Review: Seeing double the Sam Fischer.
Sam Fischer's success on the console and PC platforms is no secret, and the trend continues on the N-Gage with Splinter Cell: Team Stealth Action. As in the Game Boy Advance version, Nokia's mobile gaming device delivers a 2D side-scrolling stealth action game starring everyone's favorite secret agent. It may seem like a tough sell to go from a dynamic 3D environment to one that's 2D and flat, but the finer points of the franchise are intact along with some of its more frustrating elements. In the end, Team Stealth Action is a solid Splinter Cell translation worth playing if you're interested in a side-scrolling stealth title or have an N-Gage-owning friend that wants to participate in the game's appealing co-op mode.
Splinter Cell may have received a handheld-tailored makeover, yet the plot has stayed the same for the most part. Now, however, the story unfolds in text form and therefore doesn't really grab your attention anymore. Nevertheless, the game still gives us the sense that Sam Fischer is an agent that means business thanks to his incredibly cool character design and wide range of secret agent abilities. Those familiar with the core espionage theme of the Splinter Cell series will recognize many of the moves that Fischer can perform to stay stealthy and avoid detection.
In order to bypass Taser-inflicting guards and alarm-triggering security cameras, players must crouch down or hide in closets to avoid being seen or heard. A helpful detection meter gives gamers some insight into enemies' proximities and how much noise enemies are able to pick up. In the unfortunate (and unfortunately frequent) situation where you're spotted, guards will rush over to shock you and sound an alarm. Taking them out is a matter of taking your gun out with the "8" key and firing a sleeper dart with "7." Turning off the alarm can be somewhat more complicated, not because hitting the security box is tough, but because there's a limited amount of time before you're caught and the mission is failed. Thankfully, you have an unlimited amount of lives and start from the last completed objective (rather than the beginning of the mission or the beginning of the game).
Splinter Cell on the N-Gage includes a series of bonus stages you can unlock only after earning 100% in the main levels. However, these basic mini-games, such as the Silent Scope-like level, leave something to be desired and aren't as enthralling as the stealth action in the 11 main levels. In the main game levels, variety keeps the stealth action fresh and the constant die-and-retry gameplay from becoming stale. Levels each include Splinter Cell standards like numerous cameras, guards, closets, elevators, and locks. Upon approaching a locked door, safe or gun turret, the rest of the game freezes while you must pick the lock within a limited amount of time. You do this by hitting certain teeth in the proper order or inserting a rod into the small opening of turning gears. The game also contains Fischer's goggles for night and thermal vision, which further helps the game bear the basics of Splinter Cell.
Speaking of the basics, the visuals could've appeared on a console game in the 90s, but that doesn't mean they're in any way uninspiring. I'm particularly impressed with the array of character animations and the shading and tones used throughout. As soon as Fischer backs up into a closet, he's masked in darkness, except you can faintly make out half of his body and the night vision goggles on top of his head. This really sets up the spy mood by portraying his shady and sly nature. The spy-style music will also get you into the groove for a while, even though it tends to get old after you die a couple of times.
If you have a buddy with an N-Gage and this game, it's possible to participate in one of two wireless multiplayer modes via Bluetooth. The first is the basic sniper mini-game mentioned above. The second and much more interesting mode is cooperative play. This allows two people to go through the main game together, and this is where the "Team Stealth Action" part of the title comes from. It's definitely worth checking out if you're able to hook that up.