Name: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell
Format: most Java enabled phones, for example: Nokia 3510i
Developer: gameloft
Publisher: distributed via WAP
Year: 2003

It was never going to be easy to port a game which relied a lot on realistic realtime lighting and cutting edge graphics to a cellular telephone, but to their credit, Gameloft have almost pulled it off.

The game is now a 2D based platform romp through some immensely linear levels, avoiding guards, mines, and the occasional sentry turret. The player, playing as Sam Fisher (hero of the main Xbox and PC versions of the game) has to run, jump, crawl, hide, shimmy, hide, shoot and sneak his way through 9 levels, completing them (ideally) with the minimum of notice from guards. Of course, since the game gives you (on most levels) a gun with infinite ammunition, it would be rude not to shoot people along the way..

Although most guards are easily killed with no loss of health (take three rounds of hot lead and it's back to the start of the level), it's far more stylish if you can creep up on them (they all have rigidly defined patrols which generally involve either moving from left to right, standing still, or sleeping) and strangle them (although this only incapacitates them temporarily, for some reason) before stealthily moving on to the next. Darkened doorways can be hid in, and this is usually essential to catching guards completely unawares. The screen displayed when you complete a level shows a number of statistics, such as number of guards stunned and number killed. Many guards patrol very close to each other, so you have to make your move quickly and return to hiding. However, due to the platform nature of the levels (there are lots of vent shafts and crate* stacks to limber up and drop off) the coolest way to kill guards is undeniably just to walk off and edge and land on their head, knocking them out cold.

The game has two different difficulty levels, normal and veteran. In normal, it's relatively easy to complete the levels, as you can pretty much shoot your way through - hide behind anything waist high, or dangle off any ledge, and you are pretty much invincible, as guards and turrets alike ignore you. Guards who see you will activate alarms, but wheras in the proper game, and in most other stealth based games (eg Metal Gear Solid), guards would come running at the sound of an alarm, in this game absolutely nothing happens - even the guard who sounded the alarm will lose interest after a few seconds. When playing on Veteran** level, however, a single alarm will result in you failing the level, and going back to the start, or the half way point if you have reached it. You get infinite tries at each level, until your frustration sends your phone flying across the room. The game is pretty tricky to complete on Veteran, but once you learn the tricks of where the guards will not see you, it becomes much easier.

Although I did enjoy playing through the 9 levels both times round, the game does not hold much lasting appeal. This is mainly due to cell phones being completely unsuited to games - as much as anyone tries to deny it, playing response based games on a phone which doesn't register more than one button pressed at once (and has sketchy registering even when you only press one) is not nearly as much fun as it should be. A pity, because this game is nicely designed and reasonably creative, but it becomes more than a little annoying when your phone doesn't register the attack button just when you need it. Still, credit goes to gameloft for making the best of a bad platform.

The game's real purpose is shown during it's loading screen - "Also available on your PC and Next-gen console". Basically, this game is an advert.. however, it rates as one of the better ways to promote a big name game I've seen. The animation on all the characters is very smooth, and although the sound is truly pitiful (the only thing I've heard is the gun firing noise) the challenge and creativity of the admittedly linear levels more than makes up for it. Definitely worth it if you can find it (many sites offer it for paying download, although if you know where to look you can get it for only the price of enough WAP minutes to downlaod it.. it isn't a classic by any means, but it'll fill up that bus journey you hate nicely. And when compared to some of the other crap that passes as cell phone games, this is definitely top of the pile.

* - it appears the curse of the FPS (crates appearing in every level, for no apparent reason) is spreading. lj points out that "I believe 'crates everywhere for no reason' originated on 2D platformers - revenge of shinobi , for instance, is riddled with them, The great thing about a crate from an 8/16-bit console's point of view is that it fits perfectly into a single background cell.." - thanks for that, you have a good point.
** - unlocked by completing the game on easy level.

Playing through the game on my Nokia 3510i