Games: Princess Peach: Showtime! puts Mario’s squeeze back in the spotlight for second solo adventure

The Mushroom Kingdom’s heroine returns in her first solo title for almost 20 years

Princess Peach is back in Princess Peach: Showtime!
Princess Peach: Showtime! .

Princess Peach: Showtime! (Switch, Nintendo)

A female-centric game starring an independent lady? It’s wokery gone mad! After last year’s Mario movie transformed the Mushroom Kingdom’s monarch from damsel in distress – a role she’s inhabited since 1985′s Super Mario Bros – to kick-ass heroine, Princes Peach has become the new Elsa for little girls.

And now, coasting on Barbie’s pink fumes, there’s more feminist fun for the petticoated potentate as she takes literal centre stage in her first solo title for nearly 20 years.

Second time in the spotlight for Mario’s sweetheart (after 2005′s Super Princess Peach) sees our princess turn drama queen, treading the boards of the Sparkle Theatre, where the malevolent Madame Grape and her legion of purple minions have corrupted the plays and kidnapped its lead actors.

It’s up to Peach and the theatre’s magical guardian, Stella, to save the day for the cutesy Thesping Theets.

Like her fruity namesake, this Peach has inner toughness as she gathers star-like Sparkle Gems across five theatrical floors, saving each production by donning its lead character’s togs and transforming into a variety of characters, a la ‘70s kids show Mr Benn, the bowler-hatted businessman with a kink for dress-up.

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All her world’s a stage, and across 30 levels, Peach will play everything from a ninja, mermaid and detective to figure skater and pastry chef, with each side-scrolling level taking on unique gameplay elements to suit her persona. Best of all are the lasso-wielding cowgirl, stealthy ninja and Zorro-like swordfighter, with welcome changes of pace for Patissiere Peach, who decorates cakes against the clock.

A picture showing the full range of Princess Peach's personas, from pastry chef to sword-wielding swashbuckler
Princess Peach: Showtime! Our heroine can take on a full range of personas, from pastry chef to swashbuckler (Neil Mcgreevy)

With such a broad range of levels, there are inevitable stinkers, such as Mermaid Peach (singing to fish is about as fun as it sounds) and Detective Peach, who combs painfully slow crime scenes with a magnifying glass.

Channelling the spirit of past masters, from Metal Gear Solid to Shinobi, no two levels are the same, and there’s plenty of secrets to comb over past worlds for. As relentlessly charming as it is mechanically simple, some stages aren’t much more than mobile-quality mini games.

Yet, despite its linear design and controls designed for younger players, glimmers of that old Mario magic shine through, especially in its boss battles.

Princess Peach: Showtime!
Princess Peach: Showtime! .

As a Nintendo A-lister, Peach boasts lavish production values, with a distinctly hand-crafted look to its scenery, even if the poor old Switch is showing its years, with occasional frame-rate hitches and interminable loading screens.

The most unashamedly ‘girly’ game Nintendo has ever made, Showtime is perfect for the little princess in your life - hell, even the princes will get a kick out of it.

Don’t let a lack of youth or estrogen stop you from enjoying an endlessly creative platformer that’s just, well, peachy.

Princess Peach: Showtime!
Princess Peach: Showtime! .

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