The Paper Mario series is an interesting one. It’s one that’s received critical acclaim, with its initial entry and the ever-so-popular Thousand Year Door. It’s also a series that has received harsh criticism with its later releases, with fans and critics displeased with the game design of Paper Mario Sticker Star, and Colour Splash.
Despite how the series has fallen off in recent years, its fan base continues to get excited with every announcement, hopeful that the latest iteration will return to form. Unfortunately, I’ve never played a Paper Mario game before so I can’t truly speak to how Paper Mario: The Origami King compares to other entries in the series. However, without comparing it to its predecessors, I can say that Paper Mario: The Origami King is a very fun game.
In Paper Mario: The Origami King, Mario and Luigi arrive at Princess Peach’s castle to celebrate the Origami Festival. They quickly realise that something is wrong, and find that Princess Peach has been folded by the dastardly Origami King Olly. King Olly plans to turn the world into origami and has not only kidnapped the Toads, but he’s amassed an army by folding Bowser’s minions. With Olivia by his side, Mario must set out on a journey to save Peach, the Toads, and the rest of the paper world.
It’s a simple set up, but what follows is an enjoyable journey that is strengthened by some humorous writing and surprisingly, a few soft moments. Even without playing previous titles, I knew that this was commonplace for the series and one of the key reasons behind why it amassed such a dedicated fanbase over the years, and it’s arguably what kept me engaged the most as I played through.
Another thing that I was impressed with was the sheer amount of content in the game. Going in, I knew that it was primarily targeted towards younger audiences so I wasn’t expecting a 20+ hour experience. I researched the series after finishing the game and found out past titles were of similar length, but the point still stands – Paper Mario is an experience that’s worth the investment. If you really enjoy the game, there are collectables that you can use to pad out the game-time, roughly adding another 8-10 hours to the game if you go for everything.
While the world and writing are a blast, it’s combat is another story. When I first saw the game, I feared that the grid-based combat would act as a mechanic for players to get easy wins in combat, speculating that we could mix and match without any effort at all. Thankfully, this isn’t the case as combat has a certain element of puzzle-solving that is really fun to work through.
When a battle kicks off, your enemies appear on the battlefield which is then shuffled around. You’ll then need to re-order the grid until the enemies are either lined up so you can jump on them, or grouped together for a hammer attack. These encounters also have a time-limit, but you can easily extend that by spending some currency, which the game basically throws at you. This element of combat is great and makes for a significant challenge at the later stages of the game. However, when it comes to actually attacking the enemies, I can’t say the same.
Once you’ve decided on enemy placement and are ready to deal some damage, you only have a limited amount of options in how you attack your opponents. You can either jump or hammer them (in two variations) or you can use an item, such as a fire flower. It’s a stark contrast to other aspects of the game, which are unique, interesting and fun, whereas this is dull and boring. There’s just not enough variety in attacking options, and the lack of excitement largely stems from the fact that enemies are simply too weak throughout the game. It would have been nice to have the ability to inflict status effects on enemies through item use, or at least have more tools to use, but again, it’s pointless when most enemies drop within one turn.
The game is also bogged down by an intense amount of hand-holding, especially in the early moments of the game. Having the game introduce you to the mechanics early on is understandable, but it felt like I was being stopped after every step, with Olivia explaining or guiding me with something once again.
It continues throughout the game as well, with the game making things easier if a player fails a puzzle too many times. In one instance, I had to jump across platforms in a specific order. I took a few tries to work out the pattern, and when I finally did the game simply highlighted the correct path. It really tore away any sense of achievement I’d have felt from solving it myself. As I’ve mentioned, I understand that the game is aimed to appeal to younger audiences, but a setting for these types of occasions would have been nice.
These issues ultimately hold Paper Mario: The Origami King back from being an outstanding return to form for the series, but by no means does this mean you should avoid it.
Paper Mario: The Origami King
Paper Mario: The Origami King is a great game, largely because of its well-written characters and a surprisingly engaging storyline. Its world is large, with plenty of content and is arguably one of the best looking games on the Nintendo Switch. Unfortunately, it’s far too easy at times, and its approach to combat doesn’t quite land as well as Nintendo had hoped.
- Charming and funny writing
- Beautiful art design
- Plenty of content in a large world
- Goes overboard on hand-holding
- Combat is bland and lacks variety