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Princess Peach: Showtime! Review

They call her Princess, but she is my Queen

Princess Peach is long overdue for a go in the spotlight, so what better setting than a game that quite literally puts her both centre stage and gives her top billing. Princess Peach: Showtime! is the latest imaginative adventure to put a Nintendo character through their paces, and is the first game in a long time to feature our royal Toadstool as the main playable character.

The game throws Peach into a situation unlike any she’s faced before. The villainous Madame Grape and her sour bunch of goons have taken over the beloved Sparkle Theatre, threatening to ruin the shows within and torment the Theets that live there – harmless little friends who would rather be performing. Partnering with the mysterious Stella, Peach must use her talents (and some surprising transformations) to save the day.

How many Nintendo titles let you thwart a terrorist plot?

The signature feature of Showtime is the concept of role transformations. Ditching the damsel-in-distress routine, Peach can take on a variety of starring roles, each with unique abilities that define how a level (well, stage) is to be played. Becoming a swashbuckling swordfighter means you are diving into combat, suiting up as a cunning detective will ask you to search for clues, or donning the garb of a pastry chef (or pâtissier if you are fancy) will see you whipping up delicious treats and decorating gigantic cakes. Every transformation artfully shifts your gameplay experience and the associated stage that comes with it – and if you aren’t yet wearing a costume, you get a magic ribbon to help inspire the Theets and fix smaller scale problems; but it’s clearly not the focus of Peaches repertoire.

These role transformations are all incredibly varied and creative, but the important thing is that they are all equally fun. After having a bombastic cowgirl adventure, complete with lassos and a thrilling horse chase, seeing the game ask me to shift down several gears and look for clues as a detective had me concerned that each experience may be a little too siloed to make a cohesive experience. But in truth I had just as much fun tracking down a stolen mural as I did with rustling up some diabolical cowpokes. A great deal of this is attributed to the amount of charm and character in each world, with the resident Theets throwing out amusing dialogue and quips to help set the mood.

Outstanding Shinobi skills

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The game embraces its theatrical theme with vibrant environments inspired by the world of performance. Stages come alive with colourful backdrops and playful details, while the soundtrack offers a delightful mix of catchy tunes and dramatic flourishes. A continuous joy is seeing how all the props and doodads within the world lean into the stage show aesthetic, roughly cut from cardboard or dangling from string, with texture work taking on the scrawled appearance of markers and hurried paint. It’s deliciously appealing and does a lot of the work to ensure that Showtime stands apart from other Nintendo adventures.

Progression is then standard fare, in a ‘if-it-aint-broke-then-why-fix-it’ methodology of completing levels and earning macguffins that can then be used to access further levels. In the case of Showtime you are earning Sparkle Gems by completing objectives within a level, which are then turned in to unlock a boss door. Every show has a generous amount of these gems to find, either by exploration or completing a scripted challenge – with the replayability coming from some of the more cleverly hidden gems. Secret hunting is good fun, finding areas that you may easily miss by being observant – or finding and standing in a beaming spotlight to hit a pose and warp to a mini challenge room. Pleasingly, the amount of Sparkle Gems gained by completing a level in a standard way seems to be plenty to keep progression cooking along. This means that the completionist portion of the game is mostly for fun and to gain glamor shots from the resident theatre photographer, showing off how great you performed in your role.

I do have to mention a mere gripe for explorers’ sake, being the merciless prevention of backtracking. Levels are rarely a sprawling point A to point B affair, often having clear screen-to-screen progression, showing a stage direction where Peach will absolutely ‘EXIT: STAGE RIGHT’. This can mean that your efforts to chase those additional Sparkle Gems may get roadblocked by the occasional whoopsie when you wander beyond your means – irritating when you have picked up the scent of a gem offered by doing something simple, like interacting with scenery or cheering up sad Theets. This then means you need to wholly forsake that particular gem for this attempt and return to the level proper at a later time – there is no jumping back to a prior checkpoint to try again. A similar title that handled this better in my mind would be Kirby and the Forgotten Land, which seemed to carefully signpost times when you’d leave an area – something missing in Showtime.

Mighty Peach deserves a dedicated spin off

Some may find the levels to be a little cramped in their execution, especially when compared to titles like the aforementioned Kirby and the Forgotten Land or Mario Odyssey – but you quickly accept that it’s matching the scope of how a stage layout would work. The ethereal playhouse that is the Sparkle Theatre has precisely enough room to run more than a dozen stage productions, so you’ll likely be quick to forgive that this game has a very different scope for what you should expect from your play space. articularly when the scenery budget allows for occasional things like a giant ice skating arena, or a high-budget epic flying segment for Mighty Peach to take down an enemy UFO– the grandiose nature of these areas made all the more enjoyable after the smaller scale platforming segments. This is mirrored in the boss encounters that take all that signature creative flair you would come to expect from such a title and utilise fun attack patterns and arenas that lean heavily into the various role transformations you take along with you. One boss highlight that has yet to escape my mind is a completely combat free encounter, where my graceful figure skater Peach absolutely slammed one of the sour bunch by out-performing him in an ice dancing routine. Absolutely rekt.

Really, the only outward facing issue that I can’t understand or forgive is the odd performance hitches that exist within the game. While they never impact gameplay, there were some strange hiccups and game stutters when a cutscene began playing, or during a loading screen. These happened whether running the title docked or handheld, and often I would be super forgiving of tiny hiccups that are only noticeable when the game is doing something taxing – but I can’t stress how wretched these loading screens appear. Being a Switch title, you expect load screens and are quick to forgive – but the 5-10 FPS stuttering animation of a closing show curtain or dancing spotlight is the visual equivalent of nails on a chalkboard between the games other stunning visual sections, curiously lacking that usual secret sauce that comes from first party Nintendo titles. I find myself wondering if it is the kind of thing that will benefit from a day one update, as I imagine ‘ugly loading screen performance’ must rank very low on the priority list that comes with a new title release.

Final Thoughts

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Nintendo has a knack for finding brilliant new ways to keep an existing formula fresh, and in the case of Princess Peach: Showtime! they have managed to take the concept of a simple platformer and spin it on its axis to create something varied and engaging. The Showtime format offers a fantastic opportunity to explore the capabilities of Peach as a character, allowing her to literally slip into multiple roles and wear a myriad of hats – crushing each and every one she attempts. I came away hopeful to see more in future – though I will admit I’d love to see a dedicated Mighty Peach game, if they want to explore that Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker spin-off route at some point. Please? Nintendo?

Reviewed on Switch // Review code supplied by publisher

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Princess Peach: Showtime! Review
The Show Must Go On
With its emphasis on action, exploration, and a heaped helping of theatricality, Princess Peach: Showtime! showcases that our dear Princess is more than comfortable in the spotlight. If the odd performance issues subside, it may just be ready for a standing ovation.
The Good
Peach saving the day with theatrical flair is awesome
Role transformations are super inventive and eternally fun
The playhouse setting offers a visually creative and lighthearted atmosphere
Perfectly scoped for all players to enjoy
You get to be a figure skater and defeat a boss by out-dancing him
The Bad
While they don’t impact gameplay, the performance issues are puzzling
Definitely aimed towards a younger audience, so while challenge is present - it is not a big priority
Lack of meaningful backtracking within a stage can feel a little stifling
8.5
GET AROUND IT
  • Nintendo
  • Nintendo
  • Switch
  • March 22, 2024

Princess Peach: Showtime! Review
The Show Must Go On
With its emphasis on action, exploration, and a heaped helping of theatricality, Princess Peach: Showtime! showcases that our dear Princess is more than comfortable in the spotlight. If the odd performance issues subside, it may just be ready for a standing ovation.
The Good
Peach saving the day with theatrical flair is awesome
Role transformations are super inventive and eternally fun
The playhouse setting offers a visually creative and lighthearted atmosphere
Perfectly scoped for all players to enjoy
You get to be a figure skater and defeat a boss by out-dancing him
The Bad
While they don’t impact gameplay, the performance issues are puzzling
Definitely aimed towards a younger audience, so while challenge is present – it is not a big priority
Lack of meaningful backtracking within a stage can feel a little stifling
8.5
GET AROUND IT
Written By Ash Wayling

Known throughout the interwebs simply as M0D3Rn, Ash is bad at video games. An old guard gamer who suffers from being generally opinionated, it comes as no surprise that he is both brutally loyal and yet, fiercely whimsical about all things electronic. On occasion will make a youtube video that actually gets views. Follow him on YouTube @Bad at Video Games

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