The Paper Mario franchise may not be the hardcore RPG series many gamers have been clamoring for ever since the beloved Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door released. But it does try to shake things up in new ways with every release — some efforts obviously better than others. Paper Mario: The Origami King strays further away from the series’s RPG roots, but it offers enough nuance to keep things fresh and engaging. This just might be an action-adventure puzzler you don’t want to miss.
First and foremost, developer Intelligent Systems has outdone itself in the presentation department. The Origami King is jam-packed with beautiful scenery, impressive lighting effects, and a soundtrack strong enough to move mountains.
Some of the water and texture effects throughout the game made my jaw hit the floor. The attention to detail in the stylized hand-crafted environments is extremely high-quality. The game is broken up into different major sections, and they’re all rocking a different style and color palette, keeping things fresh and the exploration exciting.
Along with the top-tier presentation is the rock-solid humor. It’s hard not to have a smile on your face while playing Paper Mario: The Origami King. The game constantly throws witty quips at you — most of which have impeccable comedic timing. Multiple times it was like the game knew exactly what I was thinking, and it would break the fourth wall in the best ways possible.
Even though The Origami King is largely aimed at a younger audience, it’s not afraid to throw in a pinch of cynicism, and I respect it for that. While the overarching plot of King Olly turning the Mushroom Kingdom into an origami nightmare isn’t very intriguing, the writing/localization throughout the journey more than makes up for it.
The world of Paper Mario: The Origami King is chock-full of collectibles that are oh-so addicting to find. All the Toads in the land have been turned into origami, and you can save them all (if you want). Toads are scattered all throughout the environments in a slew of funny, bizarre, and downright insane situations. The more you find, the more Toads you’ll have cheering you on in battles.
Speaking of battles, The Origami King brings a whole new battle system to the table. And I really mean that. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game with a similar battle system. The battles take place in a layered ring with dozens of spaces around Mario. Your goal is to line up enemies so Mario can utilize his attack in the best ways possible, using his hammer, jump attack, and various other items you obtain throughout the game.
It’s a simple concept, and the game’s first few hours drag a bit with the combat being extremely easy. However, things really start to ramp up quickly after. Battles become pretty complex, and you’ll have to make every second and turn of the table count. Oh, I didn’t mention you’re timed? Having a countdown while figuring out your plan of attack adds a whole new element of intensity. Luckily, you can buy more time with the gold coins you obtain from the overworld and winning battles.
Then there are boss fights, which are pretty much the opposite of normal battles. Instead of enemies surrounding you, you’re trying to make it to the boss that’s in the middle. You’ll set a path for Mario to follow and hit the boss from different directions. This shakes things up, and boss battles can take a hefty amount of time to beat.
Paper Mario: The Origami King may not be the RPG return to form classic Paper Mario fans have been begging for, but it still manages to offer an incredibly charming world, unique combat, and the witty writing the series is known for — not to mention a fantastic battle system that’s like nothing I’ve played before. I’m eager to finish off the game and see what else it has to offer.
Later this month, I’ll jump deeper into the gameplay mechanics, localization, and collectibles with my full review!