Paper Mario: The Origami King Review – Right Above The Fold

When Paper Mario debuted on the N64, it took Square’s Super Mario RPG turn-based RPG battles and wrapped them around a clever papercraft aesthetic to create a wildly humorous adventure. Over the years, the Paper Mario series has strayed from traditional stat-based RPG leveling and tried various new mechanics with mixed success, but its light antics rarely disappoint. In Paper Mario: The Origami King, Nintendo’s humor remains relevant, but just like a real origami figure, the rest of the experience is a bit hollow. After receiving an invitation from Princess Peach to attend an origami festival, Mario heads to Toad Town, only to discover that an invader named King Olly has seized power and has bent the inhabitants of the Mushroom Kingdom into servants of origami. Fortunately, this is the kind of problem that is easily solved with a good whim, so Mario gets to work. Mario’s journey to defeat King Olly is full of savage shenanigans. You’re looking for a can opener to feed a monkey tuna, explore an abandoned cruise ship full of terrified toads, and fax Mario to teleport around the world. Nintendo’s word game-filled writing is full of laughs, and I loved meeting Origami King’s group of wild characters. I was even strangely moved after helping my fellow bob-omb find his missing fuse. While I enjoy Origami King’s dialogue, the pace of the story is uneven. I often needed to go back through a level to find a missing person or locate a key to a lock preventing me from progressing. These slowdowns are common, and while the writing still remains smart, they kill momentum. I was tired of going back and forth in environments that I had already thoroughly explored. Like previous Paper Mario games, Origami King’s action takes place in a series of turn-based encounters. However, the structure is different this time around, with Mario’s enemies positioned atop several concentric rings. During the first phase of each battle, Mario can turn or slide around the blocks that make up these rings to line up his enemies. Like a Rubik’s Cube, you manipulate your enemies to group them together, making them easier to take down. I enjoy the challenge of lining up these villains before wiping out an entire row of the board with a heavy attack, but the combat system doesn’t evolve beyond its original promise. Since you don’t gain experience, you have little incentive to participate in repeated battles, and it starts to seem unnecessary to you. Halfway through the game I was trying to avoid the fight as much as possible because it got so boring. Origami King’s ring-based battles are reversed for boss encounters, as Mario starts on the outer ring and moves towards the center. These extended fights require more puzzle solving, with you sliding the rings to avoid obstacles, then positioning Mario for optimal attack. Again, I enjoyed the basic glide mechanics, and the boss fights add an extra layer of complexity that I missed in the base battles, but these showdowns are beyond their welcome. Most bosses take a lot of trial and error to figure out where you should position Mario and what type of attack he should use to deal damage. Defeating these monstrous enemies is ultimately satisfying, but I was also often worn out by the end of the ordeal. As a series, Paper Mario is constantly exploring new concepts and mechanics, which is exciting, but comes with a lot of risks. Origami King’s greatest odds are not paying off satisfactorily. I enjoyed Mario’s hijinks and all the misfits he meets, but the new ring-based action needs to be polished. Hopefully, Paper Mario’s next take on combat can reach the same level as his humor.

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