REVIEW: ‘Paper Mario: The Origami King’ is Hilarious and Challenging (Switch)

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Paper Mario: The Origami King

Paper Mario: The Origami King, developed by Intelligent Systems and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch, is an action-adventure RPG and the sixth game in the Paper Mario series. While the game still doesn’t quite return to its heavier RPG roots from the original N64 title and The Thousand Year Door, The Origami King is a quirky, funny, and engaging game that manages to revive the charm of Paper Mario that’s been missing from the last few entries.

In Paper Mario: The Origami King, Mario once again has to rescue Princess Peach and save the Mushroom Kingdom. This time, the Mushroom Kingdom is threatened by King Olly, an origami man who has wrapped Peach’s castle in impenetrable streamers and converted Bowser’s minions into origami warriors called Folded Soldiers. King Olly’s little sister, Olivia, teams up with Mario to take her brother down, destroy the streamers, and restore order to Princess Peach’s castle.

To do this, Olivia uses her special origami folding abilities to help Mario and overcome obstacles that he can’t on his own. Throughout the game, you solve puzzles and make your way through dungeons to unlock new origami powers for Olivia. You later use these powers to conquer different areas and bosses and destroy the streamers.

The exploration and puzzle-solving in The Origami King often reminded me of The Thousand Year Door. Every new challenge was unique and the game never followed a formula. The dungeons and puzzles were typically related directly to the environment around you, much like in The Thousand Year Door.

For example, in one area, you have to solve riddles in a desert to uncover a hidden temple. In another, you have to track the streamer across the ocean, solve puzzles on islands, and search for treasure underwater to unlock a specific door. The developers crafted the puzzles based on where in the Mushroom Kingdom you are, making each new dungeon distinct.

The puzzles aren’t easy, either. I was a little concerned at the beginning of the game because Olivia essentially gives you the tutorial to every mechanic in the game at least twice and gives you quite a few hints with the first few challenges encountered.

However, once you’ve gotten through that initial section of The Origami King, everything starts to open up and become more complex. I legitimately struggled to figure out the solution to some of the riddles and felt a sense of accomplishment every time I significantly progressed through the game.

The battle system in Paper Mario: The Origami King

Plus, the dungeons aren’t the only puzzles in The Origami King. The entire battle system revolves around puzzle solving. Enemies in the game are set up in a ring system with four different layers. You can move the enemies in the ring in any direction in an attempt to line them up correctly within the time limit. Essentially, you can either move four enemies into a straight line to use your jump or move two enemies next to two other enemies, side by side, to use your hammer in a 2×2 grid pattern.

You can attack enemies regardless of whether you line them up correctly or not, but solving the puzzles has its benefits, namely that it boosts your attack power. If you pull it off and boost your attack power, you can typically take out all enemies without taking damage.

Some of the puzzles are incredibly simple, especially when you start out, of course, but the difficulty ramps up the farther you progress through the story. About halfway through the game, I went from breezing through the combat to seriously having trouble seeing puzzle solutions. Since I couldn’t solve the puzzles, I couldn’t take out my enemies as quickly, meaning I would take much more damage.

Additionally, boss battles were a separate beast entirely and completely switched up the system, which I loved because it made the boss battles feel unique and so much more serious and tense. With bosses, instead of having Mario in the middle and lining up enemies around him, Mario’s on the edge of the rings and you need to move the rings in certain patterns, following arrows, planning out routes, and landing on specific squares to attack the enemy, often from a specific direction.

Personally, while I do still miss the classic battle style from the first two Paper Mario games, I ended up adoring the battle system in The Origami King. It was complex, it was fun, and it forced me to actually pay attention to fights 100% of the time.

The Origami King is clever as well, knowing that a Paper Mario game will appeal to both children and older, lifelong Nintendo fans. As a result, there are many systems within the game to help you out if you get stuck, both in battles and in the world itself.

For example, the main assist in the battles is Toads. While you’re exploring the world and solving dungeons, you’ll come across hidden Toads that you can save. After saving them, they’re added to your audience, similar to the audience in The Thousand Year Door, and you can spend coins while in battle to get their help.

The Toads will deal small amounts of damage to enemies, move the rings to help you solve the puzzles, and even heal you if you spend enough coins. You can spend coins in battle to add time onto the time limit, too, if you’re really struggling with finding a solution and don’t want to give up on getting your attack bonus.

Coins are incredibly important in Paper Mario: The Origami King, even more so than in past Mario RPGs I’ve played. Coins can be used to enlist the help of Toads, increase the time limit, buy items and weapons from the store, and restore power to helpful special items you gain access to throughout the game.

Personally, I never had trouble with my finances in this game. I always had a plethora of coins on hand, but I also never asked the Toads for help or extended my time limit unless I was in a really tough spot or needed more health in a boss battle. However, the helpful coin mechanics is definitely a plus for younger kids playing the game that might have more difficulty solving puzzles quickly.

Additionally, Olivia is a useful tool for kids, too. At any time during the game, including battles, you can press X to ask Olivia for a hint. I found that she’s typically not super helpful in battles, but when out in the world trying to figure out how to progress or what to do next, she’s an absolutely invaluable resource if you get stuck.

The world in Paper Mario: The Origami King

In general, the world is beautiful and the game looks so, so good. The bright colors really pop and exploring the world is so much fun, especially finding Toads and restoring roads with confetti, earned from defeating enemies or hitting stuff with your hammer. I did have some issues with the game stuttering during boss battles when I would have Olivia use one of her origami powers, but those problems were pretty minimal and didn’t happen often.

The game is legitimately funny, too. There were multiple times that The Origami King would actually make me laugh out loud, which is not something that happens that often. The writing is honestly so fantastic that I feel like I can’t praise it enough. Every character has their own unique, goofy personality, even the Toads that just deliver a one-liner after being rescued.

The only real gripe I have with the writing is that the partner characters you pick up, other than Olivia, don’t feel important at all. There aren’t too many to begin with, but the few that exist don’t stay with you once you clear the area where you found them. They’re not super helpful in battle, either, often missing the enemies completely.

Like every other character in the game, their dialog is incredible and I loved hearing from them in cutscenes and story moments, but when it came to actual gameplay, they felt tacked on. This was especially disappointing considering how important partner characters were in earlier entries in the series. It felt like the developers tried to return to the older era of Paper Mario, but completely missed the point and only gave us half of the personality, charm, and usefulness of the sidekicks.

Overall, though, Paper Mario: The Origami King is an absolutely phenomenal game. It simultaneously makes a return to what made the original games so great, namely the exploration and humor, while still progressing forward with new, creative battle systems and ideas. I had a blast playing through the game, finding collectibles, rescuing Toads, and saving the Mushroom Kingdom in a beautiful, paper world that always kept me laughing.

Paper Mario: The Origami King is available now for Nintendo Switch.


Paper Mario: The Origami King
9/10

TL;DR

Paper Mario: The Origami King is an absolutely phenomenal game. It simultaneously makes a return to what made the original games so great, namely the exploration and humor, while still progressing forward with new, creative battle systems and ideas. I had a blast playing through the game, finding collectibles, rescuing Toads, and saving the Mushroom Kingdom in a beautiful, paper world that always kept me laughing.