Feb 27, 2012

REVIEW: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Sometimes, it’s difficult to take a videogame on its own terms. Given the price of a newl


Sometimes, it’s difficult to take a videogame on its own terms.

Given the price of a newly released videogame at retail, the gap between what you want a game to be and what it ends up being can be terminal. Indeed, this is one of the most frequently-cited reasons for the videogames industry’s inherent conservatism. It is unfortunate, round-about logic, but often, the only group of players who can afford to let a game take them by surprise is a small and privileged circle: the money rich, the time rich, or those with just the right circumstances. Otherwise, expectations factor.

Given this, there are fewer games as difficult to take on their own terms than the film tie-in. While adaptation functions as a process in other media, in videogames, it has come to most closely resemble a genre, and a poor genre at that. A huge percentage of film tie-in videogames could be classed as something at the bottom of the pool of the action-adventure genre – they feature the same tropes, the same simplistic design, all wrapped up in the sheep’s skin of the latest blockbuster.

Frequently, tie-ins are given a standard makeover – some collectables, some light platforming, small swarms of evil minions to defeat. The list of this type of game runs long: the Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda games, Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End, the Chronicles of Narnia games and the Harry Potter games, and even the games made from the more successful Pixar films, like Up and Ratatouille. The hallmarks are all there: collect some things, speak to a character from the film in a non-interactive cutscene, jump on some things, defeat an enemy.

This is why Ubisoft Montpellier’s The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, the adaptation of Steven Spielberg’s film based on three albums of Hergé’s famous cartoons, is so surprising.

Despite being yet another action-adventure film adaptation, Tintin is something different. It is neither a by-the-numbers genre tie-in nor a cynical hulk of a game, masquerading as afterthought merchandise. There is real love here.

Like all film tie-ins, Tintin is rough, and in some places, it is very nearly terrible (and the less said about the vehicle and sword-fighting mini-games, the better). But taken on its own terms, Tintin is also adventurous, and it is charming. Not only is it interesting as a videogame, it is also a sweet tribute to Hergé’s world of Tintin.

Read on for more of our Tintin review.


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