Like the previous Splinter Cell game for the GBA, Pandora Tomorrow is reminiscent of classic side-scrolling shooters and platformers, but it features many of the defining stealth action elements of the main versions of the game. In fact, this new game even more closely resembles its big-brother counterparts than the previous one did. You'll be doing things like dodging through courtyards while avoiding searchlights, shooting light fixtures to create a shroud of darkness so that you can sneak your way around, interrogating unfortunate guards for key codes and then dragging their unconscious bodies out of sight, and conducting other such acts of espionage. Despite the cool premise, though, the requirement to be stealthy in almost all cases lends this version of Pandora Tomorrow an awkward and often frustrating pace. The game basically controls well and looks good, but it's difficult to the point of excess, and it has no lasting appeal once you get through its nine tough missions. (Not that you should expect to get through them quickly.)
Sam Fisher is back for another small-screen adventure, and this one packs in some of his most challenging assignments yet.
Pandora Tomorrow once again lets you play as ultrasecret agent Sam Fisher, whose task this time involves tracking down a guerilla leader who's threatening the Free World with a virus attack. The game basically tells the same story arc as the other versions of Pandora Tomorrow, only here, the story unfolds through occasional onscreen text, and it's mostly just there to loosely justify why Fisher has to do all this hard work. The missions, too, are mostly analogous to those of the other versions of Pandora Tomorrow, so they take Fisher to a variety of international hotspots. Wherever he winds up, though, Fisher has a similar job to do. He must avoid detection, neutralize any opposition as necessary, and reach the end of the level.
Some of the levels are linear and are somewhat more encouraging of an action-oriented approach. Other levels are mazelike and afford you with little-to-no-room for error. If you're so much as seen by a guard or spotted by a security camera, you'll invariably fail the mission and will need to give it another try. The missions in Pandora Tomorrow are quite long and involved, relative to other side-scrolling action games, but this means that failure at a key point in a mission can set you back quite a ways. It's ironic that this portable version of Pandora Tomorrow resoundingly succeeds at translating the occasionally frustrating trial-and-error style of gameplay found in the main versions.
As in the previous Splinter Cell game, what you often end up doing here is standing still while holding down the left shoulder button, which allows you to scroll the screen past where you're standing to see what's down the hall. You'll monitor guards' back-and-forth patrols and security cameras' back-and-forth sweeps so that you can make a break for it when you see your opportunity. Being noisy isn't a consideration, so you can just run right up--Metal Gear Solid-style--to take out a guard from behind (as long as he doesn't see you). Fisher can also switch to thermal- and night-vision modes, which are useful in a few specific cases. However, the core of the gameplay remains the same and is consistently demanding of patience and careful timing.
There's nothing wrong with games that have a high level of difficulty, but in this case, the stilted pacing and intense challenge lead to frustration.
Fisher does have some new abilities this time around. In the first Splinter Cell GBA game, Fisher didn't get to use his signature SC20K assault rifle during the main missions. This time he's got it, and it lets him fatally shoot guards right in the face. Or he can blind them with a flashbang grenade. Unfortunately for Fisher, ammunition is scarce, and oftentimes deadly force is not permitted. In these and other cases, the SC20K is still useful for targeting and taking out security cameras, whose slow back-and-forth panning will constantly impede your progress throughout the game. Fisher can now grab unsuspecting enemy guards to hold them hostage, which is mostly useful for getting past the odd retinal scanner. As mentioned, he can also drag bodies, though this doesn't figure heavily into the gameplay. Sometimes you won't be permitted to leave an area because a body's been left out in the open, but it turns out that the way to get past this is to eliminate any security cameras in the vicinity rather than trying to hide the bodies.