Princess Peach: Showtime! seemingly came out of nowhere when it was initially teased during a Nintendo Direct in 2023. Less than a year later, the full game is upon us. It brings Peach into the spotlight for the first time since her 2005 solo outing, Super Princess Peach. That’s a long time between titles but, oh boy, has it been worth the wait.

In the game, Peach sets out for a night at the Sparkle Theater with her loyal Toads. Things go awry when the theater is overrun by a ghastly witch known as Grape. Peach finds herself trapped, befriending the theater’s adorable star-shaped guardian known as Stella. Together, the two embark on an epic quest to restore the theater and its inhabitants to its former glory.

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And so, the stage has been set in more ways than one. Sparkle Theater features several floors, each with four rooms set up for plays. The main gimmick is Peach’s ability to transform into various roles based on the play she’s trying to save. This provides outstanding variety, with each role granting special powers.

Peach is more than ready to take on the challenge. She dons ten different outfits throughout the adventure, from Cowgirl Peach to Dashing Thief Peach. Discovering each one is super fun, and the game does a good job of spacing them out. You’ll begin with access to four different plays on the first floor of the theater before unlocking the next floor. This provides three new plays, along with a sequel to one of the original four. It’s not until the fourth floor that you discover all ten abilities.

Once you’ve mastered an ability by conquering two dedicated levels, a third level unlocks in the basement. If you’re counting along with me, you should find yourself with thirty levels to enjoy. One concern I had starting out was whether this was enough to keep players occupied. Yes and no, is the answer. 

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Each level takes between 10 and 20 minutes to complete, so they aren’t exactly short. A couple of other features also add to the longevity. Firstly, each level features hidden collectibles: a series of sparkle gems and a ribbon. I found myself missing at least a couple of these in each level on my first run, guaranteeing another playthrough if you’re a completionist like me. 

Secondly, there are bonus challenge levels to conquer, giving you a timed experience to defeat a certain number of enemies or collect coins. These shorter levels provide a nice contrast to the rest of the game, with a simple goal in mind. They’re also refreshingly trickier to master, catering for more adept players. You’ll earn a bronze, silver or gold trophy depending on your prowess. No collector will rest until the gold has been earned, making these bite-sized challenges an excellent addition.

All of that is great but it’s perfunctory to the fact that Princess Peach: Showtime! oozes personality, cuteness, and fun. Each transformation feels unique and special, with little details that bring a smile every time. It’s evident in the way Peach stealthily hides behind grass as Ninja Peach, or soars through the sky à la Batman as Dashing Thief Peach. Mighty Peach can lift buses; Mermaid Peach controls fish with her siren song. Whether Peach is riding a horse as Cowgirl Peach or skating up a storm as Figure-Skating Peach, each version of our heroine feels fresh. Kudos to the developers for the creativity behind each and every scene.

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There are other touches that add to the experience. For example, Peach does the cutest little dance when she stands still. It’s adorable and it comes across as though she’s really enjoying herself without being a show off. She’s just .. being Peach. She also has several catchphrases depending on her outfit. I love the simple “It’s Peach time!”, which strikes me as a small nod to one of Mario’s own phrases.

Some players will find things too easy, of course. This is primarily aimed at a younger audience, although there are challenges present, as noted earlier. To help keep things accessible for players of all ages and skill levels, the controls are straightforward: A to jump and B to attack or perform any of Peach’s special transformative powers. This is one irk I had with the game initially, as, for me, jump is meant to be the B button, especially in Mario games. I’m not sure why this choice was made to switch things up, however you can alter this yourself in the settings. Phew! 

Visually, there’s a lot to love about Showtime. Each stage is bursting with set designs to rival the most expensive broadway production. Often, an area will rotate, revealing a completely new stage. Other little touches include strings for some objects, like Peach’s horse, or items that look real but are obviously cardboard, like fire and thorny branches. These elicit a vibrant presence that relies on color and style without being too realistic or violent. It works well.

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The themes vary so wildly that there’s never a dull moment on screen. Medieval castles, underwater realms, a futuristic city overrun by aliens, and the Wild West are just some of the environments Peach encounters. Half the fun is discovering each new area, though opening up a second level is just as exciting. 

The audio is also worth mentioning, with tracks that vary almost as much as the visuals. Some tracks in particular stand out, like Cowgirl Peach and Figure-Skating Peach, but they’re all well done. It adds to the entire experience, and Showtime even features a list of tracks and videos to watch at your leisure.

You can also purchase outfits for Peach and Stella at the shop in the foyer. It’s a small touch, but I love that changing Peach’s clothes persists throughout the game, including cutscenes. It makes it feel more dynamic and authentic.

Is Peach the perfect game? No, it’s not going to appeal to everyone. It’s aimed at a younger audience, but as an adult gamer who loves the challenge of a Mario title, I never found myself bored or disengaged. The variety and personality kept me smiling the entire time, and there are challenging moments. I did notice some sluggish performance at times, although these seem to be limited to loading screens or cutscenes. For example, the curtain that closes between levels stutters instead of waving smoothly, which looks a little jarring. Thankfully, none of these issues affect the gameplay.

Overall, Princess Peach: Showtime! is a welcome return to the spotlight for our favorite pink-clad princess. It oozes charm, with an attention to detail that can’t help but bring a smile. The variety is fantastic, providing plenty to do across multiple transformations, levels, and modes. It’s not super difficult, but it’s so entertaining that I don’t care. Plus, there are multiple challenges to keep players coming back for more.