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Princess Peach: Showtime! review: Peach’s solo adventure is a fine first act

Peach holds a sword in Princess Peach: Showtime!
Princess Peach: Showtime!
MSRP $60.00
“Princess Peach: Showtime! is a charming start to a new series, even if it feels like a dress rehearsal for the real show.”
Pros
  • Inventive powers
  • Lots of collectibles
  • Charming visual touches
Cons
  • A few dud abilities
  • Slow pace hurts level replays
  • Underused theater gimmick

The Nintendo Switch’s life may be moving towards its end, but Princess Peach: Showtime! arrives at the dawn of a new era. The Mario series is in a bit of a renaissance thanks to the success of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, and Nintendo is making sure to capitalize. In addition to a sequel, the company is pushing out a flood of game ports, remakes, and spinoffs. Each one isn’t just expanding the Mario universe; they’re preparing its wide cast of heroes for their Hollywood spotlights. They aren’t just sidekicks anymore. It’s showtime.

In that context, Princess Peach’s first solo adventure since 2006 is a necessity. Even if Princess Peach: Showtime! isn’t the most exciting spinoff in the franchise’s long history, what’s important is that it places the series’ leading lady at center stage. The colorful puzzle platformer establishes who she really is when she’s not getting kidnapped or serving as a player two. It’s a foundational move, one that both Nintendo and its movie partners can build on to better flesh out a character who’s rapidly becoming a mainstream role model apart from Mario.

As the kickoff for a new series, Princess Peach: Showtime! is an uneven but solid building block. It gives the princess a creative, endearing adventure custom-built for kids who will benefit from seeing Peach shine. The transformative concept still has room to grow, though, as its underutilized theater gimmick and simplistic gameplay make for a game that feels like a dress rehearsal before the big show.

The many roles of Princess Peach

Princess Peach: Showtime! is a puzzle-platformer with a Kirby-esque twist. After getting trapped in a theater that’s been taken over by the evil sorceress Grape, Peach must jump into a series of plays to try and save the theater’s acting troupe. To do that, she takes on the leading role of 10 different plays which each unfold over three stages. Each gig gives her a different power, which allows Showtime to dish out a good deal of variety over its lean six- to eight-hour runtime.

The bulk of Peach’s powers are fun to toy around with, especially in each’s introductory stage. When taking up the mantle of Swordfighter Peach, I’m dropped into a fantasy-action play that has me slashing through baddies and even pulling off very generous parries to leap behind them in slow motion. Dashing Thief Peach, on the other hand, has me sneaking past watchful robots, grappling around on hooks, and paragliding through the night sky to pull off a successful heist. In its first half, the consistent joy comes from discovering each new power and learning what it does.

Princess Peach hides underwater in Princess Peach: Showtime!
Nintendo

There’s a Mario Party-like charm to how Nintendo constructs each gameplay twist. Each power feels like a good minigame gimmick expanded into an idea charming enough to carry a short, collectible-filled level. Patisserie Peach most explicitly captures that design philosophy best of all, as her levels have me completing button-timing minigames to make cookies and placing icing on cakes. Figure Skater Peach is a highlight, too, as she has to jump and spin on cue to complete skating routines. Each idea might be a little too simple on its own, but they’re light fun in the context of a platforming anthology.

That hook loses some of its steam after each power’s first stage. Later “acts” don’t do much to evolve each power’s utility. Decorating cakes isn’t as delightful a surprise on the second go-around, even if the icing patterns get slightly more complex. The more action-focused powers fare better from stage to stage, like the standout Cowgirl form that has Peach chasing down runaway trains on her horse, but the back half loses the novelty that carries its 10 intro stages.

Princess Peach: Showtime! is a true kid’s game …

It doesn’t help that a few powers are outright duds, too. Detective Peach is a great idea on paper, giving players a chance to do some deduction as they hunt for clues and question the adorable Theets about a series of robberies. In practice, it’s a bit of a momentum killer with its slow-paced sleuthing that doesn’t change much from level to level. Mermaid Peach similarly falls flat as a promising mobility twist turns into a dull singing minigame.

It’s important to keep in mind, though, that Princess Peach: Showtime! is a true kid’s game, more so than most Nintendo releases this generation. Simplicity and repetition are intentional to keep things uncomplicated for its young audience. Nintendo has long excelled at this in titles like Yoshi’s Crafted World, and that design philosophy holds up here in a breezy, charming adventure. Just don’t expect it to hold older audiences’ interest as much as the more multi-generational Super Mario Bros. Wonder or Luigi’s Mansion 3.

Classic collect-a-thon

While the transformation gimmick offers some unique gameplay twists, the underlying platformer is a tried-and-true collect-a-thon. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way either; the developer has that flow down pat. Each level is filled with coins and hidden stars to collect, giving players a good reason to scour each stage thoroughly and take in every detail. The adventure’s short length doubles once it introduces all of its collectibles.

While that’s great for value, Princess Peach: Showtime! isn’t as well built for that collect-a-thon setup as some previous Switch titles with the same flow. In games like Yoshi’s Wooly World, it’s easy to pop into a platforming stage and breeze through it to find a missing collectible. Showtime’s levels aren’t quite as smooth or freeform. Each one features a lot of conversations with Theets to build up the loose narrative of each play. That’s fine on the first go-around, but stages are often tedious to replay. I’d usually feel compelled to collect everything in a game like this, but I quickly bounced off that quest once I realized how slow levels tend to unfold.

Peach stands with Theets on ice in Princess Peach: Showtime!
Nintendo

Even with that replay flaw, I still got hooked on collecting during the mainline story. My favorite detail is that Peach can buy a whole mess of dresses and color palettes for her ribbon sidekick, Stella. Considering that Peach rarely is shown out of her iconic pink costume while Mario gets to run around in a full wedding tux, it’s a welcome bit of self-expression that lets players connect with Peach in one small way.

The package is rounded out by some short but serviceable side activities that add a little more to the checklist. The theater contains a small smattering of high-score challenges, with Peach using a specific form to defeat enemies or collect coins in a certain amount of time. Those are the only areas where Showtime provides a hint of challenge for more skilled audiences. Though a few more extras like it would have helped broaden the audience, the light nature of it makes for a platformer that’s easy to pick up in short bursts where players are likely to get something done.

The art of theater

Though the play-hopping concept of Princess Peach: Showtime! is strong, it’s not quite fully realized. Levels only mirror theater in name alone. When I jump into a Ninja Peach stage, I’m simply using stealth to sneak past guards. It feels more like I’m jumping into movies than plays despite all the stages and red curtains. It’s a minor gripe but one that makes that clever theming feel a bit random.

I can’t help but feel like something’s being held back.

It’s a shame the idea doesn’t reach its full potential because Nintendo brings a feel good arts and crafts visual style to the adventure with some inventive results. Levels are made up of sets and props that look like they were crafted out of cardboard. It’s a charming design motif that lets the developers get visually creative with how its world works. When thick vines block my path, they pop up as purple standees that I need to slice through. One great Cowgirl Peach stage has me boarding a runaway train and using my lasso to pull down paper pieces of it, squishing enemies. It’s a throwback to the playful art experiments of Kirby’s Epic Yarn.

That idea isn’t consistently carried through the entire game, though. When I’m playing as Patisserie Peach, I’m basically decorating treats that look like they were pulled out of Mario Party. Some boss stages especially ditch the motif, leaning into Showtime’s more run-of-the-mill Mario art style. Considering that Nintendo has previously created entire worlds out of paper and wool, the art feels a bit held back here. I can’t help but wonder if the company is now trying to homogenize the Mushroom Kingdom a little more in its new era, giving every new release the same Disney sheen that even Super Mario RPG’s remake got.

Peach trades kicks with a kung fu master in Princess Peach: Showtime!
Nintendo

While Princess Peach: Showtime! is full of inventive fun, there are moments where I can’t help but feel like something’s being held back. Rather than getting the total reinvention of Captain Toad or Luigi’s Mansion, we’re left with a spinoff that’s careful not to stray too far from a newly unified Mario look and feel. Maybe that comes from a more protective Nintendo that’s careful not to repeat the flaws of its heavily dissected Super Princess Peach. Or maybe it’s just some first-performance jitters as Nintendo tries to give Peach the solo adventure she deserves.

Whatever the reason may be, Princess Peach: Showtime! mostly works as a crowd-pleasing first act for a new series. It may not be a star-making debut, but what’s important is that Princess Peach truly finds her voice here — something that’ll go a long way with young players who see her as a role model. With a little refinement, she’s bound to steal the show on her next outing.

Princess Peach: Showtime! was tested on a Nintendo Switch OLED in handheld mode and on a TCL 6-Series R635 when docked.

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Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
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