Princess Peach: Showtime! Review: A Princess of All Trades, and a Master of None

Showtime! is more like an audition than a full-length play.

Princess Peach: Showtime
Photo: Nintendo

In Princess Peach: Showtime!, Peach quite literally takes center stage, claiming the lead role in a variety of productions staged at Sparkle Theater in an effort to save renown Sparkla actors and reclaim the spotlight from evil Madame Grape and her Sour Bunch followers. It’s a neat hook, as the developers at Good-Feel seem to have gone out of their way to address how Peach is usually sidelined in the world of Super Mario Bros. by giving her 10 parts to play. Sadly, these are far from plum roles, and the game is largely hit or miss.

Showtime! is a structurally formulaic game. The Sparkle Theater’s five floors have four shows (or levels), each one completed by stepping into the shoes (or ice skates) of a specific role and earning you door-opening Sparkle Gems. Clearing those unlocks a fight against a light-themed boss, such as the blinged-out Disco Wing and the Cheshire-like Purrjector Cat, after which players can proceed to the next floor. That formulaic-ness, though, is by design, in that the plainness of the hub provides a sharp contrast to the imaginative staging of each, well, stage.

But while it’s admirable that the developers have created distinct elements in each level, from Ninja Peach’s stealthy sequences to Cowgirl Peach’s horseback chases and lasso battles, they’re little more than colorful sketches. Detective Peach’s limited investigatory skills have nothing on the Pikachu of Detective Pikachu, while Figure Skater Peach’s axel jump and spin wouldn’t even medal at Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games. The post-game offerings are similarly shallow, adding at best a new collectible for which to replay levels instead of ever developing or testing the limited skills. Mermaid Peach’s three scenes may have different backdrops, but they’re all completed by using your singing voice to guide your helper fish around.

Advertisement

For those who’ve never played the delightful Puppeteer, or even a bona fide delight like Good-Feel’s Yoshi’s Crafted World, which also allows players to go behind the scenes, Showtime! will at least feel polished. The so-called “restraints” of theatrical imagination are consistently and cleverly nodded at, from the sight of Swordfighter Peach slashing through cardboard thorns to Mighty Peach’s reflection on the stage floor as she flies through “space.”

Showtime! doesn’t want for creativity or style. That much is clear from the animations given to each of Peach’s forms. The problem is that the game’s performative, vignette-y nature all but forces it to aim for moments of quick spectacle over a slower-burning dramatic substance. To put it another way, Showtime! is more like an audition than a full-length play. And even at its best, as with Dashing Thief Peach’s laser-dodging, grappling-hooking prison break, Showtime! still feels derivative of the games that fully committed to the act, like Sly Cooper.

All that said, Showtime! is relentlessly charming, and its short, relatively uncomplicated plays will probably kill with a younger demographic. In fact, the setting also plays to the game’s favor whenever secret areas are too obviously telegraphed: Being able to see the strings, like the ones holding up Kung Fu Peach’s martial-arts marionette rival, is a part of the overall aesthetic and performance, not a mark against it. In the end, and perhaps above all, it’s just peachy to see such love given to the arts, with Darkle foes dispatched as much by dazzlingly synchronous ice skating and “the power of song” as by lassos, katanas, and a properly parrying kick.

This game was reviewed with code provided by Golin on March 22.

Score: 
 Developer: Good-Feel  Publisher: Nintendo  Platform: Switch  Release Date: March 22, 2024  ESRB: E10+  ESRB Descriptions: Fantasy Violence  Buy: Game

Aaron Riccio

Aaron has been playing games since the late ’80s and writing about them since the early ’00s. He also obsessively writes about crossword clues at The Crossword Scholar.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Previous Story

Review: School May Be Out, But South Park: Snow Day! Just Feels Like Work

Next Story

BIOMORPH Review: Mega Man Meets Kirby in a 2D Metroidvania in Search of Purpose