Originally, Silent Scope was an arcade shooting game best known for its unique peripheral--a sniper rifle that actually magnified the portion of the game screen you were aiming at. The game wasn't long on looks, and you could blow through it with only a few dollars of spare change. Logically, when the game was brought to the Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 with few extras and no added gun peripheral, it wasn't well received. Compared with light-gun shooter series like The House of the Dead and Time Crisis, Silent Scope didn't hold up. The situation is quite different with Silent Scope for the GBA, however. All six levels of the arcade mode are included, but there is also a second arcade challenge specific to the GBA that includes six additional stages. Obviously, there's no light gun for the GBA, yet having to use the directional pad for aiming isn't as great a nuisance as you might expect.
In addition to the main modes of play, Silent Scope also includes a shooting range with five target-practice games that teach you the basics of sniping. There's even a multiplayer mode in which you and your friends can practice shooting at balloons. Finally, there are cheats that you can earn by replaying the arcade mode several times.
The gameplay itself isn't very deep or complex. As a sniper, you take up an elevated or otherwise removed position in each level. Terrorist targets appear in your view, and you have to shoot them before they shoot you or the hostage you're trying to rescue. Your rifle holds five bullets, which you can fire using the R trigger, and reloading is automatic. Headshots are important, especially against the bosses who are wearing body armor. For this purpose, you can hold the B button to switch to a scope mode that enlarges the viewfinder in order to allow for precision shooting. If an enemy is about to return fire, a yellow marker appears above him or her to guide your aim.
The level designs are fairly good, with settings that range from busy intersections and hallways to a football stadium and a commuter train overpass. For a few of the missions, your aim is jostled because you're shooting from an attack helicopter. Terrorists tend to lurk near abandoned cars, hide behind pillars, or pop out of windows, so there is some strategy involved in aiming. The most frustrating design flaw in the game is that there are a few enemies who absolutely must be taken out by a headshot right away or the game will end. This is a tall order on a system with such a tiny screen. Otherwise, Silent Scope works well on a handheld.
What is most impressive about Silent Scope on the GBA is that the graphics are almost identical to those found in the console versions. The 3D stages are presented as photo-realistic 2D backgrounds, and the animation in the enemies and vehicles is remarkably fluid. The biggest problem with the visuals in this miniaturized version of Silent Scope is that distant enemies are nearly impossible to see, especially if they're tucked away in the shadows.
The game's audio isn't quite as good as its visuals. A few of the music tracks have vocals, and there are a few radio speech samples, but the majority of the auditory experience consists of one ubiquitous sound effect: "Bang!" Once you're knee-deep in enemies, however, you don't really notice the repetitive background noise.
Silent Scope for the Game Boy Advance does a good job of bringing the experience of the arcade game home, or wherever. It's still pretty shallow, but the addition of more stages and extra modes really improves the game's overall longevity. In the end, you'll probably be surprised by how well Silent Scope works on a handheld system.