If you've played any previous version of Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell, and you've also played games for the Game Boy Advance, then you know full well that Ubi Soft's best-selling 3D stealth action game wouldn't easily translate to Nintendo's portable platform. But Ubi Soft translated it all right. That being the case, Splinter Cell for the GBA turned out surprisingly well. It's a side-scrolling 2D action game, reminiscent of platformers and side-scrolling shooters from the 16-bit era, yet it borrows the premise and many gameplay elements from the core versions of Splinter Cell. However, the game somehow preserves some of the original's frustrating qualities, and it's also short and pretty repetitive. Nevertheless, this version of Splinter Cell is a good enough game on its own merits to tide over Splinter Cell fans looking for a portable version or GBA owners looking for a briskly paced game to have on the go.
Splinter Cell for the GBA tries to incorporate many of the gameplay elements from the original.
Splinter Cell for the GBA essentially is a retelling of the original game: You play as Sam Fisher, an ultrasecret government commando working for an organization that operates above the law, sending its agents into dangerous situations in the name of national security. Fisher must rely primarily on stealth as he works his way, alone, to the heart of heavily defended enemy compounds. Unless you've played the original, you'll have trouble comprehending the disjointed plot of the GBA version, which gives you a page of text as a preface to each of the game's nine missions, and that's about it in terms of the storyline. No matter, since this is a pure action game anyway, and it doesn't really need a story to tie together its scenarios. Nevertheless, some more context for the various objectives in the game would have been welcome.
As in the original, in Splinter Cell for the GBA, the object of most sequences is to try to get to the end while avoiding detection. Since this is a side-scrolling 2D game, though, obviously you can't just maneuver around your enemies. So the stealth mechanic boils down to monitoring the fixed side-to-side patrols of enemy guards and walking up behind them and bopping them on the heads while their backs are turned. The right shoulder button functions like a telescopic view, allowing you to scroll the screen in any direction and thus see farther than your enemies. Time is almost never a factor, so you can inch your way through most levels, playing it safe. Enemies come in a few varieties, but all are pretty stupid and have lots of trouble fighting you toe-to-toe. Security cameras pan from side to side, slowing your progress as you avoid their arc by sneaking under them as they're facing the opposite direction. Locked doors and safes and, later, automated sentry guns will sometimes bar your passage, but these can all be disarmed via a slightly different lock-picking minigame in each respective case. Splinter Cell for the GBA also has some basic platforming elements in it, which are made obvious right in the first level, where you'll have to leap from one vertical pipe over to the next, trying to avoid dangerous objects in the environment--searing flames, in this case.
There's a pretty good amount of variety outside of the core gameplay. Sometimes you'll be rappelling down buildings, trying to avoid detection by the guards passing each windowsill. In another sequence, you're chasing a hacker who's desperately trying to escape. Another scene has you fleeing a sinking ship, while another puts you in a food processing plant, jumping from meat hook to meat hook. Plus, there are a few first-person sniping sequences, which make for a nice change of pace.