I’ve played most of the Paper Mario games, but they’ve never really resonated me to the point that I’ve found myself laughing, and wanting to explore every nook and cranny. That all changed with Paper Mario: The Origami King.
The game’s story is one of Mario’s best. It starts out in Princess Peach’s castle with King Olly and Bowser’s army, who he has turned into Folded Soldiers, turning the entire world into origami. This starts with Princess Peach, and permeates through the entire world, leaving Mario and Olivia, Olly’s sister, to solve the mystery and return the world to normal.
It sounds insane and that’s because it is, Paper Mario: The Origami King has the most bizarre Mario story in the best possible way. Right from the get-go, there are quips and jabs at Nintendo and their other gaming franchises and it doesn’t stop until the very end. Characters that we’ve come to know and love over the 35 years of Mario’s history are all seen in a new light and it’s hard not to love. Characters such as Dry Bones and Monty Mole are given much larger roles than we’re used to and they all come into their own.
The gameplay follows a familiar loop to other Paper Mario game with some key twists. The game has you filling ‘Not-Bottomless Holes’ around the map with confetti that you pick up from smashing trees, killing enemies, and finding confetti sacks. These holes give you items, allow you to access new areas, and fill your pockets with coins. You’ve got a confetti meter in the top left of your screen which you’ll need to ensure is filled up. The game also places a huge emphasis on finding Toads that have been squashed up, are being used as props by origami enemies, or have been turned into other forms of origami. These serve as a pretty cool collectible.
The other major twist is in the form of the 1,000 Fold Arms technique, which you use to extend Mario’s arms to reach new areas, reveal strips off walls, and generally push the plot forward. It does feel a little bit gimmicky at times, especially when you’re playing in handheld mode with motion controls turned on, but it does serve the story well.
The art style of Paper Mario: The Origami King might just be my favourite of any Switch game. Just like the game’s story, the art oozes personality. It’s vibrant, colourful and the mix of origami and paper characters, enemies and objects are all great to look at. This art style in particular really suits the Switch in handheld mode, where games can often look worse than they do on television. Similarly, the music is absolutely incredible from the moment you boot up the game, providing a nice backdrop to exploring the open-world and filling holes with confetti.
Unfortunately, it’s the battles that let the game down severely, to the point that the game would have scored a lot higher if they weren’t there. General battles work in a similar way to the last few Paper Mario games, but with a few twists. You’ll find enemies around the open-world, that you can hit with your hammer or jump on to get the first move in, but this is kind of where the fun ends. At the start of each battle, you have to line enemies up around a circle by either spinning around or sliding up or down in order to increase your bonus attack before a timer runs out.
You can also call in the Toads that you have collected using coins to give you a bit of extra health, attack enemies, and also align enemies for you. This is neat at first, but gets old very quickly and feels like it only gets in the way of the things that the game does extremely well. These battles serve absolutely no purpose There’s no leveling system in the game, and you earn no experience from these battles. You get paid out in coins, which can be used to buy items to use in battle, so the whole thing feels like an unnecessary way of padding out the game.
I often found myself trying to avoid enemies altogether or trying to run from battles once in them. This would often fail, leading to the battles lasting even longer. There are also battles that take place in the overworld, such as taking out large enemies through the use of timing, and other enemies that require a bit of puzzle-solving to take out and these are much, much better and feel like they don’t take you out of the action. I wish Nintendo opted for more of these and less of the standard Paper Mario battles. Boss battles also use a similar ring technique to that of the main battles, but they are all extremely unique and creative but never feel like a chore. I completely understand why you need regular battles in a role-playing game, but I also feel like they’re here just to serve that purpose and nothing else.
The game also has a lot of unnecessary hand-holding that is unskippable for the first two to three hours, banging you over the head with text box after text box during a battle that will be obvious to most people. It really felt unnecessary, even for the most casual of gamers. There’s a lot to do in this world.
The game provides an extensive world map, which encourages you to complete things like filling every hole, finding every Toad, and finding question boxes, and there’s also a number of trophies, art, soundtracks, and other collectibles that you can look at in the museum.
I was at odds whilst playing this game. I absolutely loved everything about it and the game sucked me in, but I was dreading running into battles, which definitely hurt my time with it.
THE NINTENDO SWITCH VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF OUR REVIEW. A DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Paper Mario: The Origami King is another exceptional Nintendo game. The story is laugh out loud hilarious, the world begs you to explore it and the art style is absolutely gorgeous. Unfortunately, the battles get in the way of its successes and ultimately let it down.