Know when to fold em’

When watching the announcement trailer for “Paper Mario: The Origami King”, two thoughts crossed my mind.

“Wow, this looks incredible!”

“Paper Mario and Origami is such an obvious combination, it’s a wonder they haven’t done this sooner.”

All in all, it was a positive response.

However, given the less than stellar reception for the last few entries in the series which I skipped over entirely, my expectations were tempered. Still, as one of the many RPG fans that loved the Thousand Year Door, I was hoping this entry would be the one to turn the series around.

It’s clear to see there was a lot of love and care that went into making the visuals feel vibrant.

MSRP: $59.99
Platform: Switch
Length: 25~ hours

In a shocking turn of events never before seen, Princess Peach and the denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom are in danger and it’s up to Mario to save them.

This time, the kingdom is under attack by a self proclaimed Origami King, who plans to fold all the paper-folk into his dastardly creations and rule over them all.

If that setup wasn’t big enough of a hint, the story and plot presented here isn’t going to impress anyone in particular but that’s to be expected given the track record but it sure would be nice for them to put in more of an effort to subvert expectations in interesting ways.

I do have to give them some credit as some of the characters Mario encounters in his journey managed to leave an impression thanks to their sense of humor and distinct personality- it’s just a shame they were story tagalongs that offered very little help in combat.

The act of exploring and checking out new locations was mostly pleasant thanks to the vibrant art style that was made all the more interesting thanks to the juxtaposition of the realistic looking origami characters. There were some boring environments like the open sea and the desert but I was never forced to stay in one location long enough to make it feel like I needed an immediate change of scenery.

The catchy soundtrack is also a highlight as well, featuring great remixes of familiar tunes to go along with many originals that I found myself humming along with more than a few times.

As such, from a presentation standpoint, I have very little complaints. However, when we get into the nitty gritty of how the game actually plays, I have more than a few issues.

Puzzles + Repetition do not mix well.

The combat encounters in Origami King takes place on a large turntable that can be rotated and shuffled around and the key to quick victory is to move enemies around the field so they’re in particular formations.

A straight line of four enemies or four enemies grouped together in twos. That concept is introduced within the first hour of the game and that is the only two formations I created for the rest of the game.

As much as I love puzzles, and puzzle games by extension, solving variations of the exact same puzzle hundreds of times isn’t my idea of fun. Not to say that they don’t add some small new elements every now and then to spice things up but the fact remains that all battles felt the same and ended the same every time.

Worse yet, the reward for enduring these repetitive battles was coins and nothing else. No experience, items, skill points- nothing at all. The only way to increase Mario’s strength was to find items to increase his Max HP and find stronger items to use in combat which deteriorated based on usage and broke after a handful of fights, forcing me to restock on them from the store or find them in the wild.

The item degradation wasn’t a huge deal since I was finding replacements left and right and I was flush with coins my entire playthrough. In fact, I hit the 10K coins mark in the first few hours of gameplay and by the end, I had nearly 100K despite spending it all over the place for no real good reason.

Luckily, I could at least find and purchase some accessories that had various effects like giving me more time in battle to get the enemies into formation or to increase my HP in battle but the selection is small and collecting every accessory wasn’t remotely a challenge.

I could also spend my coins to get help from the literal stadium full of Toads that I was rescuing throughout the game in battle but it felt unnecessary most of the time.

As dull and repetitive the combat became after the first few hours, I did enjoy most of the boss battles which required a more careful approach and as some of the set pieces were pretty spectacular, I found myself hurrying along to see the next big boss fight.

I can barely make paper cranes! Look at this thing!

Outside of the turn-based combat (pun sort of intended), there were some light platforming and action elements when hammering down large paper-mache enemies into submission but it never became more complex or interesting than luring them close and hitting them in the weak spot.

During exploration, Mario is able to use his extendable arms to interact with the environment as well as summon forth a powerful avatar of the elements but these spots are clearly scripted and once they’ve been activated, they’re gone for good.

It would have made exploring the world a lot more interesting if these powers could be used at any time to unlock hidden secrets but unfortunately, jumping and hammering things is about the only things Mario is freely capable of doing throughout the course of the game and after rescuing the first hundred toad or so, I began to wonder why I’m even bothering to do so.

While there are some creative uses of the Origami motif for the enemies, Mario’s powers feel lacking in creativity and quite underwhelming.

Despite being charming and oftentimes funny with some great set piece moments sprinkled throughout, Paper Mario: The Origami King’s repetitive combat and dull sense of progression hampers an otherwise enjoyable journey.

Fun Tidbit – Kamek needs his own spin-off game.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

  • Consistently charming and oftentimes funny
  • Sharp, colorful visual style
  • Great soundtrack
  • Puzzle based combat gets repetitive rather quickly
  • Not enough freedom in using exploration tools
  • Dull sense of character progression
Written by
Jae has been a gamer ever since he got a Nintendo when he was just a child. He has a passion for games and enjoys writing. While he worries about the direction gaming as a medium might be headed, he's too busy playing games to do anything about it.