Paper Mario: The Origami King – Developed by Intelligent Systems – Nintendo Switch
Paper Mario: The Origami King is the latest in a long series of spinoff Mario adventures that began on the Nintendo 64. The first game, simply titled Paper Mario, was a turn-based RPG that served as a spiritual successor to Squaresoft’s Super Mario RPG for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It became an instant classic, featuring excellent writing and a charming cast of quirky characters. The unique paper aesthetic stood out from other Mario games, and it wasn’t afraid to be creative with its source material; it was a welcome fresh take on the Mario universe. Its sequel, The Thousand-Year Door on the GameCube, boldly followed in its footsteps, and for many, including myself, set a very high bar for future instalments as it pushed the ideas of the original forward in exciting new ways while sticking to its classic RPG roots. The next few games that followed, however, were much more divisive, as the series moved further and further away from its RPG roots, with features like party members, levelling up and stat-boosting gear being dropped in favour of new, more experimental ideas. While the writing remained solid, in terms of gameplay you never knew what you’d be getting next with each new instalment. In a similar fashion, Origami King takes a fresh approach towards the genre.
I’m happy to say that whether you’re a fan of previous Paper Mario games or not, there is a lot to love here. If you are hoping for a more traditional RPG like The Thousand-Year Door you may need to go in with an open mind, but the gameplay that you do find here is a lot of fun, and it definitely captured the sense of adventure that I craved from earlier titles too. There is an emphasis on storytelling again, with a loveable cast of characters. Partners return as temporary guests that accompany you in the various chapters of the game. RPG-style battles are also back, but this time in the form of timed puzzle battles as you slide and rotate panels in a ring to align enemies before being able to attack them directly. While solving the puzzles isn’t necessary for success, they do give you an advantage, allowing you to deal more damage, for example. For the most part, they are simple and don’t take very long at all to solve, although the further in you get the more challenging they become. The puzzle battles really shine in the game’s numerous boss battles, and I found myself looking forward to them as they were far more tactical in nature and made the most of the ring puzzle system. If you struggle with the puzzles, you can also buy yourself more time with coins or ask for help from the audience, and you will never find yourself short of coins as the game is incredibly generous. Difficulty wise, I never really struggled with the game, but fortunately, the boss fights provided a fun challenge and required a lot more thought.
The writing in Origami King remained witty and humorous throughout, and at several points, it was even touching. Like in other Paper Mario games, regular enemies that Mario would normally stomp in an instant now have individual names, personalities and backstories, and it’s hard not to fall in love with this world. The environments are diverse and surprising, and for me, they were the real driving force of the game as there was always something new to look forward to. There’s certainly no shortage of collectibles to discover either, and exploration is rewarding; I really enjoyed revisiting areas to find their many hidden secrets. To top it all off, the soundtrack is beautiful, upbeat, and a joy to listen to and really heightened the experience for me.
Overall, The Origami King has my full recommendation. I absolutely loved my time with it, and though it wasn’t necessarily a traditional RPG, it should certainly be judged by its own merits. I hope that future games in the series maintain this level of quality, no matter the direction the developers choose to go next. It was a fun spin on the formula and a pleasure to play. If you’re looking for a cheery, light-hearted Nintendo adventure, you can’t go wrong with this.
WORDS Andy Porter