The uni­verse of Paper Mario has always been a whim­si­cal, dis­tant, place from the main, grit­ty world of orig­i­nal Mario. Thank­ful­ly, Paper Mario: The Origa­mi King con­tin­ues to pro­vide that joy­ful reprieve the series is known for, with fresh, strate­gic, com­bat and a quant batch of lov­able char­ac­ters. If for a moment you for­get you’re in a paper-world, that’ll quick­ly evap­o­rate when you flat­ten a crum­pled Toad with your Ham­mer. These kind of absurd and face­tious inter­ac­tions are exact­ly what I had expect­ed from a Paper Mario title.

Olly (or King Olly as he declares him­self), is attempt­ing to claim the Paper Mario uni­verse as his own and alters some of the cur­rent res­i­dents into his 3D origa­mi min­ions. Princess Peach has also been kid­napped, but that’s a theme that nev­er waivers in any Mario title. As if these are not bad enough, he’s also ripped the cas­tle from the ground with a set of vibrant stream­ers he’s wrapped around it, and has placed it on top of a moun­tain in the far dis­tance. So once again Mario, this time with the help of Olly’s con­trite sis­ter Olivia, is trav­el­ing to save the damsel in dis­tress and her threat­ened king­dom. Well, that and flat­ten what Olly has crin­kled in his wake.

Paper Mario: The Origami King Review - A Half-Folded Kingdom

While the flat­tened world of Paper Mario has always been appeal­ing, this game has added tex­tures to cer­tain envi­ron­men­tal ele­ments that just were not there before. The way the paper over­laps to cre­ate struc­tures with depth, or how the splash­es of origa­mi bring char­ac­ter to 2D sur­round­ings. I passed through a vari­ety of loca­tions while on my jour­ney, like forests, a leaf-cov­ered moun­tain­side, a rather large desert, and a theme park, to name just a few. Each one has a spe­cif­ic appear­ance, which is not usu­al­ly rep­re­sent­ed in any oth­er sec­tion; includ­ing the ene­mies. My only graph­i­cal qualm is how crisp the char­ac­ters and ene­mies look. They don’t have that grain­i­ness like the rest of the cir­cum­am­bi­ent paper has.

Paper Mario: The Origami King Review - A Half-Folded Kingdom
Paper Mario: The Origami King Review - A Half-Folded Kingdom
Paper Mario: The Origami King Review - A Half-Folded Kingdom
Paper Mario: The Origami King Review - A Half-Folded Kingdom
Paper Mario: The Origami King Review - A Half-Folded Kingdom
Paper Mario: The Origami King Review - A Half-Folded Kingdom
Paper Mario: The Origami King Review - A Half-Folded Kingdom

Speak­ing of ene­mies, Olly’s been fold­ing Bowser’s crew into origa­mi ver­sions of them­selves, turn­ing them into goons used for his own bid­ing. Goom­bas, Shy Guys, Snifits, var­i­ous Koopas, and all the types of usu­al foes Mario faces, but in origa­mi form, are roam­ing about. They are ref­er­enced in the game as Fold­ed Sol­diers and they’re the main ene­mies faced through­out. There’s also Paper Mâché ene­mies, which are giant ver­sions of com­mon Fold­ed Sol­diers, but are not fought too often.

Paper Mario: The Origami King Review - A Half-Folded Kingdom
Paper Mâché Goom­bas on patrol in the back­ground

Bat­tles are still turn-based, but with a twist. Usu­al­ly, you’d take your turn, then your opponent(s) use theirs until some­one wins. Now, Mario is tasked with rotat­ing a set of ene­mies on 360˚ plat­form, to get them to stack up. Essen­tial­ly, each time you bat­tle you’re faced with a puz­zle, and putting the ene­mies in a cer­tain order gives you a 1.5x boost to your attack. You don’t fight Paper Mâché oppo­nents on this plat­form.

The new sys­tem requires you to think strate­gi­cal­ly, espe­cial­ly since you have a time lim­it and a restrict­ed num­ber of moves to com­plete the line-up. Press­ing your A but­ton right before you land on an ene­my or strike a ham­mer blow, will deal extra dam­age, as it had pre­vi­ous titles. A score rat­ing is also giv­en at the end of each bat­tle, which doles out coins for how well you per­form. These rat­ings are based on sev­er­al con­di­tions, like if you took dam­age or com­plet­ed the puz­zle line-up.

Ear­ly on, if I just could­n’t solve a puz­zle, pay­ing the crowd of Toads to cheer me on would bring me clos­er to the solu­tion. Although, this caus­es the loss of the puz­zle-com­ple­tion bonus. They will also throw objects at your foes, deal­ing small amounts of dam­age, and will give you health. At some point, there will be an option to make life eas­i­er by hav­ing these puz­zles solved, with you just need­ing to move the ene­mies. This can feel bor­der­line like cheat­ing, but it can’t be used dur­ing boss encoun­ters, so ehh.

Fight­ing boss­es is an entire­ly dif­fer­ent kind of beast. Although these encoun­ters still use the same com­bat sys­tem, you move arrows instead of ene­mies. Over­head is the only view you have dur­ing boss bat­tles and mov­ing the arrows brings you clos­er to your tar­get for an attack. Boss­es will scat­ter debris and the game will throw auto­mat­i­cal­ly toss health, trea­sure, mes­sages (they give info on how to beat the boss), and oth­er items onto the field. This can make the ring look rather chaot­ic, and has caused me to miss my mark a cou­ple of times.

I per­son­al­ly don’t like the new com­bat sys­tem, sim­ply because it can be dif­fi­cult for me to deter­mine where to place oppo­nents due to their origa­mi design. The option to see the field from an over­head view does­n’t always solve the issue when your prob­lem is lit­er­al­ly paper-thin. It also feels like boss bat­tles are extreme­ly long, espe­cial­ly if a cer­tain com­bat sequence needs to hap­pens before they can be defeat­ed.

Dif­fer­ent weapons are still avail­able for Mario to use, like the Iron Boots and the Shiny Ham­mer, which is great for get­ting through stronger ene­mies and boss bat­tles. There’s one thing that both­ers me about this. They did­n’t apply the images of the weapons to the base Boots and Ham­mer dur­ing bat­tle. A wood­en ham­mer with float­ing sparkles, but no shiny coat, does­n’t make it a Shiny Ham­mer.

Paper Mario: The Origami King Review - A Half-Folded Kingdom

Adding strat­e­gy to the com­bat is a nice touch, but becomes as mind-numb­ing as pre­vi­ous title’s repet­i­tive engage­ments. The only remark­able aspect of this dras­tic sys­tem over­haul, are the fights with boss­es.

Much like the oth­er games in the fran­chise, this one also has com­pan­ions that fol­low you through­out the quest. First off, yes, they do help in fights. Sec­ond­ly, no, they’re not always super help­ful. Depend­ing on the fol­low­er, their assis­tant dur­ing bat­tles can be min­i­mal and occa­sion­al­ly their attacks won’t even deal dam­age. They also nev­er help in boss fights.

Even though the game does present them as hav­ing char­ac­ter, it’s hard­ly ever seen, on or off the sta­di­um bat­tle­field. It’s as if they were an after­thought, sprin­kled in so Olivia was­n’t the only source of sto­ry pro­gres­sion. While a few of these char­ac­ters did bring some emo­tion­al moments, they just did­n’t stick around long enough for any sort of attach­ment to grow. Olivia is basi­cal­ly the per­son­al­i­ty through­out the game, and she’s def­i­nite­ly a col­or­ful one, since we all know Mario isn’t much of a talk­er. It’s unfor­tu­nate that the oth­er char­ac­ters were not as promi­nent.

Paper Mario: The Origami King Review - A Half-Folded Kingdom
Olivia on the right

The RPG ele­ment is rather light, with no need to grind for resources, which can get extreme­ly old in game where bat­tles are turn-based. Gold is used for items pur­chased from mer­chants and it’s super easy to come by. Win­ning bat­tles dis­pens­es the most Gold, but res­cu­ing Toads, hit­ting ques­tion blocks and com­plet­ing small side quests will grant coins as well. There are also holes that lit­ter the ground, which can be filled with con­fet­ti, net­ting Gold and stop­ping Mario from falling through it.

All this Gold isn’t just to stare at, there are dif­fer­ent weapons and acces­sories. Some of the acces­sories have abil­i­ties like extend­ing your time-lim­it in dur­ing bat­tle or help­ing you find hid­den items eas­i­er. These pieces also make it more invit­ing to explore the world of The Origa­mi King. I wor­ried less about hav­ing to weave my way through ene­mies look­ing for that last Toad or that last ques­tion box in an area, once I obtained cer­tain items.

Paper Mario: The Origami King Review - A Half-Folded Kingdom

Bottom Line


I real­ly hate to be one of those peo­ple, but I’ve got to say it: if you’re a seri­ous fan of Paper Mario: The Thou­sand-Year Door, you like­ly won’t enjoy this game. How­ev­er, if you’re just a fan of the Paper Mario series in gen­er­al, Paper Mario: The Origa­mi King still shares a lot of the same ele­ments as the oth­ers. It’s got a good sto­ry, great boss bat­tles, and that clas­sic wit­ty sense of humor. While I don’t entire­ly like the new com­bat sys­tem, it’s nev­er so over­whelm­ing that I feared los­ing and it even­tu­al­ly grew on me. What it boils down to for me per­son­al­ly, is the big mark­er it real­ly missed. Char­ac­ter devel­op­ment is a huge piece for this type of game and with­out it.. it’s kind of drab. Like mac n’ cheese with­out the mac­a­roni. Sure, cheese is good, but I could­n’t eat half a bowl of just that and con­tin­ue to want more. At least, not all at once.