Princess Peach: Showtime! preview - the stage is set

Patissiere Peach in Princess Peach Showtime
(Image credit: Nintendo)

Princess Peach: Showtime! is shaping up to be far and away one of the most approachable Nintendo games this console generation. A cute and colorful action-adventure title launching exclusively for the Nintendo Switch, it stars the eponymous royal in her very first solo outing on the platform.

With Mario and Luigi nowhere to be seen, it seems that some inspiration has been drawn from Peach’s more assertive role in The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Despite the focus on a set of magical theater costumes that introduce varied mechanics, a simple two-button control scheme makes this a perfect entry point for more casual gamers or younger fans of the movie who want a less demanding way to play as their favorite character.

I recently went hands-on with the game for an hour at an in-person preview event, where I came away pleasantly surprised by the charming art direction and just how distinct this adventure feels compared to the wider Super Mario series.

 Sweet and sour

Swordfighter Peach in Princess Peach Showtime.

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Madame Grape and the Sour Bunch have taken over the Sparkle Theater, corrupting the plays and trapping its unlucky residents, the Theets, within. It’s up to Princess Peach and the theater’s mystical guardian Stella to save the day. This straightforward story is conveyed via animated cutscenes accompanied by text dialogue that, despite all looking suitably attractive, disappointingly lacks a narrator.

It’s a minor omission in what is a realistically smaller-scale spinoff title but does seem at odds with the clear interest in appealing to a younger demographic who might want something more digestible. Nevertheless, the intro is effective and quickly transitions into the small hub world of the theater’s foyer where you can wander around and chat with some roaming Theets. One of them offers an optional item that grants Peach three additional lives, smartly integrating a more forgiving difficulty mode for those who may need it.

Ninja Peach moves underwater in Princess Peach Showtime.

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Each level takes place within one of the distorted plays where Princess Peach is thrust into the starring role. The foyer is flanked by four large doors, each leading to a new stage. Further floors of the theater then become available as you progress. While you’re given some freedom to approach the levels in any order you wish, your first destination should be the medieval-inspired swordfighter’s story as it introduces all of the core mechanics in a very clear fashion.

At the beginning of the level, Peach is given a magic ribbon that can be used to defeat waves of Sour Bunch minions and help inspire dejected Theets. This ribbon’s ‘Sparkle’ power is your main way to interact with the world, revealing hidden coins and triggering key objects that are necessary to open the path to progress.

The environments are noticeably simplistic and linear, presented from a side-on perspective similar to the presentation of Yoshi’s Crafted World but with a small amount of additional freedom in being able to walk towards and away from the camera. 

Each section I played contained a spot of platforming here and there, but it was never the main focus. The pace is quite pedestrian on the whole, a very clear departure from the bombastic overwhelming action of recent Super Mario Bros. Wonder, which might be a let-down for more hardcore players, but proved quite a relaxing experience for me.

 Suit up

Ninja Peach in Princess Peach Showtime.

(Image credit: Nintendo)

While you begin each stage equipped with just your ribbon, you eventually don a costume that awards some new abilities. In the sections I played, each costume was restricted to a specific level and could only be obtained at a set point. Despite these limitations, it’s here that Princess Peach: Showtime! is really at its most promising as it transforms into a series of unique challenges that see you making the best use of each costume’s powers. 

As the more combat-focused Swordfighter Peach, you stylishly fend off foes with a rapier while dodging incoming attacks in slow-motion parries. Going head-to-head with powerful miniboss enemies, it’s an entertaining departure from the kinds of challenges that you might expect from a Super Mario spinoff. Likewise, another stage sees you assume the garb of Ninja Peach, which allows you to sneak around patrolling guards, hide in long grass, disguise yourself against flat surfaces, wall jump, and breathe underwater with a bamboo pipe. 

Cowgirl Peach in Princess Peach Showtime.

(Image credit: Nintendo)

My personal favorite, the Patissiere Peach outfit, turns things on its head and focuses on a selection of charming cake-decorating minigames that would feel right at home in Mario Party. Then, there’s Cowgirl Peach who has a handy lasso that can intercept incoming projectiles and the ability to ride a fast-moving horse. There’s a promising amount of variety here, with each new costume feeling truly different from the last.

The costumes themselves are all visually appealing, with designs that ooze with personality. The same can be said of the animations for each new action, which are slick and often quite amusing. Even if none of the encounters are particularly challenging for more experienced players, there’s still a lot to love in how well everything is presented. It’s all supported by superb visual direction, too. The theatrical aesthetic is sublime, with adorable little details like stage lighting or visible wires holding up elements of cardboard scenery helping to sell the effect.

These levels are also home to a handful hidden collectible stars. While I was able to find almost all of them on my first go, a few remained elusive giving some incentive for another playthrough.

My only serious area of concern is the game’s overall technical performance. While it may have been the result of an early build, I was extremely disappointed to see the frame rate visibly suffer in some of the more intensive moments. Loading times were also quite long, on average taking over 30 seconds to load into each new stage, and there were often unpleasant jagged borders around objects and character models that lent some scenes quite an unpolished look.

I found this especially baffling given the almost flawless performance of far more ambitious Nintendo Switch titles like Super Mario Odyssey or The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and am hoping that these issues will be ironed out in time for the full release.

Otherwise, while the game’s more simplistic nature is certainly not going to be for everyone, almost everything I saw of Princess Peach: Showtime! was encouraging. The stage could very well be set for an impressive all-ages title and I’m looking forward to the curtain being lifted when the game launches on March 22, 2024.

After some more Nintendo Switch games? See our guide to the best Nintendo Switch games right now. For more on Mario, see our list of the best Super Mario games.

Dashiell Wood
Hardware Writer

Dash is TechRadar Gaming's Hardware Writer. Before joining TechRadar, he was a print journalist writing articles for some of the UK's biggest gaming magazines including PLAY, Edge, PC Gamer, and SFX. Now, when he's not getting his greasy little mitts on the newest hardware or gaming gadget, he can be found feverishly devouring the latest Nintendo Switch otome.