The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is looking about twenty times better than your average movie tie-in, and it’s for three reasons primarily. First off, the film’s director and producer – Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, no less – are rumoured to have been closely involved in its creation. Secondly, it hasn’t had a ridiculously choppy development schedule. And thirdly, it has been crafted by the maestros at Ubisoft’s in-house development studio Ubisoft Montpelier; responsible for the Assasin’s Creed and Price of Persia series’, to name just two.
Everyone involved has clear, palpable love for the source material, and although the game’s genre is familiar to everyone – it’s a 2D, side-on platformer that owes something of a debt to the very first Prince Of Persia outing – it feels both state-of-the-art and warmly familiar. We saw the game running on a PS3 in full 3D, and it’s one of the most persuasive arguments yet for 3D gaming.
It’s a platformer, but it’s brimming with great ideas. The developers haven’t shaped Tintin’s character around the game, but vice versa; he can punch when he needs to, but it’s far more fun to find the correct tool for the each job. Enemies are all branding weapons (usually pistols) but Tintin has to utilise things like banana skins and barrels, occasionally boxing clever with trap doors.
Character animations are marvellous, and their overall visual style has clearly been influenced by the silent comedies of the 1920s. In one sequence, we watched Tintin drop a barrel onto the head of an enemy who was pacing around on a platform beneath him. After stumbling around amusingly for a few seconds, he then went on to blindly swing his fists around, knocking out two of his bemused comrades in the process. A boss battle followed, and it looked truly stunning in 3D; with the boss tossing molotov cocktails at Tintin from the foreground, and our sprightly hero attempting to lure his projectiles into stray crates of fireworks in the background.
We also saw a rip-roaring chase set-piece in which Tintin and Captain Haddock were being pursued around the Grand Canyon in a motorbike and sidecar. The first half of it saw Tintin driving with Haddock gunning from the sidecar, before the halfway point which saw them switch places, allowing players to do both. It’s pure Spielberg in its execution, with countless two-wheeled assailants hitting the deck like bowling pins, and a highly accomplished musical score ramping up the cinematic aura no end.
We also got a brief look at a “substantial” co-op mode, which looks pretty damned ace too. Like Portal 2, the single-player has been kept separate, effectively giving players two games for the price of one. The mode – which, like Portal 2, actually demands genuine co-operation – is set in the dreams of Captain Haddock, gives you access to new tools, and is filled with some very bizarre imagery. Haddock can punch through walls, Tintin can grapple (Bionic Commando-style) and both of them can morph into dogs.
Presentation is pristine and inviting, and it genuinely feels like a thoroughbred blockbuster. It also looks like the kind of thing that kids are going to go absolutely nuts over, but the hardcore should definitely keep one eye on it too. It could turn out to be one of this year’s biggest surprises.
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is currently due for release on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC, Nintendo Wii and Nintendo 3DS later this year.
Watch the trailer for The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn here: