Bottom line: The latest Paper Mario is hilarious and filled with quirky charm. The battle ring system is a bit challenging to get the hang of, but the puzzles are thoroughly enjoyable. This is a beautiful game that we recommend for any Switch owner's library.
Silly puns and witty dialogue
Real-time and turn-based battles
Surprisingly emotional at times
Beautiful art & awesome music
Disruptive battle ring system
Motion controls are tiresome
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Before Paper Mario: The Origami King's release, I was a little wary. I was afraid of getting my hopes up too high considering how I didn't appreciate the last two games in the series. However, after getting my hands on a copy and completing it, I can definitely say that The Origami King is the best Paper Mario game to come out in the last decade.
Mario gets invited to Princess Peach's castle only to discover that the evil King Olly has taken command and is folding everyone into zombie origami figures. It's up to our favorite plumber and his friends to unravel the streamers wrapped around the castle and return peace to the land.
It's just as witty as we've come to expect from the series. It tells a fun narrative, there are plenty of exciting locations, and there's even some emotional depth to the story. The new ring battle system is rather tedious at times, but thankfully there are also real-time battles every once in a while to break things up.
If you enjoy puzzles, want to dive into a vibrant fantasy world, and love both puns and media that breaks the fourth wall, then you ought to check out Paper Mario: The Origami King.
Paper Mario: The Origami King — A witty adventure
|Title||Paper Mario: The Origami King|
|Game Size||6.5 GB|
|Play Time||25-30 hours|
One of the reasons I'm so drawn to the Paper Mario series is that every entry has provided hilarious, tongue-in-cheek commentary about the mustachioed man's adventures. This continues in The Origami King whether that entails making fun of Mario's looks, pointing out overused video game tropes, or even ragging on the developers who created Paper Mario. For instance, there's a point in Princess Peach's castle where players discover a locked door and Bowser complains, stating that the developers probably didn't even put anything behind it.
I found myself smiling, chuckling, or at least exhaling quickly through my nose every few minutes as I uncovered some sort of paper pun or other hilarious fourth-wall-breaking comment. The Origami King is worth it for the humor alone.
Visuals, music, & new experiences
In my opinion, this is one of the prettiest Nintendo Switch games out there with its vibrantly-crafted aesthetic. I loved all of the diverse locations and scenery I got to see as I traveled from one place to another. Thankfully, the game allows you to explore an open world rather than having the story be split into traditional chapters like the previous games. Mario travels vast distances and can either "fax travel" to various locations using a fax machine or use warp pipes to travel around.
The music perfectly sets the tone whether it's getting you pumped with a surprisingly heavy guitar riff in battle or giving off an ominous vibe while in a new dungeon. I especially loved the music in one particular dungeon and may or may not be listening to it as I type this review.
Along with interesting locales, there are several new experiences within The Origami King that I haven't seen in previous Paper Mario games. For instance, there's a Star Fox-like sequence where you shoot paper airplanes out of the sky, or an ocean segment that reminds me of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker since it allows you to steer a boat to various islands and dive for treasure. These moments did an awesome job of shaking up gameplay so that the journeying always felt fresh and interesting.
Emotional depth & dark humor
I expected this game to thrill me with laughs, but I didn't expect the story's emotional rollercoaster. Without saying too much, there is a particularly heartbreaking scene that took me by surprise. However, the characters hardly focus on it before moving on to more laughs. This felt a bit jarring and didn't fully give me the closure I needed, but it wouldn't be a Paper Mario game if it spent too much time focusing on the bad.
Several other moments of gameplay also made me feel a little uncomfortable while also making me laugh. Flat NPCs got folded into zombie origami against their will, for example. There's face stealing, Frankenstein-like creations, characters getting sliced to pieces right before Mario's paper eyes — this game does it all. Oh, and since talking characters burst into collectable confetti after being defeated, Mario is basically picking up gore from the battlefield.
If The Origami King hadn't taken place in a silly paper world, this would have been a horror game. However, being as it is, it's more darkly comedic and quirky, which suits a family-friendly Nintendo game better.
Paper Mario: The Origami King — Tedious ring battles
The opening tutorials for the ring battle system inch along incredibly slowly and hold your hand too much. Once I got through the handholding sections, I found the first several fight-puzzles fun to figure out as I slid origami Goombas and Koopas into specific positions. You're given a time limit and only a certain number of moves to make before the puzzle locks into place and battle begins. However, the novelty of these puzzles quickly turned to tedium as I engaged with them over and over again. I just wanted to battle instead of spending time getting ready to battle. Because of this, I chose to avoid enemy confrontations whenever possible.
Battles aren't entirely avoidable, though, since Mario is sometimes surprise attacked or must defeat certain enemies in order to progress further into a dungeon. These battle puzzles can be incredibly hard to figure out, depending on the type of player you are. A handy battle mechanic does allow you to pay coins to increase the timer or to get help from the Toads in the audience. That being said, the difficulty levels of some of these puzzles makes me think this isn't a game that a small kid can play through on their own.
The boss fights against The Legion of Stationary, the Vellumentals, and the titular Origami King continue to use the Ring Battle System, but in a different way. Instead of sliding the boss into position, you have to create routes for Mario to follow so that he can step on buttons that turn certain abilities on. Then, you need to get him to land on an attack icon to deliver a devastating blow. However, if you miscalculate your movements or land on the wrong button, Mario might not be able to attack.
As with the previously explained battles, these were interesting at first but quickly became a chore. This is especially true for bosses that have some trick to defeating them, which I only figured out if I managed to reach the appropriate icon before it defeated me. There were multiple annoying moments when the time ran out or I thought I had one more move to use, but didn't. These mistakes sometimes left Mario vulnerable and lead to his death.
However, I liked that there were several real-time battles against Paper Maché enemies and bosses. Mario runs around the over-world smacking these giant figures with his hammer until they explode into paper scraps. This battle style helps break up the repetitiveness of the turn-based ring puzzles. I got excited whenever a paper maché enemy came into view. I wouldn't have been sad at all if the real-time combat was the only battle system in the game.
Don't bother with the motion controls
The motion controls made The Origami King far less enjoyable for me. When playing in handheld mode, there are times where you have to shake the console around, which makes it hard to see what's happening on screen. Additionally, the Joy-Cons often needed to be readjusted, which took me out of the game. I found that the motion controls are easier to use when the game is docked to the TV or in tabletop mode, but it would've been all-around easier if I didn't have to wave my controllers around.
If you don't like the idea of waving the Joy-Cons around, check out our guide for how to turn off motion controls.
Paper Mario: The Origami King — Should you buy it?
Though the ring battle system isn't the best, being able to explore a gorgeous world filled with a crafted aesthetic and hilarious NPCs definitely makes The Origami King worth buying. There are plenty of over-world puzzles to solve as you delve into various themed dungeons. While I didn't like the idea of facing off against stationary at first, the creative ways that these baddies interact with Mario make them memorable bosses.
Paper Mario: The Origami King is one of the funniest games you can get on the Nintendo Switch right now. If you like the bizarre charm found within Mario's world and love participating in puzzles, then you really should get this game.
Exploring this origami world is a joy
Mario is on a quest to save the Mushroom Kingdom and Princess Peach from an evil origami bent on destroying the 2D world as we know it. Our favorite plumber will solve several puzzles and meet various characters along the way in his hilarious adventure.
Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.