Paper Mario: The Origami King is another enjoyable game in the Paper Mario franchise that is more of an adventure than a proper RPG. The game features a charming art style with a papercut design but the new addition for this entry is origami, which leads to the evolution of characters into their origami counterparts. Despite lacking the nuance of a proper RPG with experience points, customizations, and upgrades, it is highly enjoyable thanks in part to its unique design where puzzles take precedent over role-playing elements.
Paper Mario: The Origami King introduces two highly likable leads with Olivia and her brother Olly. Olivia is the Navi for Mario in The Origami King while Olly is the new bad guy. The story starts with the introduction of an Origami Festival which will be hosted by Princess Peach in the Mushroom Kingdom, however, things go awry soon. Olly and Olivia both turn up in the Origami Festival and Olly decides to take control of the world with his Origami powers. He flies away with Peach’s castle to a volcano while covering the world in different colored streamers.
The destruction of the world leads to Mario uniting with his old nemesis Bowser to defeat Olly. Olivia also joins the party and acts as a guiding hand to Mario to stop her brother from destroying the world. The main campaign in the game is massive with a story that can take more than 30 hours to beat without taking into account 100% completion. There are collectibles too, which count towards completion percentage and make up a sizeable portion of the game. The forefront of them is various toads that have to be rescued in the world. Some of these are hidden so cleverly that it will take time to figure out their locations, while others are easy to spot.
As Mario explores the world to try to find the point of origin for these streamers, he can rescue a sizeable chunk of toads. These toads can prove incredibly useful in a battle where a ring has to be rotated to line up enemies and then items like the classic jumping boots or hammer are used to kill them. The ring puzzle has to solve in a time limit with a limited number of moves so the player has to solve these puzzles in almost every battle. Some of them repeat enough times that it is easy to figure them out while others are difficult and will leave you scratching your head. The bonus to lining up all the enemies is an increase in the attack power which could lead to one-hit kill for the enemies.
If the player is stuck in battle, they can use coins to call up toads and they will not only restore the health for Mario but also solve the puzzle for him. Later in the game, it is possible to equip accessories that make it easier to solve puzzles but overall, it is not the difficulty level of the puzzles but the repetitive nature of the combat that makes it a bit cumbersome to have battles, especially as you progress further in the game. Battles only award coins so there is no experience to gain here. I tried to avoid battles as much as possible because they are easily the worst part of the game.
While the battles are bad, they can also be fun. Wait, what? The regular battles might be boring and repetitive but the boss battles are always fun. I wouldn’t have minded if the regular battles were removed altogether while bringing a focus on the exploration in the game. Boss battles are one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game. They are fun, clever, and full of hilarious tropes. Every battle is highly enjoyable and often difficult to figure out. They are a big puzzle of their own so it is fun to solve them. The same rules apply in a boss battle with slight variations to how Mario can move around the ring.
The exploration in the game is just great. It is fun to figure out where the Origami powers are used to unlock secrets or uncover new locations. The staple move for Mario in this game is 1000-fold arms which can be used in almost every boss fight as well. This is activated by finding a glowing sign and then stepping on it. Olivia can later transform into the various elemental animals to use their powers like fire, ice, water, and earth. Collectibles are hidden in every location from coins, hidden blocks, to treasures. Players can also throw colored confetti around locations that are eaten by giant Papier Mache enemies to recover them. This can also lead to unlocking new areas to explore or simply completing a part of something that is broken.
Paper Mario: The Origami King is a colorful adventure that tries to keep things fresh with its diverse locations. It might not be the game that most fans were expecting, but it can have its unique place in the franchise. The negative points are its combat which suffers from repetition, and some pacing issues that occur later in the game. It could be cut a little short and that would have made it a lot more enjoyable, especially if battles were less frequent. These tend to drag for a little too long. The gameplay is enjoyable too and the story ends on a solid note with some memorable characters that join our party on this journey.
If you are a fan of games that offer plenty of puzzles, exploration, and a little platforming, Paper Mario: The Origami King is the perfect candidate for it. If the battles were much better paced and lacked repetition, it could have the potential to become the best Paper Mario game, however, this is not the case. Regardless, if you love Mario and would like to have a journey in the Italian plumber’s world, this is a pretty solid game overall with minor flaws.