- Stylish graphics and genuine charm
- Intelligent platform-puzzle gameplay
- Enjoyable co-op mode
- Poor sword-fighting and flying interludes
- Not enough Snowy
- Review Price: £31.99
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.
Where Secret of the Unicorn does fall apart is when it departs from the formula. The chase sequences are okay, but flying sequences suffer from poor controls and a lack of real entertainment value, while sequences where Snowy has to sniff out a trail feel almost pointless.
Scenes with Tintin grappling along the side of a ship are big on spectacle but low on interaction, but the worst bits are the sword-fighting sequences, as Captain Haddock reminisces about the old days of his ancestor, Sir Francis Haddock. The mechanics are poorly explained, there’s little real control, and the whole thing drags on longer than it should. The important thing to emphasise, however, is that these elements don’t take much out of the game, and at least they’re relatively easy to complete. In short, you’re never too far away from the good stuff.
On its own, the single-player game might feel slight, but there’s more than ample compensation in a two-player co-op mode. Here Tintin and Captain Haddock battle their way through a series of levels based in the Captain’s murky subconscious.
There’s some really odd and imaginative stuff going on here, with great puzzles and some nice co-op only moves. Captain Haddock can move heavy items, while Tintin has a useful grappling hook with both offensive and traversal applications. Other characters and costume modifications can be unlocked, and you get a decent number of levels and a surprising amount of replay value. Throw in some Kinect-friendly bonus modes, and it all amounts to a very handsome package.
What’s more, it’s a very polished and charming package. Sure, some of the characters and scenery look slightly primitive close-up – you wouldn’t mistake the cut-scenes for scenes straight from the film – but in the normal 2D view the clean, elegant period design, slick animation and gorgeous lighting give Secret of the Unicorn its own distinct and quirky look and feel.
In the major set-pieces, it even delivers on the spectacle front. And it’s the little touches that matter: the way enemies collapse with stars around their heads when knocked off their feet, or flap and clatter to the ground when they meet a well-placed banana skin. Adults will find it stylish and pretty, while kids will just find it hilarious. Throw in an equally quirky soundtrack with a nice line in slapstick spot effects, and it’s a perfect family-friendly title.
The Secret of the Unicorn has its faults, and the Tintin purists currently grumbling about the Spielberg/Jackson film will find even more to grumble about here, but on balance it’s an excellent family action game. It looks and sounds great, the single-player campaign is 90 per cent brilliant to 10 per cent poor, and the co-op multiplayer is exceptionally good. Hardcore gamers will find meatier fare elsewhere, but if you’re looking for a game to enjoy with the kids, you really can’t do much better.
Unlike other sites, we thoroughly test every product we review. We use industry standard tests in order to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever accept money to review a product. Tell us what you think - send your emails to the Editor.