I’m going to be honest here: I’ve got no origami skill whatsoever. Yeah, I pretty much can’t fold anything. I even have trouble with paper planes, really. It’s just not something that’s ever really come up in my day to day life. That’s why video games have, once again, replaced a part of real life that I don’t really need anymore. Yeah, that’s right, food, sleep and other human beings: thanks to Paper Mario: The Origami King, you’ve now got folded paper art to join you.
It’s time for the Origami Festival! What, you didn’t know that was a thing? Mario and Luigi knew about it, thank goodness, and the brothers were on their way up to the Mushroom Kingdom to celebrate. When they arrived, however, they found the Kingdom’s a little more deserted than they expected…well, except for weird origami versions of classic Mario characters. Mamma mia!
Turns out these papery doppelgangers are being controlled by an origami upstart named Olly and now it’s up to Mario, along with Olly’s sister Olivia, to save the day – hopefully without getting a painful folding in the process.
If you’ve played any of the recent Paper Mario games, you’ll feel right at home with Origami King. Mario’s colorfully comedic adventure through the Mushroom Kingdom and surrounding lands is as enjoyable – and paper flat – as ever. You’ll run, jump, battle baddies and collect goodies as you explore the land and try to find an answer to the origami conundrum.
Exploration is a delight, especially since Origami King absolutely loves strewing hidden prizes all over the place, from coins to items to helpful Toads. What might have been a dull romp through another dungeon in another RPG turns into a treasure hunt where you stomp, hammer and scour the place trying to dig up everything you can. The colorful setting certainly doesn’t hurt, either, as even standard areas like a forest or ruined temple have that little extra Mario charm.
Not to be outdone, Origami King also scatters fun little twist here and there, such as by giving Mario temporary origami-themed power-ups and using blasts of confetti to fill in missing chunks of the world.
Combat, meanwhile, is a somewhat more puzzle-heavy take on Paper Mario’s RPG combat. Mario stands at the center of a series of revolving platters containing enemies. Each turn, you’ll need to arrange those enemies to maximize the efficiency of Mario’s attacks, such as by lining them up so he can jump on multiple baddies at a time. Ideal arrangements are rewarded with a significant damage boost, so it’s in your best interests to solve each turn’s puzzle as effectively as possible.
Once it’s time to attack, you’ve got an assortment of hammers, stomping boots, Fire Flowers and other classic Mario gear to choose from in order to wage war on your artfully arranged adversaries.
At no point is any of this especially difficult but the hybrid of two genres is certainly unique and highly enjoyable, particularly when it comes to boss battles. Later, the system gets mixed up a little more, such as by having Mario on the outer ring moving inwards or introducing special gear and accessories to spice up battle. It’s all got that special Nintendo TLC we’ve come to expect from these games.
Naturally, the presentation is slathered with the same TLC. That’s kind of Paper Mario’s thing, after all. Paper Mario games have always looked great, regardless of the platform running them, and this Switch adventure is no exception. Charm exudes from every pore of this adventure, from the goofy origami enemies to the way that you’re encouraged to smack everything in the environment with your hammer for confetti and prizes. There’s plenty of paper-themed visual gags to go around as well, such as how the coins Mario collects are all made of cardboard.
Really, Paper Mario: The Origami King is a pretty great game all around, especially for kids. Previous Paper Mario games were certainly decent adventures, but Origami King’s surprisingly deep exploration and combat suggests a return to the legendary roots of the series. It’s not perfect by any means – fights can take a bit long, Mario moves a bit slowly when exploring – but this highly foldable take on the franchise is worth exploring if you’re after a stylish, whimsical RPG adventure with your favorite plumber. No, not Waluigi, he’s not in this game.