The Adventures of Tintin: The Game
Prisoners of the fun.
At the peak of his popularity, Tintin's creator George Remi was in control of an organisation that must have looked a little like a video game company. When writing the Calculus Affair, for example, there were photographers despatched to Switzerland for reference material, as well as background artists, letterers, and Remi himself who would draw the characters. Now Tintin is in the hands of an actual video game company. No wonder he looks so at home in his new surroundings.
Ubisoft's been crafting a Tintin game to accompany the forthcoming film, and, as is often the case with these things, I'd been expecting the worst: a cartoon masterpiece reduced to a limply reconfigured FPS where you run around Marlinspike Hall, stealth-choking Nestor, collecting a trail of floating croissants and taking cover behind 2CVs. (I know Tintin's not French, incidentally, but I couldn't think of any Belgian cars.) Put those fears aside. What Ubisoft's actually done is much more interesting. It's taken Tintin, and turned him into Donkey Kong.
I certainly wasn't expecting that - yet it works surprisingly well. The game's 3D art is set on a 2D plane - if you've got a really expensive TV, by the bye, that art will be in actual pop-out 3D too - and you control Tintin as he jumps around from platform to platform in a series of teetering split-level environments, finishing off baddies and collecting trinkets.
Tintin can fight, but that's not really the way to get the best out of him. Instead, as in the books, you should be trying to out-think your enemies, watching their patrols, dropping down behind them, and then stealth-lamping them, or using elements of the environment to get rid of them in other ways.
On a level set aboard the Karaboudjan - a ship I have been dreaming about exploring since I was six years old - this often amounts to lobbing stuff. Tintin can pick up objects and throw them -you aim with a glowing trajectory line, like Gears of War or Worms - and that means you can bowl your foes over with oil drums or flatten them with crates.
There's a lot of variety to the system, however. Throw a pot over somebody's head he'll go on a clumsy cartoon rampage, possibly punching out some of his own team. In a boss fight against Allan, Captain Haddock's villainous first mate, you'll need to race back and forth across the screen and trick him into accidentally blowing up stacks of fireworks that will work as little homing rockets, before sending him crashing into a wall with banana peels when he starts to give chase. (Bananas may seem to be taking the whole Donkey Kong homage a little far, but in Tintin's defence he was using the trick back in Cigars of the Pharaoh - classic bedtime reading since 1934.)
It all works very well, by the looks of it: the levels are smartly laid out and filled with little secrets to uncover, there's an enviably tactile sense of cartoon violence to every punch and every bullet, and the detailing shows that real attention has been paid to the source material.