If you were a two-dimensional paper being, what would your greatest nemesis be? After water, of course…
That’s right! Three-dimensional paper beings! In other words, Origami creatures! And, since the Japanese art of folding paper is certainly widespread, so is the army under the command of the Origami King, as it adds to its ranks by folding new unfortunate paper victims.
Along the way, a certain princess is kidnaped, a green-clad plumber flaunting a bushy moustache goes missing, a whole castle is moved, and an entire kingdom is flipped upside down and overflown with enemies and chaos… Altogether, it is just another Monday for our dear old friend, Mario.
One fold here, another there
Paper Mario: The Origami King is an action-adventure RPG game, same as the other Paper Mario games before it and, like its predecessors, it is loaded with loose references to what is one of the most popular and successful media franchises in history.
Coins, magic mushrooms, fire flowers, blocks with question marks and, of course, plumbing pipes out in the open, are just some of the many things that we are used to and that are present in this title. Not to mention, going around defeating enemies by jumping on top of them, as well as hammering everywhere, because you never know what hidden treasures await discovery. Classical foes also make an appearance, such as goombas and koopa troopas, although, in this game, they are friendly in their 2D form. The same cannot be said for the origami ones…
With so many common elements to all the other games in the main series, and with a derivative plot to the vast majority of those, one could expect this to be an uninspired entry. Which could not be further away from the truth, since this latest addition to the Super Mario spinoff, succeeds in harmonizing the already trivial with the ingeniously fresh.
A lot of jumping, plumbing, and confetti
The game is certainly capable of drawing the interest of a wide demographic. Be it for its mixture of simplicity in format next to complexity of challenges, for its graphics and vibrant music, or for its modest but appealing story and dialogues, full of charming light humor.
Gameplay is what you would expect from a Mario game. Controls are responsive, stable and intuitive. Every game mechanic is clearly understood thanks to the extensive (sometimes excessive) introductory tutorials. There is also no shortage of information that can be viewed on the pause menu, at any time.
While navigation in Paper Mario: The Origami King is typical of the 3D platform genre, the combat is where most of the RPG elements come into play, with an interesting twist. Foes are arranged in a series of disks around Mario and combat consists of two stages: first the disks are moved in order to align enemies into groups, and then the best weapon or item for the job is picked. A countdown timer is responsible for making sure that urgency is always present.
Boss fights are much more interesting and each with a unique quirk, the understanding of which is left to the player’s ingenuity and are crucial to achieving victory.
Still, most puzzles, whether inside or outside of combat, are quite easy to solve for an adult gamer, but not trite enough to become boring. A few of them, even manage to be challenging, but never frustrating. A difficult balance to achieve, which Paper Mario: The Origami King accomplishes with cheerfulness.
Plenty are the corners to explore or collectibles to discover, and the game promises reasonable longevity for the more completionist gamer. There are a lot of features and they are added at a reasonable rate, not too sudden and not too slow, which prolongs the initial investment. The humorous narration combined with the gameplay, also helps maintain a healthy and enthralling pace.
There are few RPG elements, which is not necessarily bad, just characteristic of Paper Mario. There are some weapons and accessories to equip and hit points and damage done tend to increase as certain story arcs are completed or secrets are discovered. However, the characteristics of a role-playing game end there since the progression is not made by levels and there are no actual stats to consider.
Decals, cardstock, and paper Mache
Ranging from the colors to the models, going through all the little details, the visuals are impeccable. Everything is made from paper in the most diverse shapes and textures, and the animation is elegant. It gives great pleasure to discover Toads scattered everywhere, curled up in a hole or crumpled into a paper ball. Almost as much pleasure as hammering against everything and everyone, whether to collect the confetti that falls from trees or to smooth a creased paper creature.
Being at the heart of the game, and its title, the depiction of origami are so excellent that, to a layman (such as myself), they really look genuine. No matter how elaborate they may be, they seem something that is obtainable by folding paper.
Due to the Nintendo Switch’s well-known graphical limitations, a game like Origami King feels at home, when polygons are wanted scarce and angles rigid. The vibrant pigments, the organic lights and shadows, the creativity permeated into all the captivating details, make for a breathtaking scenery.
The soundtrack is what you would expect from a Mario title. Notable, diverse, well blended with the environment that accompanies it but, unfortunately, not memorable enough to remain between the ears when not playing the game.
Well executed mountain and valley folds
Paper Mario: The Origami King is an excellent addition to the huge collection of games featuring the intrepid Italian plumber, which will surely delight both longtime fans and newcomers to the series. Not being a mainstream title, it is still an excellent game of itself and one that promises countless hours of fun.
Since it is impossible to please everyone, there will be those who will not care much for the game’s peculiar visual style or for the somewhat repetitive combat formula. Other than that, this title’s only problem – and one which it shares with other games of the genre – is that once it is beaten, it will tend to be put aside. But, at this point, I am just trying to find defects in a game with very few.
Unless you have something against the heroic red plumber or an unhealthy aversion to platform games, Paper Mario: The Origami King is a must-have game.
Monotony prone combat
Light RPG progression
Release Date: 17 July 2020
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Genre: Action, Adventure
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Nintendo Portugal.