The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn Review [Xbox 360]

Young gamers will enjoy the cute touches and the basic combat but even older children may find it lacking bite.

rating: 2.5

It is difficult to fairly review a game made for children as so many of the merits for which we judge games as adults are void. Generally speaking, kids will accept most games as long as they work and they are fun. However, this doesn't excuse poor game design. As an adult I review games as an adult but I think a fair rule of thumb is to add a star if the person playing the game is a child. But maybe I'm being patronising towards young gamers, haven't we all had our arses handed to us by an obnoxious pre-pubescent on Xbox live? So with that in mind I am tackling The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, the inevitable license title of Spielberg's new animated feature. The first thing that struck me was the fact that this is a PEGI 12 rated game. The rating has been awarded for its violence. I am beginning to wonder if PEGI is made up of hysterical Daily Mail readers. The violence in Tintin could not be more child friendly, when you punch someone you get cuckoo clock sound effects and once unconscious, enemies have stars floating above their heads. Oh the humanity. Many license games feel cheap and under-baked, usually due to spending most of the budget on the license in the first place. Tintin doesn't feel cheap but it certainly feels old. The game design harks back to the days of PS1 platformers like Hercules. The game is mostly a 2D platformer, with occasional 3D sections but the transition is needless and often jarring. The levels are based around different areas, a house, a dock, a factory etc, but they are designed in a way that only serves the platforming and makes no sense outside of that context. You don't side scroll but work through each area until you unlock the path for progression. The design is so old school you almost forget you are playing a current generation title but at the same time it is simple and quite fun which is what a kids game should be. Yes the design is dated, but it still works and in a way it is refreshing to play a game that doesn't aspire to be more than a game. Graphically Tintin follows the visual code of the film and is successful in maintaining the style of the film with lower grade graphics. However, that isn't to say the film looks great. Levels are pretty basic affairs and never look beautiful or even impressive and the character models are well animated but lack any emotion. During dialogue scenes characters show very little facial animation aside from moving lips, even on Tintin which is pretty bad considering he is meant to be carrying the game. Still, while Tintin lacks polish, it has some fun combat animations and it is always a laugh to leave a villain in a crumpled heap. The levels are simple but challenging enough to make playing worthwhile and should present enough of challenge for children to feel rewarded at reasoning out the basic puzzles. The variety of enemies and strategies needed keep the action from getting too stale but the game will occasionally throw a curve ball, introducing new mechanics like a pirate sword fight and throw all your skills out of the window. It is these moments that show Tintin up, clearly the developers where trying to be clever but the results are ill conceived. The afore mentioned sword fight is clearly designed to utilise the Kinect functionality but is so obtuse when using a controller you start to wonder if waving your arms would improve the experience. It doesn't. Sadly the whole feature reeks of Microsoft interference. I'm sorry but nothing has come out to justify Microsoft's expensive webcam and Tintin doesn't even justify using it let alone owning it. One thing Tintin excels at is the audio. The voice work is generally good, though Tintin is pretty annoying. Dialogue is repeated when retrying a level but the whimsical one liners are a nice touch even if you might hear them five times. I am often criticised for my negative opinions on game scores but there will be none of that here as Tintin has an excellent score courtesy of the great John Williams. Of course, the score is lifted straight from the film but it makes such a difference in unifying the two experiences. Those familiar with William's work will recognise it as being true to his style, evoking everything from Indiana Jones to E.T. The cartoon sound effects also work well, fitting well with the kiddy-romp feel of the game. There is the option to play co-op multiplayer but it takes place in a surreal cheese dream due to Haddock being bumped on the head. The change of location may offer a few hours of extra enjoyment if you enjoyed the campaign but the co-op gameplay doesn't add to the enjoyment. So is Tintin worth your purchase? Ironically, if you are over 12 probably not. While it can be fun, most people will find the odd changes of style frustrating and the best bits too simple. Still, if you have young kids and they enjoyed the film they will likely love the opportunity to relive the adventure.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is out now on Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii and 3DS.

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A video editor by trade and a lover of movies, games and manga.