Paper Mario: The Origami King
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Genre: Action, Adventure, Puzzle, RPG
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 17/07/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
An Ace Up Their Sleeve
Every once in awhile, Nintendo has an ace up its sleeve, an unexpected surprise that flutters from nowhere. Rewind a few months and our Kyoto based friends decided in May 2020 to unfold a brand new addition to the beloved Paper Mario series… oh and by the way it will arrive this summer! Cue the media frenzy, and excitement in the lead up to the arrival of The Origami King.
So, is Paper Mario: The Origami King tearable? Does it fold under pressure? Or is this game a D(ream)? Find out below in our Rapid Review.
One thing I should be clear on from the outset, this is my first venture into the world of Paper Mario, with zero preconceptions or expectations, it’s a clean view of the game presented this time around.
Forget All You Know
Our story is led by long time protagonist Mario as he navigates a paper crafted world, and of course, attempts to rescue Princess Peach from the clutches of his latest adversary. Yet this is where the familiarity of my historic Mario pursuits ends. The antagonist in this world is the Origami King himself, hellbent on folding all who stand in his way. His dream is to beautify the world, one careful fold at a time.
A Hidden Agenda
Mario’s usual wingman and brother Luigi would normally be on hand for these kinds of pursuits but he’s nowhere to be seen. This time around you are accompanied by Olivia, the estranged sister of The Origami King himself. Olivia is hoping to win over her brother and help him see sense, and I’ve got to say, she’s a great companion from the outset. She’s funny and well scripted and always on hand with tips to help you out of sticky situations, sorry Luigi you weren’t missed….much. (Don’t worry though he pops up and makes an appearance or two).
As you begin this adventure, exploring the world afoot, the aim is to unbind Princess Peaches castle which has become entangled by 5 colourful paper streamers, the ends of which extend to the furthest reaches of this paper crafted world.
A Glorious Spectacle
The underlying feel of the game is that of an RPG, with what starts as a guided journey through towns and locations, opening up and giving the player a little more freedom of exploration as the game progresses. Graphically the game is just stunning, stylised in textured paper effects, the colours pop and the 2D characters flutter in the wind in such a way that provides a depth in design that polarises beautifully against the stylish 3D environments. There are also some moments where the lighting is exceptionally implemented such as at the secret bar and when meeting one of the bosses, Rubber Band. It has a warmth in the pastel colours selected and the lighting casts realistic shadowing around characters and scenery, it’s truly stunning.
Devilish Complexity, Eventually
Now the combat is where things get really interesting. I can only describe the combat as turn-based with a flavour of quick-time events and puzzle mechanics. Essentially, when enemies attack you are thrust into a circle, with Mario taking centre stage. Each enemy occupies a space in circles outside of this space and your role is to move them around.
You have a set number of moves to rotate them or move them closer or further away, and the aim is to group them in a line or a bunch to earn attack multipliers. Once this is done, you need to select your method of attack. Jump on their heads with your boots if they are lined in a row, or whack them with your hammer if they’re bunched. If you can finish them off in one the battle is over and you earn a chunky pile of coins. If not, they get a chance to attack with your only option to guard and defend yourself and therefore reduce the damage received.
For the first couple of hours, I wasn’t massively bowled over by this combat system. It didn’t feel like the consequences were great enough, and I often just skipped through lining them up and attacked without multipliers, damage received was minimal. Hours into the game though, the difficulty level ramps up, and as you hit the first boss you see an entirely new complexity to this system, that feels rewarding and challenging. By the end… I loved it. Resolving the puzzle is so much more satisfying than typical battle mechanics found in Action/Adventure/RPG’s (hmm what Genre is this again?).
One thing you quickly get to grips with in Origami King, the sound is unbelievable. The orchestrated music is immersive, and although this is no surprise at all when you think of the pedigree behind Intelligent Systems I would encourage anyone playing to do so with Headphones. It really is incredible.
In total, the game will fill around 20-25 hours of your time, more if you are a passionate completionist. The extra time is for those who wish to fill all of the confetti holes (Gaps in the paper-filled infrastructure of this world) or hammer the folded birds, bee and monkeys which are likely Toads that have become lost and origami’d along the way.
Now I’ve really saved the best till last, the comedy and writing on show across the entirety of this game is an absolute masterclass. It’s not afraid to poke fun at itself, and the world of Mario in its entirety. There are moments of thought-provoking reflection in the game. One particular moment had a real impact on me and the things that are happening in the world right now. “Goombas and Shy Guys… Mario and Minions… We’re all pressed from the same pulp.” Not a dry eye in the room after that one.
It’s just incredibly impressive to write and produce a game that can be loved by children and adults alike. It’s something else to write a script that has a lasting impact on the player in one scene, yet make them belly laugh in the next. I don’t think I’ve taken as many screenshots in one game ever.
A Passionate Affair
All in all, this game is what can happen when Nintendo entrusts its most important IP to a studio with an amazing track record but also wholeheartedly loves what they do. The passion is felt in every corner of this stunning Paper Crafted world. I’ve loved every moment and cannot recommend Paper Mario: The Origami King enough. It’s my game of 2020 so far!
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Paper Mario: The Origami King from the Nintendo Store