Ubi Soft has made a sequel to last year’s Splinter Cell but does not offer any new type of game play. If you played the original Splinter Cell for GBA, there is no reason to play this game.
Just like last year’s Splinter Cell, Pandora Tomorrow is a 2D stealth oriented game. As one can predict, creating a stealth game by the use of only moving left and right is a difficult task to successfully pull off. Although this game is probably one of the best side scrolling stealth games, it still just does not work very well. Players take control of Sam Fisher, a secret government agent, who is trying to stop a group of bad guys from doing evil. Because Sam is severely out numbered, he must rely on his stealth skills to survive. In the major 3D console versions, Sam can hide within shadows and other environmental objects. However, in the GBA version, the whole stealth idea isn’t portrayed well. In the game, Sam can be standing just a few feet from an enemy guard and not be seen. As long as Sam is not within the same screen width as a guard on patrol, he will remain hidden.
Besides a problem with the way stealth is depicted, the game does not receive any major upgrades from last year’s version. The only thing new about this game is a few extra moves and mini games. Sam can now hide and drag bodies after he knocks out enemies. Also, the player can now hide almost anywhere in the background even if there are no shadows. In last year’s game, players could only hide in the background in a select few places. When one of these spots would appear, the player knew that he must hide there to avoid an incoming guard because the designers would not have put it there without a reason. The addition of hiding in the background helps in many situations, but it is not enough to keep the game fresh. Players are even forced to use this maneuver in several situations to bypass an object in the way such as a box or pillar.
Several different types of mini games periodically break up the main mode of play. In the original Splinter Cell (GBA), players would have to pick locks and play through a first person view similar to the GBA’s Silent Scope. While these few mini games were a great way to spice up game play, they lacked overall variety. Pandora Tomorrow fixes this problem by adding numerous new mini games. The same lock pick and Silent Scope type cut scenes are still here, but new ones like computer hacking give the game a little more depth. These new mini games are a welcomed addition to the overall experience of the game.
To help aid the player in his mission, a radar has been implemented at the top of the screen. Sam is located in the middle and red dots represent the enemy. This a good way to keep track of enemy movement but it is not that advanced considering that the player can only move left and right. Working in conjunction with the radar, Sam has the ability to look beyond his normal view. If “L” is held down, a viewfinder pops up and can be controlled with the D-pad. This is used to scout ahead and to see surveillance cameras and enemies. Sam also has the ability to use thermal and night vision goggles, but will only need them on rare occasions.
On the down side, there are not that many weapons. Sam can shoot his assault rifle when on foot and his pistol when hanging from ledges. Weapons should not be used in this game anyway as most mission are based around stealth and not killing anyone. Luckily, for the levels that do let you use your gun, more ammo can be found in this game than in the last one. Surveillance cameras can be destroyed with a single shot and most enemies will fall after a headshot. The emphasis isn’t on the use of weapons; it is about staying hidden. It is in the player’s best interest to sneak up behind people and knock them out. Doing this is the silent and sneaky way to dispatch bad guys. Plus, enemies can be held at gunpoint as human shields or be forced to use in a retina scanner.
Pandora Tomorrow will take you more than a few hours to beat, especially since some levels will need to be played a few times before you get it right. It is most unfortunate that there is no multiplayer function of any kind. This is a shame because there was so much multiplayer effort put into the Xbox and PC games, but the GBA receives nothing. Because this game is so similar to last year’s Splinter Cell, and still lacks multiplayer, Ubi Soft just seemed not to care about the GBA installment of this series.
The graphics in this game have improved from last year’s. Sam’s movements look nice and fluid but running into the same pallet swapped guard over and over is very monotonous. There is one serious problem with the character animations however. Enemies tend to walk in their usual patterns, back and forth, but there is no “turning around” animation. In one frame the enemy is looking to the right, the next he is facing the left. This does not give the player any time to react or predict enemy movements and adds to the difficulty of playing a stealth game in 2D
The backgrounds are more detailed because the player will make better use of them in this game. Shifting to the background will happen many times throughout each level and the game demonstrates fairly decent shadow effects. The visuals may be average but the sound is terrible. The same tune will be played in just about every level and every guard will say the same thing when they see you. There is no variation or quality in the audio department.
Last year’s Splinter Cell supported GBA to GC connectivity. If both the GBA game and the GC game were linked up, new levels were unlocked. If a GBA was linked to the GC game without the GBA game pak, then a handy radar was displayed on the GBA screen. It is still unclear on whether Ubi Soft will implement something like this into Pandora Tomorrow for GC, but the GC version will probably not support multiplayer of any kind.
The bottom line is, if you played the first Splinter Cell on GBA, there is absolutely no need to play Pandora Tomorrow as it is the same game. Ubi Soft got extremely lazy when they made this game because they only added a couple new moves and a few more mini games. Plus, without multiplayer, it just seems like this game was made with the least bit of interest. This game is just like the previous one, but with a new title. Ubi Soft losses major points for not improving or even trying to enhance their game play in any way. However, if you must play a Splinter Cell, play it for the Xbox or PC because Sam Fisher does not belong in a side scrolling 2D environment. Stealth in 2D just does not work that well. However, the GBA’s Pandora Tomorrow is better than the previous version.