Princess Peach: Showtime! offers gentle adventure for younger Mario movie fans

Few outside of Nintendo foresaw how huge last year’s Super Mario Movie would turn out to be. It was a proper blockbuster phenomenon, and a reminder that when it comes to video game characters, the Mushroom Kingdom remains home to the most universally recognisable cast around. Still, it doesn’t feel like chance that Nintendo seems to have smartly scheduled its subsequent year of Switch game launches with follow-up adventures for all of that film’s supporting cast: a Luigi’s Mansion 2 remake, a new Mario vs. Donkey Kong, and – no less than 18 years after her last solo outing – a fresh vehicle for Peach.

If you played the slightly odd Super Princess Peach on Nintendo DS, there are happily few hangovers here. Gone, thankfully, is the need for Peach to power-up by picking one of four emotional states for her to display (joy! gloom! rage! calm!), replaced here instead by 10 costumes which, in a sort of Mario-like manner, bestow a limited range of extra abilities. Princess Peach: Showtime is set within a theatre, and the conceit of being able to star in 10 multi-act plays based around each of these costumes is a smart one. At its best, there are shades of Luigi’s Mansion 3 here – in the themed stages lying behind different doors, accessible from the theatre’s multi-level lobby hub – and even Paper Mario, as elements of each stage are constructed with charm from tactile scenery, such as wooden prop grass and trees.

Cover image for YouTube videoPrincess Peach: Showtime! Gameplay Preview! – 10 MINUTES OF NEW PRINCESS PEACH SWITCH GAMEPLAY

Eurogamer’s Ian presents an extended look at Princess Peach: Showtime!

But while the set dressing may seem somewhat familiar, the game’s opening suite of levels feel something of a more amateur production aimed at a younger audience, especially considering how low the difficulty of said levels are pitched. Arriving at the Sparkle Theatre for a night out with her Toad footmen, Peach’s evening is interrupted by the arrival of the game’s villain, a sorceress named Grape, and her minions, the Sour Bunch. With most of the theatre locked down, Peach must clear each of its many stages and spread cheer to the Theets – the theatre’s disheartened acting troupe – mostly with a simple button press. When powered up, Peach can also perform the appropriate themed action befitting her current costume with the same button press.

Light platforming is interspersed with sword fighting to defeat Sour Bunch foes when dressed as the rapier-wielding Fighter Peach. Timed correctly, Peach can counteract enemy attacks with a leap to strike from behind. As Cowgirl Peach, you can hit that button to attack from range with your lasso. Additionally, you can rope in items and throw them back at enemies. Ninja Peach was an early highlight, not for her fighting ability, but for a change in gameplay style that saw you creeping through props in stealth mode – with Peach automatically holding up little bushes on sticks in an attempt to blend in. Inch closer to the level’s backdrop and Peach instead unrolls a scroll of parchment decorated to look like the painted scenery behind. It’s a nice touch. The Ninja Peach level I played featured the most variety to it, with brief moments where you could wall jump, or auto run and feel a bit like Sonic, or control a trundling prop version of the Kanagawa wave.

Princess Peach: Showtime screenshot showing a sides-crolling section where Peach rides a horse.

Princess Peach: Showtime screenshot showing a baking mini-game, with cakes on a conveyor belt.

Princess Peach: Showtime screenshot showing a baking mini-game, cream dropping onto a cake.

Princess Peach: Showtime screenshot showing Peach wielding a lasso against a boss character in a cowboy hat.

Sugar, butter, flour! | Image credit: Nintendo

Patissiere Peach’s introduction offered something different again, albeit in a level largely taken up by a mini-game that felt like something straight out of Mario Party. Here, you have to decorate a conveyor belt of baked goods, dolloping icing on top until the game decides you have done enough to be sufficient. I’m not sure what else I was expecting from a course designed around a cooking power-up, but it did – apologies – feel a little half-baked. Later costume transformations allow Peach to become a figure skater – something which seems to focus on tighter areas around an ice rink – as well as a Sherlockian detective, a mermaid, a superhero, a kung fu fighter and a Zorro-like “dashing thief”. Each costume will also feature a couple of levels dedicated to each, with some bonus levels unlocked along the way.

You can replay stages you’ve cleared, and it’s likely you’ll need to go back a second time to search through the backdrop of each level to ensure you’ve found all of the Theets that need saving, and coins you can exchange for cosmetic alterations to each outfit. But because each level is designed specifically for each costume, there’s no mixing and matching, no room for experimentation. There’s no option to figure skate your way along the Great Wave, or stealth your way around enemies designed to rapier-ed. You can’t lasso your way through the bakery level, or squirt custard at cowboys. It makes each of the already-simple opening levels feel that bit more proscribed and confined.

I like the idea of a game themed around different character costumes, and the roster may yet offer some of the playfulness I hoped to see more of when Princess Peach: Showtime! first begins. After 18 years and as one of the last new Nintendo titles to launch on Switch, the Mushroom Kingdom’s princess deserves an appropriate swansong.

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