Spielberg Month Review – The Adventures of Tintin (Xbox 360)

By Marshall Garvey There’s nothing quite like a good adventure to get the blood pumping. Outside of pre-1999 George Lucas and early-to-mid 2000’s Peter Jackson, no filmmaker has taken us for greater adventures than Steven Spielberg. Obviously, the Indiana Jones franchise is the primary example that comes to mind. Yet in a way, a majority of…

By Marshall Garvey

There’s nothing quite like a good adventure to get the blood pumping. Outside of pre-1999 George Lucas and early-to-mid 2000’s Peter Jackson, no filmmaker has taken us for greater adventures than Steven Spielberg. Obviously, the Indiana Jones franchise is the primary example that comes to mind. Yet in a way, a majority of his films are adventures of different varieties, from journeys of childhood wonder like E.T. to ones of gritty survival like Empire of the Sun. Hell, even Jaws and Saving Private Ryan are technically adventures, centering around groups of men who brave danger in search of goals (saving a town from a killer shark, saving a soldier’s life).

Arguably the most underrated example of Spielberg adventure is his 2011 comeback effort The Adventures of Tintin. His first movie to hit theaters after the humiliation of the fourth Indy film, Tintin (subtitled The Secret of the Unicorn in some countries) received praise from critics for returning Spielberg to his adventure storytelling roots. Speaking of Peter Jackson, he actually produced the movie, which was filmed in his native New Zealand.

Unfortunately, Jackson’s own return to directing adventure films would prove to be far, far less enjoyable.

Unsurprisingly, a tie-in game came out around the same time as the film in late 2011. Now we all know the golden rule: movie tie-in games suck. Period. But in this particular case, the source material is not only a very good movie, but one that’s basically a nonstop joyride of action and comical mystery. Thus, it’s ripe for a decent console adaptation. So, does Tintin for 360 manage to buck the vicious cycle of crapola license games, or does it belong in the bargain bin alongside Terminator: Salvation and Charlie’s Angels?

Let’s start the review with a huge negative: This is an Ubisoft game. That alone should be the kiss of death. And then you realize it’s a movie tie-in game made by Ubisoft, which is like a Meghan Trainor album being covered in its entirety by post-2007 Maroon 5: equal parts awful and bland. And that’s if it even functions properly as a game to begin with.

Still traumatized.

Sure enough, the game is graphically subpar-to-awful for the most part. The cutscenes are especially hideous, with stilted character animation and graphics that look more like 2006 than 2011. The lip animations, more than anything, are out often out of sync and awfully rendered. This is especially criminal when contrasted with the animation of the movie, which is fluid, vivid, detailed, and incredibly lifelike. The game, meanwhile, can’t even keep up a decent framerate during its mostly brief cutscenes.

Adventures of Tintin comes with a few modes. First of course is the story campaign based off the movie, with Tintin and Captain Haddock following clues to discover the location of a long-sought hidden treasure. There’s also a challenges mode with swordfighting, sidecar and airplane mini-games, which are fun if nothing special.

The last mode is Tintin and Haddock, in which the hilariously oafish detectives Thomson and Thompson accidentally knock Haddock unconscious, sending the player into his dreams. It’s a fun little add-on that allows for two player co-op as the main characters, or for one player to toggle between them. Personally, I enjoy it a lot more than the main game thanks to a higher amount of collectables and quirky visuals that shake up the otherwise rote gameplay.

Having said that, the gameplay does have a decent amount of variation. It incorporates side-scrolling beat-’em-up, stealth, platforming, puzzle solving, obstacle jumping, and others. While not particularly exceptional, the gameplay is actually pretty decent, and enough to keep you playing. My favorite parts are when you control Tintin’s faithful canine Snowy, who can follow scents, dig holes, bark off wards of rats, fetch hidden treasures, and just be pretty much the greatest thing ever.

Hopefully Spielberg is working on the sequel: “The Adventures of Tintin: Legend of the Heckin’ Pupper”.

In addition to varied gameplay, Tintin does have a few other nice touches. The progression from one level to the next in the main campaign shows Snowy and Tintin walking across a giant map, which I absolutely loved. The soundtrack is pretty decent too, even incorporating some Django Reinhardt-esque guitar at times in-between adventurous orchestral cues. These may not sound particularly notable, but again, when you’re dealing with an Ubisoft game…any strength is worth celebrating.

Overall, The Adventures of Tintin: The Game is far from the ninth circle of Hell of movie license games like Catwoman. Its gameplay is perfectly serviceable, especially if you have a natural inclination for platformers like I do. But its impact is mitigated but just how awful those cutscene animations are. Overall, you’re better off just rewatching Spielberg’s fantastic movie instead. But if you can snag this at a decent price, it’s worth your time while you wait for the sequel to finally come out.