Princess Peach: Showtime Is A Tasting Menu Of Different Genres

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Princess Peach: Showtime defies easy categorization. Princess Peach has had her own starring vehicle before, the 2005 DS game Super Princess Peach, but that game was a straightforward platformer. Every new trailer for Showtime displays such a variety of mechanics I’ve been left wondering: What the heck is this game? Having now gotten an extended hands-on, the answer isn’t as mysterious as I’d thought. It’s a sampler of different genres, presented simply, seemingly intended to help new players get a hang of them. That may mean it doesn’t scratch the itch of experienced capital-G Gamers, but it’s a sweet idea to let Princess Peach–fresh off her starring role in the blockbuster Mario movie–be the one to gently usher in a new generation of players.

The story begins when Peach and her loyal Toad companions are invited to a playhouse and decide to take in the show. Shortly after arriving, the theater is taken over by a villainess named Grape and her Sour Bunch minions, tossing out the Toads, locking the doors, and rewriting all the plays. Left by herself with a bunch of panicking playhouse workers–a new race of silly-looking creatures called Theets–Peach takes it upon herself to step into each play and restore order.

My demo included five of the costumes–swordfighter, ninja, cowgirl, patissiere, and the newly revealed figure skater. While each version feels roughly similar in terms of movement, every costume has very different mechanics and even stage goals that make them all feel distinct. Princess Peach: Showtime is like a sampler box of chocolates–they’re all chocolate, but the filling sets them apart from each other.

From the start, you can choose to take on the stages in any order from an overworld, similar to jumping into the paintings in Super Mario 64. Once you’ve completed a set of stages another floor opens and you can choose from those. (For my demo, the figure skater stage was presented separately, so it must have been at a higher floor.)

I started with the swordfighter, figuring it would be the most traditional and familiar to get a feel for the game. Like all of the stages, the swordfighter play took place on a 2.5D stage that allowed movement within a shallow plane. There are collectibles to pick up and secrets to find, and if you notice a glowing spot on stage, you can hit a dedicated pose button that will trigger a special animation and whisk you away to a hidden backstage bonus area. Aside from the pose button, you have one button dedicated to jumping, and another dedicated to whatever contextual action your current costume calls for. That’s it.

The button arrangement is simple, but it did take me a little while to get a proper feel for it. That’s because contrary to the usual, the jump button is dedicated to A on the Switch controller, while the action button is set to B. I’m much more used to the Y-B button placement for action and jump, so this took a little recalibration to get a feel for the controls.

Sure enough, though, swordfighter Peach controlled like a character-action side-scroller, right down to a light parry system if you hit the jump button at the right moment during an enemy attack. Peach’s sword-swipes felt nicely impactful, and the design of the “play” revolved around saving a kingdom from a monstrous plant–a perfect excuse to swipe at things with your sword without seeming too overtly violent. And it’s just so gosh-darn charming seeing Peach dressed as a musketeer fighting her way up a staircase like an old Errol Flynn movie.

Next I tried the patissiere (pastry chef), under the assumption that it would be as different from the swordfighter as possible. Even expecting that, I was surprised at how differentiated it was. The patissiere wasn’t an action-platformer at all, but rather a minigame compilation in the style of Cooking Mama. Instead of dispatching enemies, you make cookies with careful timing and decorate cakes with precision movements to place the icing. There was no boss challenge to this stage, instead ending after frantically decorating a series of cakes with a strict time limit.

The cowgirl stage was slightly more traditional, but less melee-focused than the swordfighter. Instead, Peach was equipped with a lasso while enemies had what can only be described as goopy paintball six-shooters, which made much of the stage focus around dodging shots while grabbing platforming elements or enemies with the lasso and flinging them at each other. The boss battle was a wild chase on horseback, with a beautifully animated play-puppet serving as your white steed.

Swordfighter Peach is ready to swash some buckles

Ninja Peach was my personal favorite, a simple stealth-action game full of charming animations as Peach blended into her environment like tall grass, breathing through a bamboo reed while underwater, or holding up a piece of cover matching a patterned wall. You could still dispatch enemies with your kunai but the real fun was watching her sneak past them and exploring the stage for different types of cover.

After a short break, I was able to try out the figure skater play, which was again something else entirely. The classic Mario staple of slipping around haplessly in an ice stage was turned on its head as Peach donned her skates and glided gracefully through the stage. Instead of direct combat, the ice would alight with moving symbols prompting you to jump or spin, making gliding over to them and nailing a trick at the right time feel appropriately balletic. The final encounter revolved around a synchronized ice dance, as the enemy boss kept brainwashing and stealing my Theets and I had to win them back with the power of ice-dancing.

Like any tasting menu, none of these stages felt like a full meal. The plays were relatively short–I finished all five within the hour or so I was given and picked up most of the collectibles along the way. And each of them was relatively simple, without the depth of a fully dedicated game. It may be that the stages and mechanics get more complex as the game progresses, but I suspect that isn’t the case. Instead, Princess Peach: Showtime seems to confidently know exactly what it is, and that’s a way for gaming novices to get a taste for lots of different types of games and find the ones they love.