A piece of cake.
With Mario taking a break from his bread-and-butter platform antics to explore tennis, soccer, role-playing, parties and dancing, fans of the plumber's original M.O. probably feel a little put out. After all, the last time you stomped a goomba or slid under a thwamp trap in a new Mario adventure was nearly four years ago, and by now some of you have simply gotten too good at old Mario games.
We hoped Nintendo's new dual-screened venue might call the mustachioed marauder back from his dalliances (he's really not that good at soccer), but up until now, no one has made him an offer he couldn't refuse. Instead, they made it to Princess Peach, and we know that hussie doesn't turn anything down.
So will you after about an hour in her lukewarm 2D side-scrolling adventure. With all the trappings of a Mario game but none of the difficulty, Super Princess Peach is at once refreshingly familiar and pointlessly easy. At least the game suits the character.
[image1] If you think that's off-color, brace yourself for the awkwardly sexual plot. Princess Peach returns to her castle after a daily stroll to find her subjects in disarray, her man kidnapped, and her vibe wand stolen. But instead of baking a cake about it, she focuses her wildly fluctuating emotions on the retrieval of her man and her magic wand. The power of PMS in the palm of your hand.
What distinguishes Super Princess Peach is the way you use her emotions - or vibes - to overcome obstacles. Featured on the touch-screen as four colored hearts, these simply need to be touched to send Peach from one crazy emotional state to another. At any moment, she can turn into a towering inferno and incinerate wooden obstacles, burst into tears to water climbable plants, become so happy she can fly, or regain her composure, which also refills her health meter. Get that girl some chocolate!
All you need to set her off is a little energy in her vibe meter, which can either be gained through randomly scattered jewels (ugh) or by sucking enemies through her talking parasol. That's right - the Princess carries a lethal umbrella with a mysterious past. You can wield it like a sword, smacking enemies to death, or scoop them up and toss them ala Super Mario Brothers 2. You can also buy new abilities for your umbrella at Toad's shop, if you have the coin. Fortunately they're cheap, so within almost no time at all you can purchase a ground stomp, projectile attack, or the ability to glide a bit.
With such an esoteric selection of powers, you might think Super Princess Peach would present some extremely outlandish puzzles, but most are obvious, one-step matters such as burning wooden bridges to get to the secret items beneath or using the happy flight power to reach hidden ledges, unequivocally and ubiquitously pointed out by arrows made of coins.
[image2] While the means to overcome emotional obstacles are usually apparent, actually surmounting them can be a pain in the butt if you don't have any vibe. To get some, you have to run back and forth, sucking down enemies as they respawn while building up the needed energy. It sounds gross, but it's really just annoying.
There is one puzzle, though, that stands out. At one point the Princess sees mushrooms of different colors bouncing in a sequence. Then she travels through a warp tube and must deflower colored daisies with her umbrella in the same order. Way to mess with our minds, Nintendo.
Less interesting is the handful of touch-screen mini-games that precede each boss fight. After making your way through a world's five or so stages, you'll have to use your stylus to neutralize boos, roll a log, or catapult Peach through an extremely short level. We're glad the game uses the touch-screen for more than just triggering vibes, but we wish these sequences had been more complex.
The boss fights themselves are just as easy. Not only does each one follow an extremely simple pattern, but a helpful box placed right before each encounter tells you exactly how to win. If the game actually played itself, it wouldn't be much easier.
Wimpy bosses and emotional puzzles aside, there is a lot of good, classic Mario platforming to be found here along with equally creative foes and wacky environments. None of them break the mold or add anything terribly new to Mario land, but at least you can count on a modicum of enjoyable, Mario-style gameplay.
[image3]And it comes with quite a bit of bonus content. Mini-games, poorly hidden throughout the levels, can be accessed through the menu screen once found. There's a whole slew of collectibles that can either be purchased through Toad's shop, or discovered in the levels.
Even though Super Princess Peach is too easy and a little sleazy, it's a solid production. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the game's visuals, which are well-animated and colorful. There aren't any effects that push the limits of the DS, but at least the title plays well within its confines. And it's really super cute. The music received the same saccharine treatment and the sound effects are just as cartoony and silly as those found in any Mario game. Even if you prefer blood and gore to sugar and spice, you can't deny that the game deserves its Nintendo seal of quality.
That's because Super Princess Peach is Super Mario for dummies. It's also Super Mario for girls, who, according to Nintendo, are just dumber versions of men that get all emotional when they can't find their vibro wands. Far be it from us to disagree, but we hope their next lesson in female behavior doesn't come with a game that insults one sex and disappoints the other.