Review by J J N

"This is the only review you need"

Introduction

While people argue that the Splinter Cell series on the GBA doesn't utilize stealth, I highly disagree. You do use it in this game; in fact, stealth is a vital factor in which life or death depends on this game.

Having both played Splinter Cell and Splinter Cell: Pandora's Tomorrow, I'm pleased to announce that this game is a improvement over its processor. While not a quantum leap, its an improvement in terms of graphics and game play. Without the improvement is subtle, its visible none of the less.

So put in your night vision goggle and read on.

Game Play

The crux of any game, I believe, is the game play since its paramount of importance. And the game play for Splinter Cell is above average. Its not mundane; in fact, you're in a constant high from the jumping, dodging, shooting etc. It involves strategic game play while combining the fun element. Of course, Splinter Cell is NOT, and I repeat, is not a beat them up side scroller.

Lets get down to what Sam Fisher, the main character in which you play, can do: shoot, jump, run, crouch, stealth walking, hang on pipes, roll, grapple and much more! What I like about this game is that while in shooting mode, you have to hold the button. Just like in the PC version.

Because of the plethora of manoeuvres Sam can perform during the course of the game they included a training tutorial in which I highly recommend for you to invest a few minutes in.

One amazing handy feature in the game is to scan the area. While you scan the area for approaching enemies or surveillance cameras, you're not allowed to move, but that's ok because you get to scan the area in real time.

So, you're asking in a ghetto impression: where mah element of stealth? This game revolves around stealth, yo. There are surveillance cameras in the game, which are so ubiquitous. You have to avoid detection via the camera by moving when the camera is rotating in another direction. What is the incentive to avoid these cameras, you say? When the camera spots you, it triggers an alarm which sends a horde of enemies donning SWAT attire with MP5s to haunt you down. That's the incentive!

Don't forget patrolling enemies in the game, which are ubiquitous as the cameras. The proper way to approach them is wait while they have their backs turned on you, quickly and silently approach them from behind and point the gun to their heads! You can drag the enemy backwards or forwards, according to your liking before knocking them out via pistol whip.

You don't have to directly approach you enemies. What you can also do is move into the foreground, which sometimes provide darkness to cloak your presence. There is a darkness meter in the game. The darker it is, the enemies cannot see you. Niftily like a ninja huh?

Another thing that adds to the stealth element is the ability to hide behind doors, boxes, iron sheets, wooden planks etc. This is great to hide behind, walk until the enemy pass, then knock him out.

The game interface is nicely designed to give it the high-tech Splinter Cell feel. You have ammo display, darkness meter and health bar. Not to mention a radar in which it a red dot indicates enemy position.

Now you might be thinking … stealth? Great! Anything else? Of course. Puzzles! Lots of it. When you're accessing data, you're required to do some puzzles that involves quick hand-eye coordination and binary conversion knowledge. Other puzzles involving computers involved logical and cognitive thinking. You need to solve the puzzle in order to hack the computer, thus accessing information vital to the mission.

So when Sam Fisher isn't busy hacking computers, he is busy pick locking! You can pick lock doors and crack safes in the game. Cool stuff.

Not only you can hide in shadows, behind objects and hang on ledges to avoid enemy detection, but most of the time you'll find yourself hanging on some pipe near the ceiling through out the duration of the game.

Does the game play get tedious at times? To be honest, no! Why? Because the puzzles various, the game is quite linear and the duration of the objective is short and nice, so you complete one objective and move on to the next. There are very little times in the game when I was stuck in any particular place.

This brings us to the difficulty of the game. I have to say that isn't it too difficult nor too hard. You just to need some logical and strategic planning and some hand-eye coordination to pull off some of the moves in the game. For example, you have to calculate when to strike out the enemy when there is a surveillance camera scanning the area. Timing when the camera is facing away AND when the enemy isn't looking can be challenging, but not hard nor impossible to pull off.

So combing all the elements above and merging them to create an intrinsically interesting stealth element. It as ought the game designer sat down and thought this thoroughly. His planning and implementation of this game merits some accolades!

Graphics

Here is where the game shines. My friend commented “Wow, this game has good graphics”. This is coming from a guy who has high expectations. While Splinter Cell I tries to create an highly diverse environment, it sacrificed lots of memories thus the graphic was a bit fuzzy. Splinter Cell: Pandora's Tomorrow on the other hand, is highly defined.

One note worthy mention here is Sam's stance while being inactive is straight up like a super hero, not a petty thief like in Splinter Cell.

I was quite a bit surprise that Sam isn't donning dark colours like in did in the PC version of the game. Rather he is wearing grey with green bullet proof vest. Strange..

While the environment is not bright and colour, it isn't dull either. The artists did a good job mixing the array of colours so its coherent and beautiful.

One contributing factor that makes this game shine in the graphical department is the textures. Textures and more textures! From the brick wall to rusting pipes to the blue sky, the textures is utilize to the best of GBA's power.

The only thing I have to complain about is the game gets a bit chopping when you're running fast from one screen to the next, but I guess that's because of the GBA's capability. It would be nice if the translation is really smooth. Another little flaw I noticed is that when you put in your thermo goggles Sam Fisher sprite doesn't change -- it looks like he hasn't don his goggles at all!

Music and Sounds

The music for this game is awesome! The normal in game music is an amalgamation of techno with suspension feeling to it. Its slow and even methodological -- just like Sam Fisher. When the guard triggers then alarm, a fast face, panic attack inducing music is played. Again, its techno and is appropriate for the game. Not only that folks but for every different levels in the game you get different background music! Seriously, the music alone merit its own CD.

The sounds in the game is appropriate with nothing missing out. For example, the act of Sam jumping itself creating a whooshing sound while him landing creates a thump. In fact, I can say that the sound is detailed. Sam grunts when he is climbing the pipes, surveillance camera swirls when it moves, enemies moan when they get shot and thump when they fall. Even the act of unsheathing the gun creates noise!

One has to measure the quality of the sound as well. Splinter Cell: PA offers nice medium quality sounds, not some lame midi files.

The only complaint I have is that the gun doesn't sound loud enough. Went I see some nefarious enemy with an AK-47 I want to hear ear shattering bullets ripping through the air with sonic velocity, not some pellet gun.

Story

To be honest, I really didn't follow the story of the game nor the objectives. However, the basic premise of the game goes as follow: you're an highly trained, ninja like soldier employed by the CIA. You must do some dirty missions for them in order to save the world.

Of course, its more elaborate then that but that's the basics.

Note: What is interesting is the story parallel with the PC/PS2/Xbox version of the game. So you're actually playing the real thing on GBA, not some rehash version.

Conclusion

What kind of conclusion can you induce from reading the above? This is an awesome game, that's what! The combination of above average game play coupled with excellent music and graphic makes this game worthy to be in one's GBA game collection. The duration of the game is long, and while there is little re-deeming value in terms of game play, you'll be spending a good 5-6 hours playing this game.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/01/05


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