Review by Dalimyr

"Sam Fisher on the GBA? Where's the stealth?"

Tom Clancy, award-winning author and co-founder of Red Storm Entertainment, has had many successes in his career. Many of his novels have not only been best-sellers as books, but also as films or computer games. Splinter Cell is no different, having seen huge sales figures on every console and on the bookshelves.

Splinter Cell is classed as a stealth game, which means that you're expected to avoid contact with the enemy, hiding in the shadows and making sure that you're not seen. This concept works perfectly fine on the Playstation or the PC, but things had to be simplified somewhat when the game was ported to the Gameboy Advance. Gone are the fancy 3D graphics, and in comes a 2D side-scrolling game in its place. Unfortunately, changing the game into a 2D side-scroller consequently lost some of the stealth aspect. No longer can your character hide in the shadowy corner of a room while watching the guards' patrol patterns, but instead you either have to duck down behind some obstacle (which you'll have to jump over before getting close to the guard) or press up to hide in a conveniently placed doorway (or something similar) as a guard goes past.

The console versions had a bar in the bottom-left to show Sam Fisher's visibility - if he was in complete darkness they'd walk by him completely oblivious to his presence, though he'd be a sitting duck if some light fell on him. This visibility bar from the console versions has inexplicably been replaced by a bar that warns you if any enemies are nearby, making the game unbelievably easy at some points since you can just walk through until you see the bar go up, then you press R (which lets you see your surroundings, since the side-scrolling view doesn't show much around Fisher) to find the guard and either watch his patrol pattern or watch and wait for him to turn his back so you can sneak up on him and knock him out. There are no controls to pick up the guard and hide him in the shadows where he won't be found, since nobody's going to find the body (or care); if a camera spots Fisher the alarm is raised and you'll be caught unless you can switch the alarm off in all of about 5 or 10 seconds...but whoever is watching from the security room clearly doesn't give a damn if the camera goes over a guard who has been knocked out. Maybe he reckons his colleague has had a bit too much vodka and has passed out, but it seems a bit ludicrous.

In saying that, though, as a side-scroller it is a good game. The music are crisp and clean, and the graphics are very clear, if a tiny bit on the cartoonish side (such as the big 'Z's floating above guards' heads after you knock them out). However sound effects can sometimes be a little dodgy, particularly voices. If a guard catches you, he'll call out, but when he says "Hey!" it isn't too clean. Weapons also sound rather poor.

The game spans nine levels, plus a small (optional) training level to get you used to the controls of the game. There are also ten bonus levels that can be unlocked by performing various tasks within the game, such as completing some levels with a minimum percentage (you're rated after each level out of 100%).

Gameplay: 6/10
Splinter Cell is a good side-scroller, I'll admit that...but as a port of it's big console cousins, it's suppose to be a STEALTH game, and the stealth element of the game is, quite frankly, rather appalling. Games such as the Rolling Thunder series on the Genesis/Megadrive had as much stealth as Splinter Cell does and they didn't call themselves stealth games.

Story: 9/10
The game is based on a top-selling novel from a top-selling author. Surely that's all the proof you need that Splinter Cell's story featuring missing CIA agents, smuggling rings and terrorist groups is a good one.

Graphics: 9/10
The graphics in the game are very nice and atmospheric (well, as atmospheric as the GBA can muster without spoiling it).

Sound: 6/10
The music to the game is quite good, but the sound effects really let it down. A couple of the sound effects, such as the alarm (if you're caught), sound very similar to the consoles' sound effects, but those similarities are few and far between. Guns, grenades, guards...they've all got new sound effects and they're terrible.

Playtime: 7/10
With only nine levels, the game isn't going to keep you occupied for too long. However, Splinter Cell does have a saving grace in that it has ten bonus levels that you can unlock if you're good enough.

Replayability: 7/10
The only real replayability I can see is for perfectionists, looking to get 100% on every level. There are no goodies unlocked at the end of the game, no alternate routes through the game...once it's done, it's done.

Overall Rating: 44/60 = 7.3/10 = 7/10
The game is good, but it's trying to deliver a stealth game and it's just handing over a side-scrolling platformer/shooter. That and the sound let the game down somewhat.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 09/11/06

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