Princess Natasha: Student, Secret Agent, Princess
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2006-12-02 GBA Action/Platform E (Everyone) DSI Games / Frame Studios

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Princess Natasha looked like a fun little platform action game, and that's what really attracted me to it. Besides, it features a female character and it's aimed at young girls, and that is usually a good candidate to fit our Junior reviews section.

Now, I wasn't aware of the story when I first started up the game, neither have I seen the webisodes, cartoons or read the comic, so when the cartoony stills started rolling at the beginning of the game, I had no idea what was going on. This is what I gathered: there is a royal family, a girl eating something, then the country of Zoravia gets transported to Illinois. Sounds weird doesn't it? Well, it's nothing like that.

I think the intro sequence could have made sense for someone (like me) who isn't familiar with Natasha if there were some voice acting or even some scrolling text telling the story. After a little reading I found out a bit about the background of Natasha's world. Natasha is a princess from Zoravia. She is also a secret agent living in Illinois as an exchange student. Her mission is to prevent her evil uncle Lubek from stealing the throne.

After actually starting a new game, I found out what the story was all about. Something strange is happening in Zoravia, the citizens are turning into a sort of zombies, mindlessly wandering around, and there are hostile robots everywhere. It's up to Natasha and her friend Oleg to get the citizens back to normal.

You being in a map/radar type of screen, showing you what areas are available, how many zombies are still walking around, how many citizens you have saved, and how many you need to save to complete the chapter.

To complete your mission, you are equipped with a de-zombifier spray and a remote that can have two special gadgets. These gadgets are your weapons, and as you advance you unlock new ones. Before you head out to any mission, Oleg will brief you if something new appears and asks you to pick any two gadgets of those available to take in your remote.

Once actually in any given stage, the action begins, and I must say, I really enjoyed it. The gameplay is reminiscent of the arcade classic Pang, where you must shoot bubbles until they split into tiny ones that you can finally get rid of. Natasha can use the remote gadgets to break up the robot-bubbles as well as kicks, but that's not the only thing she must watch out for.

Some stages have robots that complicate things, and you must shoot and kick them as well. Any bubble or robot that touches Natasha takes down a health point. As for the zombies, they don't hurt you, but you have to use the de-zombifier spray and quick, before their health depletes. The de-zombifier takes a little to charge up to full, so if a zombie citizen is low on health, you will need more than one charge.

Every now and again, some power-ups (such as gadget recharges) and health refills appear to make your life a little easier, but they only stay for a very brief moment, which is a bit frustrating since you have but a couple of seconds to reach them. Power-ups also add to your total score.

Natasha is pretty easy to control. You move around with the D-pad, use the gadgets with the right trigger, use the de-zombifier with the left trigger, kick with A, jump with B, crouch by pressing down on the D-pad (and watch her do the splits!). You can also shoot upwards to get rid of those pesky hovering robots, although they tend to go off the screen and are hard to see until they're coming down on you. However, you can't shoot when running or jumping, though you can kick.

Obviously, the level difficulty gradually increases, and at the end of each level there will be a boss fight. The boss fights were at times frustrating with so many bubbles and hovering robots that I couldn't see, but all the better. It gave the game a bit more of a challenge, which makes up a little for being so short (there are only three map areas to clear).

Every time you complete a stage you get a password. You must write these down, since there is no way to save your progress. The game uses a continue feature that only works if you have a password. I personally would have liked a save feature instead of carrying a pen and notepad with me every time I played, but it's not that big of a deal.

If you browse the other menus of the game, you find an Extras menu where you can see artwork and pictures from the cartoon episodes. But the thing is, they're all unlocked right away. It would have been a really good addition if the game score could have been used to "buy" these extras instead of having them all there for the viewer's pleasure from the start. The only real "unlockable" (so to speak) happens when you beat the game and are told to go to a certain website to get your secret codes.

One thing I really enjoyed was the music and sound effects. The music was great, very upbeat, and I liked it right from the intro sequence. Natasha's different gadgets make different specific sounds: electric zaps, bouncing balls, the de-zombifier, they all sound like they should. Not that I know what a de-zombifier would sound like, but since it's a spray can of sorts, it sounds like one should. The robots make some really neat sounds when they turn to attack, especially the ones that spin. You can also easily distinguish the power-up appearing sound, so you can drop whatever you're doing to look for it if you want. The "voice" for Oleg was also pretty funny, as it all sounds like a bunch of rubbish.

Graphically, the game is not bad looking and the animations are pretty good.

Overall, Princess Natasha didn't disappoint, and aside from the fact that it only took me a couple of hours to complete, I had fun with it. I'm sure younger gamers (particularly girls) too will enjoy being a secret agent laying the smackdown on evil robots and saving innocent citizens.

Special thanks to Alison Kain and DSI games for providing a copy of this game.