- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Belgian cartoonist Georges “Herge” Remi’s favorite ace reporter makes his debut in a new Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson animated film for U.S. audiences this week.

He also stars in quite the slick third-person adventure for the iPad, The Adventures of Tintin: The Game (Gameloft, rated 4+, reviewed with iPad 2, $6.99),  guaranteed to captivate the 10-year old in the family.

Our hero, who looks like Conan O’Brien’s younger brother, and his trusty dog Snowy are on a quest to retrieve a mythical model ship and uncover its secrets.

The dangers to complete their journey combine the best technologies of Apple’s wonder tablet.

Fingers will get a workout as a player uses a virtual analog stick in tandem with tapping onscreen postage stamp icons to run or sneak around environments.

He also may be asked to swipe or tap action icons to avoid encounters with bad guys and tilt the screen to get a 360-degree view of an area.

Tasks are surprisingly varied, from platforming to collecting and sneaking, and the quality easily competes with much more expensive challenges from any typical handheld gaming system.

For example, Tintin needs to break into a mansion, and he’ll need to scale an outside wall, sneak past guarded windows and perform minutia such as cutting ropes to drop boxes.

A player also controls Snowy during a rather lively mission to retrieve keys from a rat. He must maneuver through a ventilation system, jump in and out of food boxes to keep from getting caught, and can follow multiple scents that appear as multicolored wafts of gas

Later, the poor pooch will need to avoid snakes, vultures and quicksand to help save his master.

The game design comes to life through a computer-animated style and story tied to the movie rather than Herge’s comic books. That leads to some flashy moments aboard an aircraft, at sea, in a desert and aboard a pirate ship.

However, besides Tintin and Snowy, players will meet some legends from the sequential-art universe such as Captain Haddock and the key character from “The Secret of the Unicorn” comic’s series Sakharine (a villain in the game and movie) within the nine-chapter adventure.

In addition, an easy learning curve, convenient autosave points to not frustrate players working through long escape sequences and verbal encouragement from Tintin such as “I have to return to the upper floor and be more careful next time” add to the enjoyable experience for the younger gamer.

I can’t gush enough about the little magical tech tricks and care of detail that will make a child’s eyes pop open with amazement.

Take the case of animated cut scenes, usually a passive moment in games. The scene is alive to the player as he can tap on any visible gold coins and jigsaw puzzle pieces to collect them.

Or static illustrated panels that help tell the story can be jiggled to deliver a bit of a three-dimensional perspective. Or how about using the iPad like a pair of binoculars: As it moves, the screen scours a desert landscape.

Speaking of the couple dozen or so available jigsaw puzzles, they are well worth unlocking and solving. A player can manipulate pieces, with two fingers to move into place on a board (with the full image underneath to help).

Once done, the character image becomes a 3D statue displayed in a room and observed through a 360-degree perspective. As the player tilts the iPad, the angle around the statue and room shifts. Pinch fingers to zoom into the models.

That little display trick will astound a viewer of any age.

It’s no wonder the iPad is such a popular device. Its continued evolution and design flexibility in the gaming arenas certainly transformed The Adventures of Tintin into one of the better kid-friendly releases of the year.

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