It’s hardly controversial to say that most movie tie-in games are either mediocre, or desperately bad. For every Chronicles of Riddick, Goldeneye or Toy Story 3, there’s a Thor: The Video Game, Iron Man 2 or Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Yet, with the game of the new Tintin movie there’s reason to hope. For one thing, it’s from the same Ubisoft Montpellier studio that created Beyond Good and Evil and King Kong – one of the few movie tie-ins that captured and even extended the vision of the film.
Early glimpses of the game showed promise too. With its stylised 3D graphics and classy-looking 2D puzzle-platforming, The Secret of the Unicorn didn’t look like your usual generic blockbuster cash-in.
The good news is that, in the most part, the finished game lives up to its promise. Following the basic plot of the film, it’s primarily a 2D platform adventure with a spot of fisticuffs and a light puzzle solving component, as Tintin wanders through underground chambers or the engine rooms and corridors of a ship, leaping onto ledges, wall-jumping off walls and sneaking through tiny passages, with the aid of his faithful hound, Snowy.
There are – controversially – enemies to fight, but to its credit the game encourages you to take them out using brains as much as fists, sneaking up on them to pull their legs from under them, throwing objects to dislodge heavy chandeliers on top of them, or simply throwing a banana skin to knock them off their feet. In fact, as the game goes on increasing numbers of armed and armoured foes make this the only way to proceed. In the latter stages it can even be a bit like playing a frantic 2D version of Batman: Arkham Asylum, as you try to work out ways of clearing the room without any dangerous head-on confrontations.
The puzzles aren’t going to challenge anyone with a working knowledge of old-school platformers, but they’re enough to keep you on your toes, and probably perfectly balanced for younger gamers. There’s a bit of switch-tugging and gear-jamming to be done, and some fast-thinking necessary in a quickly flooding ship, but it all works very well. In fact, the game could have made more of its short interludes featuring Snowy, as the poor pooch is mostly just shoved in to grab a key or press a button. This isn’t a dumb platformer, by any means, and well-placed checkpoints and a forgiving difficulty level ensure that it’s never a pain for the average casual player to work their way through.