We don’t tend to post reviews for games months after they came out, but in some instances we can’t help ourselves… and no, it’s not because this review has been left unedited on my laptop and completely forgotten about since early August. It’s not like I NEED to justify covering a Nintendo game anyway, right? Especially when it’s one that’s as creative and charming as Paper Mario: The Origami King.
Paper Mario: The Origami King’s narrative will probably feel familiar to just about anyone who has played a Mario game before, with the iconic plumber heading to Princess Peach’s castle alongside his trusty brother Luigi. There’s a party taking place and nobody (and I mean NOBODY) knows how to party quite like Mario…
However, upon arrival things seem pretty peculiar, with the residents of Toad Town seemingly missing and Princess Peach herself appearing in a folded origami form and saying a LOT of strange remarks. That’s when the villainous King Olly reveals himself and informs Mario of his grand plan to fold the paper residents of Mushroom Kingdom up into his own origami army and use them to rule over the land. With the use of an array colourful streamers, he takes the castle for his own and leaves an empty husk of earth in its place.
You know what that means, right? Mario has to save the day, with King Olly’s pleasant but slightly unhinged sister Olivia joining him along the way to try and make her brother see the error of his ways.
I loved Paper Mario: The Origami King’s narrative. Between the charmingly designed world, the colourful cast of characters within it, and the weird scenarios you find yourself in, there’s absolutely tons to see as the story unfolds. There’ll be moments of laughter, moments of action, moments of weirdness, and even moments of sadness across your adventure, and it’s all brought to life by a top notch script that ensures that the personalities of each character in the story are perfectly portrayed. It’s just a really fun and light-hearted tale that’s easy to find yourself completely absorbed in.
So the Paper Mario series doesn’t play like your typical Mario adventure, with the platforming antics replaced by more RPG-orientated mechanics. This means you can expect to explore an array of fully-realised locales with plenty to discover, clear out dungeons and complete mini-games, and take part in strategic turn-based battles with enemies.
Firstly, I think it’s important to go over Paper Mario: The Origami King’s battle mechanics, because they probably won’t be for everyone. Battles take place on a circular battlefield, with a selection of rings surrounding the player. The enemies you face off against will then position themselves on these rings ready to try and take Mario down, though you’re given the opportunity to move the rings around in order to give yourself the advantage beforehand. Enemies that are grouped together in a line or make up a square of four are more vulnerable to your attacks – you’ll be given enough turns and time to move the rings to line them up perfectly before the start of each round, adding a puzzle-like element to each battle.
Whilst it’s a neat idea in theory, it does make Paper Mario: The Origami King feel like more of a puzzler than an RPG at times. The fact that you’re always given enough turns to line enemies up perfectly and that you can increase your time by spending coins means you’ll always be able to have the advantage in battle, whilst it’s never to difficult to work out how to line up your enemies either – especially after you’ve got used to the mechanic after an hour or so of play. It can make some battles just feel a bit too easy, with the player barely taking a hit if they line up the enemies correctly beforehand.
That’s not to say that there aren’t some strategic elements tied to battling though, with different weapon types allowing Mario to perform varied actions. Your boots allow you to jump through a line of enemies for example, whilst your hammer will bash four that are positioned in front of you. You’ll occasionally come across some enemies that are invulnerable to certain actions too. If you try to hit the ninjas with a hammer for example, they’ll simply disappear and hit Mario with a counter-attack of their own. The spiked Spiny enemies on the other hand will cause you damage if you jump on them without the iron boots, so you’ll have to wary of those.
Then you have the boss battles, which completely flip things up altogether by adding a clever blend of ring movement, puzzle solving, and quick-thinking from the player in order to beat. It’s in these encounters that Paper Mario: The Origami King’s combatis really at its best, with the creative showdowns really forcing the player to think through their each and every action very carefully – it’s just a shame that the standard battles don’t bring with them quite as much strategy and instead get a little repetitive. But hey, at least you can skip them if you want, especially since they only reward you with coins which are easy enough to come across when exploring the world.
When you’re not battling, you’ll be exploring the different locales found in Mushroom Kingdom and finding your way to all of the streamers. You’ll collect confetti along the way by bashing objects in the environment with your hammer or by defeating enemies, which can then be used to fill the array of holes that are found around you. These open up new pathways, give you some coins, or help you find some of the Toads that are missing, so it’s definitely worth filling each one that you find.
Speaking of missing Toads, one of my favourite things in Paper Mario: The Origami King was hunting the little mushroom-headed folk down. They might be hidden in an object around you, taking on the form of a different creature, or even stuck under something and needing to be pulled out – either way, it’s fun to seek them out and give them a whack with a hammer to find. Struggling to find them all? Completionists who are having a hard time hunting them will be glad to see there’s a radar that you can use to track them down too. There’s no excuse not to rescue them all then, really…
Whilst most areas are pretty straight forward to get through, some will bring with them obstacles that’ll task you with finding and using specific items to get past. There are also some platforming elements added to the mix at times, the occasional mini-game, and even puzzles that will take a bit more thinking on the player’s behalf to solve. Paper Mario: The Origami King certainly isn’t short of ideas when it comes to adding variety to the experience, with each mini-game and puzzle bringing something snappy and fun to the mix.
Whilst adventuring through Mushroom Kingdom brings with it plenty of entertaining escapades for the player to dive into, it was the visuals of Paper Mario: The Origami King that impressed me the most. Every area of the game is bursting with vibrant colour and creativity, and honestly, the ingenious environmental designs that the team at Intelligent Systems have utilised to bring papercraft into their world constantly kept me in awe. It’s so cleverly designed, with plenty of neat surprises to be found that’ll constantly bring a smile to the player’s face.
Oh, and it looks and runs impressively on both the Nintendo Switch’s handheld and docked modes too, with the action proving smooth throughout… It’s DEFINTIELY one of the best-looking titles that I’ve seen in action on the platform. Bravo, Nintendo.
Paper Mario: The Origami King offers a wonderful and varied adventure that’s only let down by some repetitive and simple battling mechanics. At least the boss battles are a lot more enjoyable to take down though, whilst the creative tasks you’ll complete across the Mushroom Kingdom ensure that there’s plenty of fun to be had on your adventure.
Add to that some wonderfully creative visuals and a narrative that’s genuinely funny, and it becomes easy to see that Paper Mario: The Origami King is another special release that Nintendo have under their belt.
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch