As you may know, I worked on Tintin, the game from the Spielberg/Jackson movie. I was in charge of the coop mode known as the "Tintin & Haddock: Haddock's dreams" mode: I designed the overall rules with the Game Director, defined the content of the 20 levels and done some levels too.
The game reviews was mixed but what surprise me is how much reviewers liked the coop mode, perhaps more than the story mode. here's some extracts:
The story mode is rather short, and can comfortably be beaten within 5 hours, but the coop mode adds a considerable amount of length to the game. Playable either by yourself or with a friend locally, the coop levels are set in surreal Tintin fiction-inspired dreamscapes. These levels make the most of the platforming, with only the occasional unwelcome appearance by a few motorbike missions. Some of the puzzles here are genuinely great, with one level, which requires you to fold the level around yourself by way of switches, being a highlight. The coop mode, which sees you playing as Tintin and Haddock, also introduces three more playable characters, each with their own unique ability that makes puzzle solving even more inventive. Playing with a friend involves a mad scramble for coins as well as working together to pass a level, and it's in this mode that the game really shines
. There are numerous outfits to unlock, secrets to find, bosses to take on, and this is the mode that's likely to keep you playing long after the movie tie-in part has faded away.
What makes Unicorn's quest for variety strange as well as irritating is the fact that the game's already found a far more successful means of extending the fun anyway. Local co-op - a campaign of platforming gauntlets set within Haddock's nightmares - is absolutely magnificent
: both frantic and intricate as you and a friend work your way through a series of surreal dreamscapes hunting for treasure.
Haddock's drinking has been slickly excised, meaning his irrational behaviour now suggests that he is struggling with a fierce form of mental illness.
The environments could have been plucked straight from the books' stranger moments - fire places that float in mid air, lifts that look like gramophone records, giant figures watching from the background. At times, the level design is more inventive here than it is in the main adventure, and the bosses are certainly better.
Each character comes with their own skill - Tintin, for example, can fire off a grappling hook, Haddock can move crates and bust through walls, and Castafiore can double-jump and break glass - and every mission requires you to work together to move through the environment, while you fight bitterly for every last piece of gold and silver. If you've played Four Swords much, you'll know about the kind of uneasy alliances this dynamic can create.
None of the other post-game goodies match up to the cooperative mode, however, which takes you on a trip through Haddock's dreams after Thompson and Thompson of Scotland Yard inadvertently knock him out. Here, the bosses are better, the level designs more ingenious,
and the surreal imagery provides a welcome break from the mundane settings of the story proper. Even better, you can unlock different characters with varying abilities. Tintin, for instance, sports a grappling hook that was absent from the platforming parts of the story, and the singer Bianca Castafiore double jumps as well as any ash-smothered Spartan.
Co-op is certainly a welcome addition and arguably it's a more enjoyable experience solving
puzzles and taking out thugs with a friend. It's rewarding too, because there are a handful of characters from the movie to unlock, each of which has their own pros and cons; Tintin has a grappling hook and Haddock can move heavy objects, and each of the levels challenges you to work together to succeed. Like any great co-op game there's also an undercurrent of competition weaved throughout, with the draw of coins and swag often getting in the way of cooperation.
Surprisingly, co-op is where Tintin shines
, providing a lot of meta-humour throughout the course of the campaign and a chance to play as some of the side characters. Each character has their own ability which will be useful in combat or in puzzle solving and even Tintin gets a few moves which can help you along. This section tends to stick very much to the platforming side of things and does away with the boring pointless bits. If only they had put this much effort into the main game!
The Adventures of Tintin also features a two-player cooperative mode where players control Tintin and Haddock. This separate experience has a standalone story that begins when Haddock hits his head and falls into a dream. Players are transported into Haddock's unconsciousness, an odd setting that Ubisoft leverages to create bizarre levels and scenarios. While journeying through Haddock's mind players unlock things like big head mode and other strange costumes that would be out of place in the single-player game. Some moments surprisingly reminded me of the Scarecrow levels from Arkham Asylum, a comparison I never expected to make.
This post is also a good way to thank all the level designers who worked with me on this mode (Brice, Fred, Antoine, Glen, Liviu, Mihai, Alfred), and Christophe & Jacques for believing in what I brought to this game.