pixel resolution does what it needs to do and it won’t jar too much visually.
The soundtrack is also very well suited to Tintin. In the quieter moments of the game it is minimal, succinct and suitably low-volume to aid your concentration in leaping onto that next rotating platform, but as the excitement levels builds the soundtrack is increasingly climatic and yet mischievious in a somehow jaunty fashion. A fantastic example is when the Karaboudjan slowly submerges sideways after Captain Haddock completely goes off on one during a vivid flashback and wrecks his own ship in the process. You (as well as Snowy and Captain Haddock) have to escape the ship before it fully sinks and you drown, and this particular set-piece provides, in my opinion, the most spectactular part of the game in terms of tension, excitement and heart-pounding pressure.
The gameplay is literally turned sideways as the boxes and platforms are suitably situated, again, sideways so that you now have to climb upwards instead of sideways to the right or left escape, and the graphical detail of the water as it floods the ship is brillantly lucid and transparent (as opposed to just being lazily coloured blue). While you’re doing your utmost to not have to suffer the quite humourous “death” by silly cut-scene, the soundtrack rises to its highest peak to embody necessary fear and dread, thus imbuing within your very being the very apt feeling of GET THE BLOODY HELL OUT OF THERE, FOOL.
There is also some humour to be had in Tintin as well, such as Tintin seeing stars in a short cutscene when he loses his three lives and ends up mainly in a whitened/blue-ish background (like he is “out of the game”, which is quite a nice metaphor if it was intentional), knocking foes flat on their arses with one sharp landed blow from Tintin and making them see stars and not to mention the various hilarious ways to take out enemies such as throwing bananas in their path to make them slip and go crashing into the nearest wall, hiding in barrels and knocking them out with barrel lids and aiming the falling of sandbags right on top of them. Although it seems a bit childish at times (which is fair enough for this game really) there is some hilarity to be experienced.
While that’s all well and good, there are also parts of this game that don’t rinse so well. The camera can prove annoying when it doesn’t pan around fast enough to reveal enemies on the screen – a tad unfair. However, this is only a minor annoyance and only happens when the camera is more focused on Tintin than usual in a medium close-up, thus doesn’t happen often enough to really hamper the game.
Snowy was a major character in Herge’s comic books. That he is not always apparent at Tintin’s side might also be a small (and subjective) complaint. Then again, how practical would it be for Snowy to follow Tintin through all of the gameplay without Tintin having to hold open doors, slots and panels open for Snowy all the time? Besides, Snowy gets his own dedicated tasks in the game such as sniffing out footprints, fetching keys and golden crabs and digging in and out of paths to find Tintin a suitable entrance. And it’s good that these parts are spread out with enough infrequency to not hold the game up and make it too boring and too familiar.
There are other slightly bigger causes for concern though; noticeable drops in frame rate in a few cut-scenes, omission of controls, use of the torchlight and “deaf” AI.
Some cut-scenes display awkward jerkiness in frame rate that make the viewing of the cut scenes a bit uncomfortable, although they don’t last too long however. Also, when a certain control is highlighted at via use of one trigger, why isn’t the other trigger button mentioned (which can be used for the same thing in most, if not all, cases)? I’m also not a fan of staying in one place while using the torchlight as to me it seems like an inflexible design (fault?) and is an unwelcome break to game flow. I’m pretty sure Ubisoft could have allowed Tintin be on the move while using the torch, if they so wanted. There’s also a bit of idiocy on the part of the AI where the enemies on foot are concerned. While they’ll be rather quick to chase you down when confronted within full frontal view, they otherwise don’t seem to hear a thing! Whether you’re clunking about behind them or even pummeling their colleagues behind them on the same level. Out of sight, out of mind, perhaps? I do understand the audience in mind for the game but I can’t help but feel like there should have been a bit of a somewhat stealthier element added to approaching enemies from behind to avoid detection, almost like with the barrels. I don’t know, maybe I’ve played too much METAL GEAR SOLID, SPLINTER CELL and DEUS EX over the years…
Now, if all the slight hindrances I mentioned so far were all that was wrong with this game, I’d bow before its bright and charming platforming goodness and slap at least an 8/10 on it but… unfortunately there are a few more glaring problems to note here.
The plane controls within the plane flying parts of the game, for one, are quite awful and the responsitivity is awkward. The turns are a tad too sharp, which might see you crashing into the sea or nearest rocky plain once too often. With enough practice you’ll get the hang of it but not without one hell of an uncomfortable ride first. I will say though that at least it isn’t as god-awfully unbearable as the helicopter and plane controls of every GTA game to ever exist, I’ll give it that. There’s also the targeting system that’s a bit of a handful to get hold of, especially at first as it feels too loose and fiddly to keep control of. Again, once you get used to it it’s more or less fine but I really think it should have been tightened and tuned up a bit.
Speaking of controls, there’s also the bike and sidecar controls. They are a bit too sensitive for their own good; the slightest wrong turn will have you (and Captain Haddock) kissing the rocky walls painfully, and it gets worse during combat in the sidecar as you’re provided with a crosshair that’s more difficult to keep track of than the one on the plane.
There are yet more control woes during the playing out of Captain Haddock’s flashbacks rotated around his ancestor Sir Francis Haddock’s ship being attacked and invaded by the ‘Red Rackham’ and his pirate crew. The scenes are well integrated, but the same can’t be said about the gameplay. While it’s only swordplay you’re engrossed in at this point, the swordplay in question relies on the controls of the left analog stick and the A button for blocking and parrying. It might sound bad reading about it but it’s even worse seeing it in execution, let alone playing it.
Once again I find the controls at this point too fiddly, unstable and unresponsive for satisfying combat. You pretty much find yourself wiggling the analog stick in an insane frenzy (and making Sir Francis Haddock look like he’s having some kind of fencing-related epilectic fit in the process) until the enemy is beaten. This frenzy seems to be slowed down when facing the ‘tougher’ foes (I guess they are sub-bosses or bosses in a sense) as you have wait for the right time to strike before beating them, which translates as parrying correctly and then striking. At this point, it just feels a little half-baked and unimaginative and like a little effort could have been put in to make it less… well, terrible. It’s pretty jarring, slows down the frantic pace and goes against the cinematic feeling of the scene.
Controls aside, if we look at all of the variety offered in TINTIN: THE SECRET OF THE UNICORN many others have said that Tintin has tried to do too much when it didn’t really need to. I do agree a bit with that sentiment but I find it somewhat commendable that Ubisoft at least tried to break the game up to avoid non-stop platforming monotony and offer some fresh experiences to help expand the feeling of adventure. It complements the film nicely for those who come to the game as their next port of call for their TINTIN fix. The only thing I have a problem with is the execution – which is a shame, because if these glaring problems weren’t apparent, a ‘decent’ game would have been labelled as ‘great’.
So with all of that in account, the TINTIN video game is a decent overall romp around the locations touched on in the film and, while I did sometimes feel like a Year 6 pupil being sent all the way back to nursery while playing this game sometimes, I can see it’s potential to enthrall a whole range of audiences (but probably the kiddies more than anyone else). I just wish the noticeably egregious parts of the game were ironed out a bit more with better gameplay and flow but as this game offers everything else on a rather decent level (graphics, gameplay, fun factor) I’d give it at the very least a 6.5/10. Go ahead and unleash your inner child as this is definitely worth a rent at least! Or you can buy it for your younger brothers and sisters, then ‘help’ them / push them out of the way…
The Xbox 360 version was used for this game.
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