There’s something eternally delightful about the world of Mario, Nintendo’s portly plumber who happens to be stuck in a Groundhog Day loop of saving Princess Peach, stomping on Goomba heads and giving Bowser a proper kicking for his latest shenanigans. Optimistic, colourful and spiritually vibrant, the Mushroom Kingdom is one of the most enduring locations in gaming even if every Tuesday kicks off with yet another kidnapping attempt that you have to sort out.
Paper Mario: The Origami King doesn’t waste its scenic potential, dropping players into a world of papercraft pandemonium as you tangle with some arts and crafty menaces along the way. Delightfully colourful, the game kicks off as you’d expect any Mario adventure to, but with a twist1 This time, Princess Peach is a prisoner in her own paper castle, held hostage by the Nefarious King Olly as he seeks to drag her highness out of her two-dimensional world and into a three-dimensional reality of folded paper.
Mario’s once again on the case, but he’ll need to battle his way through a Mushroom Kingdom that has been infested with hordes of Origami obstacles who can only be vanquished by having their spines transformed into an accordion via some heavy-duty stomping. Although not in the way that you’re accustomed to.
Like previous Paper Mario games, you’ll need to engage in combat using your full paper-potential but this time the combat shifts towards an extra dimension of action instead of the stickers and combat cards from previous incarnations. Mario inhabits a circular grid, each one composed of layers and tiers that his foes will infest in various waves. You can line them up, rotate the tiers and unleash powerful attacks upon them, with the efficacy of Mario’s arsenal favouring a more linear strategy.
These Origami soldiers are tricky though, and they’ll routinely shift themselves around you, closing in for the kill as you’re hammered from all sides. Mario can fortunately call upon reinforcements via the rescued Toad citizenry, bribing them with coin to level the playing field and stack the odds back in his favour. It’s a charming idea for the first few hours, but it quickly becomes monotonous when you realise that Mario’s arsenal offers only the illusion of choice. Whether you’re making use of his hammer or boots, the attack pattern is always the same and the novelty quickly wears off, with enemy variety seldom offering any real danger to Mario’s health pool.
On the flipside, Paper Mario: The Origami King’s boss battles are terrific! Reversing the battle status quo, Mario quickly finds himself on the other end of the battlefield, facing all manner of dangerous papercraft opponents such as a giant pair of scissors looking to snip his journey in half. From here, you have to work and arrange your way past several obstacles, creating a path that eventually allows you to deal a devastating blow to whoever stands in your way, like a gigantic pile of elastic bands assembled into the shape of a rubbery titan.
These boss battles are challenging showdowns, with every fight requiring a player to learn a unique pattern if they ever want to survive and save Princess Peach. Where Paper Mario: The Origami King does shine much brighter however, is in the exploration of its world. More open-ended in design, Mario’s latest odyssey takes him from gloomy forests to turbulent oceans, treacherous mountains to the neon-infused streets of Shroom City.
You’ll also meet numerous allies along the way (including Olivia, your guide for this adventure), and while they provide plenty of laughs and some surprisingly dark humour along the way, they’re more useless than the number nine on a microwave in battle. Still, the world around you is incredibly charming to spend time in, with almost every single nook and cranny having something to hide.
Maybe there’s another Toad in need of rescue, maybe there’s a whole stack of coins waiting to be claimed or maybe there’s an elaborate dance routine to engage in as a forest of singing trees drop some sweet harmony on you.
Last Updated: July 29, 2020