Posted on December 5, 2011 AT 02:55pm
An obscure Belgian comic—but maybe not for long
We all know that communicating on the Internet’s vastly different than our day-to-day interactions. Unlike in real life, it can be difficult to peg someone’s nationality online—you can’t easily differentiate a Swede from an Italian without the accent to fall back on. A few handy shibboleths quickly reveal an Internet denizen’s place of origin, though: For example, just mention The Adventures of Tintin. Europeans will erupt in a nostalgic wave of childhood emotions, but Americans will usually sit there confused while pondering something like, “Wait, wasn’t he that dog from that ’50s TV show?”
No, Tintin’s actually a Franco-Belgian comic book. Known as bande dessinée in their native Français, these distinctly European graphic novels are more or less the manga of continental Europe, where they enjoy high popularity (even in the United Kingdom). Most remain in relative obscurity across the Atlantic, though. Along with Tintin (which has entertained readers for over 80 years—longer than Superman!), some of the more popular Franco-Belgian creations include Asterix, about a village of unconquerable Gauls resisting Roman rule, and XIII, which revolves around an amnesiac who finds himself enveloped in a vast conspiracy (and a franchise that also saw an Ubisoft videogame adaptation back in 2003). Unfortunately, we got the extremely short end of the stick with the one Franco-Belgian creation that did catch on here: The Smurfs.
In fact, even though Steven Spielberg’s the driving force behind the upcoming animated Tintin film, it’s not like he pushed for the property out of some deep sense of childhood nostalgia; he only discovered the series because he read a review of Raiders of the Lost Ark that compared the experience to Tintin. Curious, he imported a few of the comics and fell in love with the concept and characters.
I approached this review from a similar perspective. Unlike the European audience, I didn’t grow up with Tintin and hold no attachment to its world and characters. So, how will the game appeal to the typical American player who doesn’t have that same emotional connection to the source material—especially with the Spielberg film not hitting for another two weeks? As it turns out, Tintin’s an enjoyable experience regardless of whether or not “blistering barnacles” was part of your childhood vernacular; the only caveat is that it’s obvious the developers viewed this as family-friendly fare and didn’t go as far with the concept as they should have.
From the start, it’s clear that Raiders review Spielberg read all those years ago was definitely spot-on: There’s definitely a lot of Indy Jones in Tintin, and vice versa. The titular hero—a plucky young Belgian reporter—might not be as gruff and macho as Spielberg’s swashbuckling archaeologist, but a lot of the same adventuring spirit remains, as our hero finds himself spanning the globe in the hopes of unraveling myriad mysteries. While Tintin does offer a few cinematic elements—such as motorbike sequences or piloting a biplane through a thunderstorm—the bulk of the game comes in the form of classic 2D platforming. Coming directly from Zelda: Skyward Sword—which I’ve certainly enjoyed but where I’m in a constant fight with the controls—it’s refreshing to play through a game that works exactly as designed every time I scale a ledge or sneak up on a foe. But the controls aren’t just ergonomically satisfying in relation to Zelda—they’re superbly responsive in comparison to anything on the market. And that’s not much a surprise when you find out that many of the minds involved in Ubisoft’s last-gen classic Beyond Good & Evil were also behind this adaptation—it’s obvious this isn’t your typical movie tie-in, and the team from Ubisoft Montpellier definitely knows what they’re doing.
I just wish the developers had been able to show off their talents even more, as the design feels regrettably dumbed down in order to appeal to the widest possible audience. I only perished in areas where it wasn’t immediately clear that I could fall into a pit, and Tintin himself feels so overpowered that he almost comes off like a Gallic genetically engineered supersoldier who could out-stealth even the likes of Solid Snake. It’s also vaguely disturbing to watch the innocent-looking Tintin coldly and cruelly dispatch sharply dressed European men by flinging them off sheer ledges—not that I mind, but it seems out of place in a game ostensibly aimed at children. Though, considering Tintin’s apparently been criticized over the years for its violence and cultural insensitivity, perhaps it’s very much in place.
While I wish we could’ve seen what the developers might have done if they’d been given carte blanche with the concept, I can say that I’m much more interested in seeing the upcoming film after playing through Tintin. At the very least, this game and the high-profile movie release will hopefully help Tintin finally right that decades-long cosmic injustice: He just might become as famous as the Smurfs in America come the holidays.
SUMMARY: Its Beyond Good & Evil pedigree elevates it above the standard movie tie-in, but Tintin’s still a bit too simplistic for hardcore adventurers.
- THE GOOD: Responsive controls, entertaining characters and story
- THE BAD: Probably more challenging to drive to the theater and purchase a movie ticket
- THE UGLY: Tintin’s sometimes-brutal stealth kills. This is a kids’ game, right?
The Adventures of Tintin is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo Wii. Primary version reviewed was on the Xbox 360.
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