A warning before we begin: don't expect Super Princess Peach to be the next Mario World. Using the 'Super' prefix might suggest that this is in some way comparable with classic SNES outings like Yoshi's Island, but in fact this pared-down, simplistic and obvious take on Nintendo's own classic platformers doesn't come close to replicating the joy of its predecessors. Still, being half as good as Yoshi's Island is no disgrace, and when you get past the slightly nauseating stench of perfume and flowers and lovely pink dresses in this heavy-handedly targeted 'girl's game', you'll still find some real Nintendo magic.
Let's get the disappointing stuff out of the way, starting with the use of the dual screen technology - or, rather, lack of it. Super Princess Peach is lazy, basically. While the game plays out on the top screen, the bottom is reserved for Peach's four 'vibes', her moods - and subsequent abilities - that you can activate via the stylus if you have enough juice in your bar (see the Screen Time box on the right to find out more). It's low key, underwhelming and really just a gimmick. With nothing assigned to the shoulder buttons either, you get the feeling this is a game shoehorned onto the DS rather than developed specifically for it.
Another complaint is that it's easy. Really easy. Saying it limps into double figures in terms of playing hours would be five hours too generous. This is defiantly feminine in its outlook, ramming pink-drenched platforming in your eyes from the get-go. Whether that, as Nintendo presumably hopes, will appeal to the same ladies who went out and bought, say, Nintendogs, remains to be seen, but the lack of longevity is a problem whichever way you shake it. Yes, this conforms to Miyamoto's long-talked-of wish for simpler, shorter games, but we'd imagine there'll be disappointment across the board at the lack of challenge here, whatever your gender, however good at games you are.
And yet, despite a lack of lifespan and touch screening, it works - really well. Sticking like glue to the patented Nintendo platforming masterplan means Super Princess Peach is constantly playable, typically compelling and immensely rewarding. It's also got a kind of dewy-eyed retro joy going on, as it dips into the back catalogue to bring out Toads, Goombas, Piranha Plants, Warp Pipes and Koopa Troopas. Strip away the Nintendo universe and you'd be left with a decent little adventure; add the best set of characters in videogames and suddenly this becomes something much more.
The Mario formula is evident everywhere, from the level design to the acres of hidden areas to the end-of-level bosses, but Peach does throw a couple of new additions into the mix. One is her umbrella, Perry (stick with us), who offers protection against some foes, and - best of all - allows Peach to sail across water. Perry (and Peach) can be 'upgraded' too, in the game's Toad-run shop; as you accrue more gold coins, there's plenty of things to spend your cash on, though most are normally parallel to Peach's Vibe powers.
We'd be bending the truth if we said Super Princess Peach was surprising, especially given its only partial interest in the dual screen and the fact it sticks so closely to its forebears, and yet the main game will occasionally come up with something unexpected. Like when you're asked to get Peach to the top of a level using 'elastic' catapult-style platforms. The rub is, each platform is operated with the stylus, and you have to plot Peach's course around enemies via a waypoint. It's beautifully simple and great fun - it's just a shame that it lasts for about 30 seconds. But then that's Super Princess Peach in a nutshell: packed with moments that aren't fully exploited. Still, while it might not be
the best platformer ever made - hell, it's not even the best platformer on the DS - if there's one thing Super Princess Peach does do, it's keep you enthralled until the all-too-sudden end.