One boy and his dog
Even with the growing number of movie-based games appearing on the App Store, most seem to fall in to the gimmick category, there simply to provide more advertising for the film. Even if they do turn out to provide a full game experience, it isn't with much enthusiasm or heart.
Gameloft's The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is different. Based on the Steven Speilberg movie and in conjunction with Paramount, Gameloft have created a tidy action game that puts even the console version to shame. The film is based on Herge's famous comic strips featuring Tintin, a young boy with a knack of getting in to adventures, and his dog Snowy. Both the film and the game take their visual cues from the unique art style of the strip, right down to our hero's quiff.
Tintin is primarily an action adventure with quicktime events and quite a bit of stealth throughout. The mix of styles in quick succession could have been a mess, but instead holds the player's interest, as well as keeping them on their toes. Gameloft have been very careful to use quicktime events properly and they seem perfectly placed throughout the game where complicated controls may have spoilt the pace.
Stealth is dealt with a simplistically as possible. Holding down the stealth button (nicely detailed in the form of a stamp) will cause the player to walk crouched and slow down. Certain obstacles will react to the player, which forces players in to being as careful as possible not to know cans or tables over. The system is very intuitive, which means that the story can be continued without lengthy cut scenes or tutorials.
Small physics games turn up on occasion, with the first being to destroy boxes by cutting ropes in the right way (I wonder where that idea came from!). It was a complete surprise coming across this change in style, but the fact that it's been dealt with so well made it a welcome change. Add the fighting and quicktime sections to the list and you have a huge variety of play styles.
Story is something else that this game manages to pull off well. Where cut scenes are present, they're told in pseudo-3D cartoon strips. Moving the device will move the background of the strip while you read or listen to the narration. It doesn't do anything at all for the game, but it's a nice touch, none-the-less. These scenes are also told using the in-game engine, which provides a seamless link between the story and the game.
Presentation is fantastic throughout. It may help that the source material is already CGI, but Tintin runs at a smooth pace while displaying some of the best graphics from a Gameloft game so far. The detail and mood evoked by the visuals makes this feel almost like a movie itself. Add to this the original musical score from the film and you have an audio-visual treat in your hands. Whether on iPad or iPod, the game is something you'll be keen to show to others.
For those interested in collectables, Gameloft have added coins and puzzle pieces, dotted throughout both the game itself and the cut scenes. Pressing on the screen when you see an item will add it to your counter and finding all of the items is a task in itself. Once collected, puzzles can be made from the Extras section of the menu, while coins can be used to pick up those puzzles which you've not managed to complete in the main game.
With a wealth of styles and things to do even outside of the main game, only the short playing time lets it down, but there's always the coins on each level to return for.
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is a pretty unique game that manages to both capture the spirit of the movie and provide a fun experience for gamers. What could have easily been another movie cash-in has turned out to be one of Gameloft's best games yet.
- Sound: 10
- Graphics: 10
- Gameplay: 9
- Longevity: 8
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