If you're a fan of point and click, or puzzle games, the name Natalie Brooks may be familiar to you. A huge franchise on the PC, Natalie Brooks: Treasure of the Lost Kingdom marks the hapless teenager's debut on the DS, with a game that's been out on the PC for around three years. Shrunk down for the handheld format, bar the new two screen setup, there are no extra features here compared to the PC version - so if you've already played the original, you've already seen the lot.
For the rest of us, Natalie Brooks: Treasure of the Lost Kingdom is a point and click adventure game, with the odd hidden object section bolted on. Following the story of the game's namesake, Natalie Brooks, the game begins with the poor girl's grandfather finding himself being kidnapped, and held hostage. The kidnapper threatens to kill the old man in three days - unless the panicked Natalie manages to find an ancient treasure map, and bring it to him. And so begins an adventure that'll take you, and young Natalie, around the world, from the Empire State Building, to Big Ben, and even a Mayan temple.
When you're not attempting to spot hidden objects in the various rooms, you'll instead be solving puzzles, collecting items, and figuring out what you need to use where in order to complete the level. As a point and click game at its heart, you'll often be faced with chests that need opening, cables that need finding, or alarms that need disabling, and, as is seemingly the tradition, you often have to go about it in a rather roundabout way. Whether you're looking for a cup of tea to wake a gentleman up, or simply searching for a password that's been scrawled onto a piece of paper, actually spotting objects you can use in the levels is a challenge in itself - yet alone working out what you have to do with them - because they're all so small, and often quite obscure. More often than not, you'll find yourself simply touching everything in the room, in the vague hope you'll manage to find something you can use. While you can use the handy hint function, which will draw your attention towards, and circle an object you can use if you get stuck, it kind of defeats the object of the game when you're having to use it every few seconds.
When it all comes together, Treasures of the Lost Kingdom can actually be quite enjoyable - it's just frustrating that the game has a habit of making things a lot harder than they should be. When you finally manage to find the item you've been looking for, and things start going well, you'd be hard pushed to not be enjoying yourself - but the game seems to find plenty of ways to stop you getting carried away. As it's been localised into English from another language, the plot can occassionally be fairly difficult to follow, and at times, the dialogue that runs alongside the puzzles can be downright misleading. At one point, inside Big Ben, you pull a lever, which lowers a rickety looking ladder. Natalie points out that the ladder hasn't lowered as far as it should, but, being hopeful we could climb it anyway, we approached the ladder, and attempted to use it. Natalie, it seemed, wasn't impressed. "That's useless," she said "the problem is with the lever, not the ladder". So what did you have to do? Pour oil on the ladder, which made it drop down further. Seems the game was trying to throw us an unintenional red herring.
The game also doesn't expect you to do things in a different order to the one it's been programmed to expect. What this means is, should you end up clicking on a different object to the one it was hoping you'd click on first, you'll either get a piece of dialogue that makes no sense, or, worse, get shouted at. In the one scene, when we touched an item, the Grandad yelled "I told you to make a fishing rod!", but this was the first we'd heard of a rod of any kind. Clicking another item later, we were treated to what was presumably the first part of the conversation, where the Grandad seemingly has the idea of creating the fishing rod for the first time. If you think it's confusing now, try having it happen in game.
Providing you don't get stuck on any of the puzzles, you should be able to blaze a trail through Natalie Brooks: Treasure of the Lost Kingdom in around three to five hours - and in all honesty, that's possibly the game's biggest problem. Coming with a suggested retail price of £24.99, the game is currently available for around £18. On the PC, from popular games websites like Big Fish Games, it costs £5.39. That's a huge difference in price to pay for the benefits of being able to lug it around with you, and play anywhere - especially when you consider it's available for Android mobile devices for £2.99. While it's understandable that putting together a boxed game costs more than putting it up for download, we're not convinced it justifies the game costing three times the price - or five times if you go by the suggested retail price.
But, if you can find it cheaply, Natalie Brooks: Treasures of the Lost Kingdom may well be one you want to look into picking up. While it's short and sweet, it is fun while it lasts, despite its many shortcomings. With a bit more time and attention spent on it (and a better price point), this one could have been something special. As it's stands, it's OK, but not much more. The score below represents the score when playing on a DS. If you have a DSiXL, feel free to give it an extra point, as you'll likely find things a lot easier.