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Paper Mario: The Origami King Review – Does It Fall Flat?

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Paper Mario: The Origami King is the latest release in the Paper Mario franchise. Released exclusively on the Nintendo Switch on the 17th of July 2020.

The Origami King is an adventure-puzzle game. It’s a very good one at that. There is no experience from battles and no leveling system. Instead you are given puzzles to solve to win each fight, with a wide variety of weapons and abilities at your disposal.

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Gameplay? 7/10 – Interesting puzzle battles, grand boss fights, collecting galore, and plenty of exploration. There’s a lot to keep you interested whilst playing The Origami King.

Paper Mario: The Origami King has a myriad of collectables, power ups, and friends to bring along. It’s hard to split up the gameplay into only a couple of sections. So for The Origami King I’m going to split it up into a few more than normal small sections.

Combat

Though I’m loath to call it that. It’s more of a puzzle where paper explodes. By no means is it perfect. It’s likely the weakest single point. Only in terms of the regular enemy puzzle-battles. 

A lot of people take issue with the fact that you don’t get experience after battles, likely based on the desire for something like the 2004 classic, The Thousand Year Door. My opinion on this is that it’s not a full RPG. The Origami King, to me, is just an adventure-puzzle game. If you think of it like that, suddenly the lack of experience both makes sense and is inconsequential. 

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The battles have a round puzzle, where you have to line up all of the enemies for attack. Getting the right formations gives you a boost in power. Then you either use your boots to jump on the enemies in a line. Or use a hammer to bash the 2 x 2 square of enemies in front of you. Getting this puzzle right is really important to quickly dispatch your enemies and earn more coins at the end.

After saving some Toads they will be in the stands around the battlefield cheering you on. You can spend your coins and give them to the Toads and they will help you in battle. They can move the puzzle around to make it easier for you, hit the enemies for a little damage, and throw health your way too. This can be a life saver in the later and longer battles.

You have a time limit for the puzzle but you can increase the time you have, again by spending coins. This can also give you a really helpful boost in a battle.

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You have to watch your health really closely in battle, other than having a particular item, you only get one life. If you die, then you get sent back to your last save point. This can be really annoying if you get through a small boss gauntlet and then die because you pressed ‘A’ at the wrong time. So pay more attention than I do!

My one genuine issue with the battle system is the “Run” feature. You can escape from battles, this is good. It has a kind of mini game, this is bad. You have to hold the button down to fill a meter. Then when it gets right to the end, the word lights up and you can let go of the button. Simple enough really, but the timing is so precise. If you get the timing wrong and overshoot, you fall on your face and your turn is skipped. Meaning you get bombarded by enemy attacks, when all you wanted to do was leave. This can waste some time and get annoying, a better run implementation would be preferred. Maybe, if you want to run, pay a fine in coins or something. 

Equipment

The equipment that you can use comes in 2 forms. Weapons and accessories.

Weapons can only be used in battle, these are hammers and boots. These each come in different forms, and have different power levels. So you can have iron boots, which can be used to jump on the heads of spiky enemies. You can also get a shiny version of those iron boots, which would just have more power and do more damage. Hammers come in regular forms, ice versions, and also as throwables. With the same progressions as boots. Both culminate in the Legendary forms, which are glowing rainbow versions of each kind. They do the most damage of all.

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The other equipment that you get are the accessories. You can equip a certain amount of these and will gain buffs inside and outside of battle. Inside battle for example you can gain  extra health from an accessory. Outside of battle you can have a little bell that alerts you when a hidden Toad is near. I used both of these the whole time I had them of course. There are plenty more that you can choose from though.

You will also get access to a bunch of battle items, like the fire flower or a POW block. They can make a real difference in battle. For example, using a fire flower against a line of ice enemies is almost certainly going to mess all of them up. There’s also a 1 Up mushroom. So when your health reaches 0, it will revive you with full HP and get you right back into the battle.

Powers

Olivia comes along for the journey, to help you stop the origami army. She grants you 2 kinds of powers on your way. These can be used in and out of battle.

The first, is kind of my favorite because Mario looks ridiculous whilst using it. 1000-fold arms motion. Mario gets folded paper arms and larger hands, that he can use to reach up high or far. They can pull down walls, pull out stairs, and turn valves. I really like this power, it looks weird and wonderful and adds a strange way to unblock your path. You also have the ability to use motion controls to control the arms, I really, really love this. It’s great fun, I had no issues with traction for my movements. It worked perfectly every time for me.

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My favorite way to use them is in boss battles. There will often come a time where you can use the arms to smash up a boss. This involves you clenching your fists with the back buttons and then maddly shaking the Switch. This is a back and forth motion to mimic thumping down, which Mario does do. It’s awfully satisfying when you get to do it!

The other power that you will unlock as you progress, gives Olivia the power to turn into an origami elemental. This can be used to move the ground or start a fire. There’s a little cutscene that accompanies this action which I really like. It shows Olivia unfolding and then refolding into the shape of a giant Turtle for example.

Again, this can be used in battle to either do big damage or, say, to dodge a bosses charged attack. It adds an extra level of depth to the boss battles especially.

Exploration

You will be exploring many different environments, with different kinds of puzzles and enemies. To collect lots of different things. There are just 2 things I want to highlight here that I thought were delightful.

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The first involves scientist Toads that are working on a sensor system, that helps you find other Toads. They provide a ‘Fax Travel’ system. You read that right. Fax travel. Because you’re paper. And they. Literally. Fax you. Damn. I shouldn’t find this as funny as I did. I did find it funny though and I have no regrets. It completely caught me off guard and I love it.

The other are these strange coffee shops. You can discover these hidden doors at random locations along your journey. No I don’t know if they’re some kind of inside joke or there’s a hidden meaning. All I know is that Mario goes in, sits down, and is poured a cup of joe. There’s a little strange interaction and then he walks out. I don’t know why but i really like these random little diversions, it’s cute.

Collecting

There is way more than enough things to collect along your journey. The big one is Toads, they have all been folded into various shapes. It’s your job to try to save them all, as I mentioned above they can help in battle. They come in many different forms. They are sometimes bugs flying around, turned into fried eggs, or are stuck as a leaf in a tree. You will have to do a lot of searching to find them all. Luckily as mentioned above, there are ways to help your search.

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The other really big collectables are the figures. These look like little Amiibos of different characters, enemies, structures, and vehicles. They are scattered all over the world, and they are cute as hell. Even though they have small sprites they are extremely detailed. I can’t imagine they won’t become actual Amiibo one day. I for one would welcome this honestly.

You have a finite resource of confetti, that you store in your confetti bag. By striking things in the world like trees and flowers you can get more confetti. Also by defeating enemies. Then you can use this confetti to fill in gaps in the scenery. A lot of the time this is just a random hole, when you fill it in you get a bunch of coins. There are times however where you use the confetti to complete puzzles and the like. Now I’ve seen a lot of complaints about this too but again I had no issue with it. It’s ever so adorable to see little mario through large amounts of confetti. It also never really gets in the way of gameplay. 

The final collectable that I’ll talk about are the health upgrades. They raise your maximum HP which starts at 50. Then by either finding special cardboard hearts, or as rewards for helping certain Toads you can increase this total. There are different levels of hearts, sometimes you just add 5 to your max HP and other times you can add 20 HP. These sure do make a real difference in the later fights where enemies do a lot more damage.

Limitations

This isn’t a super large issue but it was annoying, slow text. I don’t know if there is a way to increase it, looking at the menu and on Google yielded no results. The text can feel really slow at times. You also can’t just speed through any of it. It appears slowly and you have to wait for it all before pressing ‘A’ to move on to the next slow bit of text.

There are 2 other things that I really don’t like about The Origami King. The first is that there is only one save per profile on your Switch. The other is that there is no clear indication of playtime or overall percentage complete. If there is a way around either of these then I will obviously rescind this part.

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It just really limits you, I feel like in almost all other Mario type games you will get like 4 save slots. Then each one displays your progress, or you can go into a menu and see that you’ve played it for this long and have this much finished of the game. I could be wrong but that’s the memory that I have of other games. It seems weird that a game in 2020 doesn’t show clear progress and doesn’t allow you to save more than once per profile.

I hope these are patched at some point but I really don’t know how likely that is.

Visuals? 10/10 – A gorgeous world full of character. I love the art styles chosen. Everything is paper crafts and it looks amazing.

The Origami King is a stunning game. It feels like one of the best looking Mario games to date, I personally love the art style as well. There are 2 main things that I like above all else.

One is the vibrant colours. Every area that you go to looks drastically different from the last. Yet each one is full of colour and life. Sometimes you are in a gorgeous autumnal forest, walking over all of the falling leaves. Other times you are sailing across a great blue sea. There is more than enough variation and all of it looks stunning.

The other is commitment to paper. Everything is paper or paper craft related. For example, all of the coins and hearts are cardboard cutouts. The ground is often made from different layers of coloured paper. When some water runs from a fountain it is made to look like bits of paper. Just everything, it looks fantastic.

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I really like the contrast between the origami forces and the regular ones like Mario and the Toads. Mario looks like a bright and shiny sticker, complete with a white border around him. Whereas all origami characters look more like real and genuine coloured paper. It makes for a really interesting contrast, it also distinguishes between friend and foe. As the majority of enemies are transformed from Bowser’s minions.

Suffice it to say that I love the art direction, the commitment, and the vibrancy in every area of Paper Mario: The Origami King.

Audio? 10/10 – A fantastic amalgamation of sweet melodies during exploration and hyped up tracks for fights.

The audio sounds pretty perfect all the way through. In each area that you visit you will find many unique tracks. This gives each area a further refreshing feel, aside from just the difference in obvious visuals.

I particularly like a lot of the “battle themes”, the game is chock full of great tracks, and there is also a music room in the museum. Here you can check all of the tracks that you have found along your journey. I always like it when a game gives you the ability to go through the OST.

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One other thing that I really like, is something really quite small and inconsequential. It is however a really neat addition. There is an accessory that you can get, I believe in the later game, which gives you retro sound effects. To be specific it gives your jump and swinging the hammer classic Mario sounds. It adds nothing else to the game but it’s a great addition. It’s silly things like that that perforate the game and make it a great experience.

Story? 9/10 – Cute little story with love, betrayal, laughter, and paper. Lots and lots of paper.

I really like the story in The Origami King, it’s just a simple premise that leads you all over the world. Exploring many different regions, with many different environments, and puzzles to solve.

It all starts with Mario and Luigi driving along, going to the origami festival upon the invitation from Princess Peach. They arrive in the castle to find everyone gone, which is suspicious. Luigi has to run back to the car as he forgot their present for Peach. 

Enter Princess Peach, she looks like she has put on some weight. Specifically she’s now a thicker origami version of herself, and she tries to convince Mario to join her. Mario obviously declines because it doesn’t seem like it’s the regular Peach anymore. A trapdoor sends Mario down to the dungeons.

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Here Mario finds 2 things. The first is a cheeky little hammer, one of the main weapons in the game. The other is a magic circle, this magic circle lets Mario use the 1000-fold arms. A special origami magic that gives him super extending arms, and allows him to interact with the world. In this case he rips off part of the wall to reveal a little origami lady with a yellow paper dress. Her name is Olivia.

With Olivia in tow, Mario escapes the room. Through a crack in the wall the pair witness one of Bowser’s minions turn into an origami soldier. Not to mention Bowser, having been turned into a little paper square and hanging from a clothing peg. Mario and Olivia free Bowser and they try to escape the castle.

They are caught by Origami Peach and are introduced to the villain. Origami King Olly. You know, like the name of the game… Clever right? Olly uses his origami magic powers to make some coloured streamers to wrap up Peach’s castle. Mario, Olivia, and Bowser are rescued by a Shy Guy that is piloting one of Bowser Jr’s clown cars. In the midst of the escape they are all thrown in different directions. The castle is then transported atop a volcano.

Mario and Olivia wake up in the forest just outside of town. Now using the power of Mario’s jumping and Olivia’s origami magic they must destroy the streamers. This will gain them access to the castle, where they will have to stop King Olly.

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I like the story and the way it’s presented. It’s simple, you meet the main characters at the start. Then you are given very clear goals that you have to achieve in order to save the day. There’s not too much extra depth to be found in the actual main story but that’s fine. It doesn’t need it because the journey there is filled with enjoyment.

On your journey you will go to many different locations, meetup with different characters that will travel with you. Like Bobby the Bob-omb who has amnesia. Or Kamek, Bowser’s right hand man and a great groundskeeper. A Lot of the normal side characters and often enemies are presented here, but in a brighter light. It’s actually a pretty cool experience.

Acting? 9/10 – No actual dialogue in the game.

There are little bits that are voiced in The Origami King but I don’t think you can consider this as “acting”. So I’ll follow some of Seriously Average Gamer’s previous reviews and make this score the mean average of the rest.

Writing? 9/10 – Some of the funniest writing of any recent game. It’s self aware and ridiculous in the best way possible.

There it is. It’s ridiculous, hilarious, and self aware. The story is cute, it has a wide range of characters with sincere interactions. 

You meet a lot of the standard Mario characters along your way. Some of these will be minions of Bowser, it gives a really different perspective. 

This is an odd one and I both love, and hate this. Luigi is an absolute dolt. He is not smart. I know it’s on purpose obviously and it is very funny. I Like Luigi and specifically I like him in Luigi’s Mansion. I’ve been playing that recently and the difference between Paper and Scardey Luigi is stark. That being said, the ridiculousness of his appearances are fantastic. You know, the moment you see Luigi’s green hat that he’s going to do something dumb, it’s gonna somehow help you, and that it’s gonna be funny.

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Another ridiculous example is a stereotypically New York, sentient Sellotape. That’s not an exaggeration either. It’s so odd, it’s sort of out of place, but it’s really funny. It made me laugh out loud so hard because it’s so dumb.

Performance? 8/10 – Plays well with no drops in quality. Does drain the battery on my Switch pretty quick, when in handheld.

I played The Origami King all the way through in handheld mode on my Nintendo Switch. I found that there were no issues with framerate, visuals, or audio. Everything looked and sounded perfect the whole time.

Worth noting as well, the motion controls were crisp and perfect for me the entire time. Overall I just had zero issues with the game whilst playing it, through my whole playthrough.

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That’s not to say there weren’t any issues at all though. There was one reasonably big issue that I found, which was battery life. The Origami King felt like it drained the battery faster than any other game I’ve played.

So you’ll likely either need to play with it plugged into a charger, or just just play docked. I still played it all in handheld and it really didn’t ruin the experience. Just worth noting.

Fun Factor? 10/10 – The Origami King is one of the most genuinely fun video games I’ve played in a while. It’s light hearted and funny, with lots to do and collect.

Let me just say, again. I can’t help but say this again. The Origami King is fun as hell. It’s one of the most pure fun I’ve had in a game in a while. There are definitely better made games, longer games, and just better games. There is no question there. What there aren’t a lot of, are games that make me laugh out loud a bunch.

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I really can’t think of any games recently that are as funny, both in terms of set pieces, dialogue, and events. The Origami King completely captivated me and I loved my time in it.

Games can be fun for many different reasons, The Origami King is the perfect relaxing, feel good game.

Value? 8/10 – A decent length for a game, with one of the most enjoyable experiences for a while. My only real problem is that there is no obvious post game content.

I bought The Origami King on release day so I paid the full £50, I also paid an extra pound for the cartridge protection. When I bought The Origami King from Game here in the UK, I also got some cool little extras. I got these adorable little fridge magnets and some origami sheets, so that I can make some of the characters in the game. It’s a really cute little addition and very much appreciated.

I’ll be honest here, I do not know how long I played The Origami King in my play through. It doesn’t seem like the game tells you your playtime, and my Switch profile just tells me I started the game a couple of days ago. Neither of these things are helpful obviously. I did check howlongtobeat.com and the average for all playstyles is currently at 33 hours. There aren’t many people polled for this yet though. 

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I may update this part when I can get my full playtime.

I will say that it did take up a whole long weekend for me. It was all that I played Friday to Sunday evening so I played it a bunch for sure. My guess would be a good 25-30 hours. So a pretty reasonable amount of time for a game of this nature. I also haven’t collected everything or cleared every single area. So there is still much more for me to go and do around the world.

Now there doesn’t seem to be any post game that I have seen. Once you have beaten the final boss and passed through the credits, you start from your save file. It takes you back to the final save point, outside the door of that final boss, just with a new tunnel. This takes you back so that you can go back to town and go on your merry collecting way.

This is something that just needs to be brought up a lot in this review, I’m not sorry for it either. The Origami King is one of the most genuinely fun games to come out recently. There are plenty of good games, enough great games, but really not that many that are just fun. I really loved my time with The Origami King and that is worth a lot to me.

How Much Did The Reviewer Enjoy It? 10/10 – Pretty much everything about The Origami King is enjoyable. It’s a wonderful experience and I loved my time with it.

The Origami King was released on July 17th. This was the Friday that just passed. It is now 11:00PM on Sunday the 19th, I have finished the game and am already starting to write my review. It’s all I played this weekend and I have not been able to put it down.

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Now, there are already review bombs all over sites like Metacritic for The Origami King, which is, as ever, a shame. Looking through a few the sentiment boils down to “0/10 – no Exp after battles”. For me, this is an unacceptable “review”. The game is neither a 0/10 nor is it an RPG so there won’t be experience. 

If you go into The Origami King accepting that it’s an adventure-puzzle game, that alone will open your eyes to the merits of this game.

It is one of the most gorgeous looking, well written, and funny Nintendo games I’ve ever played. The dialogue is funny and self aware, yet ridiculous and at times genuinely laugh out loud funny. I can’t remember the last time a game actually made me literally laugh out to myself. 

The world is full of colour, wonder, and funny characters. Everywhere you go there’s something to explore, collect, save, or fix. You’ve always got something to do and for me, everywhere I went, I wanted to do all these things. Keeping me interested and intrigued all the way to the end, never getting bored.

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Paper Mario: The Origami King isn’t without its flaws, or areas that need improvement. It’s a great looking and fun game. At the end of the day, that’s all it needs to be, it embodies everything a videogame should be and I love it for that.

I would recommend this to anyone that wants a peaceful little video game excursion, or that just wants to actually have fun with a game. Lord knows we could all use a break sometimes and The Origami King, to my mind, is just that break.

Paper Mario: The Origami King review.
Written by Kyle Munn.

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