Review: In ‘Princess Peach: Showtime!’ a Mario supporting character gets a starring role


Princess Peach gives a high five to Stella, her sidekick in 'Princess Peach: Showtime!' — Photos: Nintendo/TNS)

Despite being the ruler of the Mushroom Kingdom, Princess Peach has always played a supporting role in Nintendo’s games. She’s normally the one rescued or a playable character in an ensemble adventure, but that changes this year.

For the first time since 2005’s Super Princess Peach, the heroine stars in her own game. Princess Peach: Showtime! follows the royal as she heads to the Sparkle Theater for a performance. Her visit is disrupted when Madame Grape and her Sour Bunch take over the building and the plays. With the help of the theater guardian, Stella, Peach embarks on a mission to clear the facility’s basement and five floors of ne’er-do-wells.

From theatergoer to understudy

At first, Peach has a few basic moves. She can jump and use a ribbon to interact with the environment and cheer up Sparkle Theater’s inhabitants, the Theets. As players progress through each floor, they unlock stage-specific roles. With 10 main roles and an additional one in the finale, the campaign pushes Peach to extend her “acting” range.

The formula begins with the protagonist unlocking a role in the first stage. She essentially becomes an understudy. The second act allows players to explore more of those abilities and the third level in the Sparkle Theater basement has Peach rescuing the main performer called Stella from the clutches of Madame Grape’s minions.

What’s notable about Showtime! is that each role and level has a distinct vibe and method of gameplay. The campaign isn’t all about platforming and defeating foes with an ability. Kung Fu and Swordfighter Peach fill that simple but satisfying gameplay niche, but the princess can do more than combo attacks.

Choosing the best roles

Cowgirl Peach follows the same lines, but she uses a lasso to grab adversaries. Smart players can use that ability to toss enemies at each other. Dashing Thief Peach follows a similar tack, but her grappling hook gives these levels a more platform-heavy approach.

Ninja Peach, one of the juicier roles, adds a stealth element to gameplay. She has to sneak past foes and attack them from behind to defeat them. Rushing at them head-on results in players restarting from a checkpoint.

Cowgirl Peach is a role where she uses a lasso to defeat foes in 'Princess Peach: Showtime!'Cowgirl Peach is a role where she uses a lasso to defeat foes in 'Princess Peach: Showtime!'

Of all the action-heavy roles, Mighty Peach has the best levels. A lot of that has to do with her superhero ability, allowing her to smash the Sour Bunch with punches and grab buses and UFOs out of the air to clear enemies in her way. The developer, Good-Feel, also takes advantage of Mighty Peach’s flight abilities to create side-scrolling shoot-’em-up levels comparable to R-type.

A diversity of play

Although these quick-twitch levels are fun, Showtime! offers gameplay opportunities that are slower-paced and quirky. Patisserie Peach has players doing a slew of Cooking Mama-ish minigames to make cookies and decorate cakes. Detective Peach is more cerebral and has players analyzing objects and piecing together clues to find Sour Bunch adversaries disguised as Theets or finding and disarming bombs. These levels are more puzzle-oriented and a great change of pace when choosing levels on a floor.

The most unusual role is Mermaid Peach, which has players controlling fish to interact with the world. The levels have a Little Mermaid vibe as the princess sings to control the marine life, which can open seashells and help her overcome obstacles. The mermaid finales are musical in nature and have Peach protecting herself with her voice against enemies. For all its unconventional design, these stages were the most delightful to play.

Mermaid Peach sings and controls marine life under the sea in 'Princess Peach: Showtime!'Mermaid Peach sings and controls marine life under the sea in 'Princess Peach: Showtime!'

The worst role is Figure Skater Peach, which requires a lot of maneuvering. Peach has to jump and twirl to defeat enemies and clear obstacles and that can be frustrating because players skate around doing wide turns. The controls and gameplay feel cumbersome.

Room for an encore?

With more than 30 levels and minigames, Showtime! is on the shorter side, but it has replayability elements as players will go through the same level several times to find all the stars and gather other secret collectibles. The game rewards players who find all the stars with special album art of Peach’s performances. Players will also have the ability to purchase new costumes with the in-game coins that players earn. The cosmetics even apply to the Stella sidekick. It’s unfortunate they don’t do more than change the look.

Showtime! is proof that Princess Peach can carry a project and carve out a gameplay niche. Good-Feel made a smart move giving the Mushroom Kingdom royal her own gameplay identity or at least several of them. It proves that Peach can have as much range as her mustachioed counterpart. – The Mercury News/Tribune News Service

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Princess Peach: Showtime!

3 stars out of 4

Platform: Nintendo Switch

Rating: Everyone 10 and up

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