Having had the opportunity to look at Splinter Cell both on the Xbox and PC platforms, I have to say I'm probably spoiled when confronting the opportunity of playing Splinter Cell on the Game Boy Advance. Simply put, there is no conceivable way a handheld of any kind, never mind the Mode7 endowed Game Boy Advance, could do all the sophisticated lighting effects and real-world locales that the NSA's Sam Fisher wades in and out of inconspicuously with ease. So what is Splinter Cell turned into? Why, a 2D platform title of course.
There are merits to this approach and there are also drawbacks. Let's start with the positives. One of the most intense things about Splinter Cell was the need to be sensitive with the controls. One step too loud and you'll alert the guards. One step too short and you might fall off a ledge inadvertently. There was a need to be precise with your eye-hand co-ordination and the developers rewarded you greatly by making Fisher's character model reflect what you were doing with your thumbs, or in the case of the PC, your mouse.
On the Game Boy Advance, there's no need for that. So for those who were frustrated by this absolute need for precision, Splinter Cell on the Game Boy Advance might conceivably be easier - a godsend even.
You'll still have to dodge guards and cameras by hiding behind objects but you'll be able to see everything and most likely get by the pre-scripted patrol paths in a much easier fashion than you could if you were in third person mode. Everything is shorter and smaller in the
Game Boy Advance version. A guard's line of sight only sees as far as one Game Boy screen length. While the other versions featured sprawling real-life locales, here you're forced on to a fixed path with specifically defined objectives and very little time or space to explore on your own. You can almost forget about multiple solutions.
Fisher's acrobatic moves are worked into the game though. You'll need them to get around some of the pre-set obstacles. You can shimmy along ledges to avoid detection. You're allowed to rappel along wires above buildings (similar to the game's bigger cousins) as well as controlling your different stances. Often times you'll be climbing along walls outside of buildings to avoid detection. These are well animated – to the degree of sophistication we'd expect from the Game Boy Advance. Lockpicking is brought into the handheld version too, and the occasional need for terminating with extreme prejudice is incorporated as a first person sniper mode, similar to the original Rainbow Six titles available for the Game Boy.
There are eleven levels in total, although to the Game Boy Advance owner, it doesn't matter much because the various locales get muddled together after awhile. The lack of speech and the ability to eavesdrop dampens the overall approachability of the material. There isn't as much story here. The catch-22 with playing the game before is noticing that without the speech, story and characters, Splinter Cell seems more like an exercise for Fisher than an actual cinematic experience. On the flipside, for those who haven't taken up on the NSA challenge, Fisher's role in the NSA will seem downright prosaic.
One of the bright areas of the original game was the audio. With 5.1 Surround, you're given the opportunity to use your eyes and failing that, your ears to pinpoint all the potential threats to Fisher. In the handheld copy, you're deprived of the auditory senses. Furthermore, the dynamic score that accompanied the game is missing on the Game Boy Advance. You're given some generic "foreboding" tunes that, after awhile, don't sound too foreboding or scary.
Like the bigger sibling, there isn't any multiplayer in Splinter Cell.
I wouldn't have it any other way to be honest. The handheld has unique features for Nintendo owners. If you have the GameCube version, you can activate more on your handheld. Furthermore, while playing the GameCube Splinter Cell, you will be able to use your Game Boy Advance as a sort of PDA, like Fisher's on-screen Palm. It will periodically give you heads up on your surroundings; a little treat for those who manage to put Nintendo's console and its diminutive counterpart together.
The sad fact is if you already played the main story of Splinter Cell, it'll only give you cause to lament on what this game could have been.
And I'm using the correct word: game, whereas on the Xbox, PC, GameCube and Playstation 2, it was more like an interactive DVD. Ironically, it's the gamer that never picked up Splinter Cell who might think this is a cool real world spin on your usual Mario, Crash Bandicoot or Spyro platform outing. With so much pizzazz on Splinter Cell the last six months or so, it'll be difficult to find anyone who is genuinely interested in Fisher and Co. and hasn't given it a try on the other platforms yet. This is a good standby but the superior title and the real challenge posed by Splinter Cell must be found on another system.