A Not-So-Hidden Gem of a Game
Paper Mario: The Origami King has been out for about five days now, and I’ve been working on it ever since its release. I’m now sitting at about halfway through the game at this point, and so I feel this would be the best time to write a preliminary review! And so, Lets-a go!
Origami King opens on Luigi and Mario attending an Origami Festival at Peach’s Castle. When they first arrive, however, the town prior to the Castle is completely deserted, so much so that Luigi asks Mario if he got the date for the party wrong. After a quick confirmation, the boys decide to head into the Castle itself to see what is going wrong. Luigi quickly finds himself lost, and Mario ends up stumbling upon the Princess himself, who seems… Distant and soulless. She’s been folded into origami by the new self-acclaimed King Olly, and you quickly come to learn that all paper people, when folded into origami, become soulless monsters. They’re not meant to be folded, and therefore lose themselves hen this happens.
After a quite creepy moment watching some of King Bowser’s minions be forcibly folded into King Olly’s new “Folded Soldiers”, you rescue the former Koopa King, who has himself been formed into just a head. He still somehow keeps ahold of his personality, and helps you and the also-newly-rescued Princess Olivia travel to he room of Peach’s Castle. Here you are entered by Olly into your first of the new battles, before he takes control of the castle itself using thick streamers.
The game finally allows for true play after King Olly has lifted Peach’s Castle to a seemingly unreachable mountain. Mario and his new partner Olivia decide that the only way to rescue the castle is to follow every streamer to where it meets the ground, and release the streamer, therefore in theory freeing the castle from Olly’s hold.
Once you have control of Mario fully, and are no longer in the aptly titled “cutscene-Hell” at the beginning of every game, this is when Origami King really starts to shine. The game is filled with references to previous Mario games for astute players, and has a wide range of collectibles to be discovered and gathered. There’s a certain number of Toads lost in every level, that are disguised as such things like cicadas, eggs, dogs, and flowers, as well as “not-so-bottomless” holes in the landscapes that Mario must fill with paper to repair, and finally chests containing statuesque versions of enemies and items, also hidden around the level. Even if one was to focus on just the collectible aspects of Origami King, they would find hours of entertainment in front of them, because most of the actions required to collect everything inside of a stage are puzzles themselves!
And that, itself, is the core of Origami King, more so I believe than any previous Paper Mario game. Paper Mario: Origami King is a puzzle game, through-and-through. The turn-based battle system involves lining up enemies in certain patterns to maximize damage output and attack style. Olivia helps you through the first few battles, of course, but after those “tutorial” battles, you’re on your own, and it quickly becomes quite a bit difficult to follow the patterns. Then there’s the added difficulty of finding the various collectibles, coupled with puzzles built right into the landscape around you! I have encountered slider puzzles, water puzzles, and mazes at this point, just to name a few of the unique things offered to you should you decide to pick up the game.
The other, most important thing to mention in a preliminary review is the landscapes. Paper Mario: Origami King boasts some of the most beautiful level design I have seen in a Mario game in quite a while. The music, coupled with the expanding scene, makes each level you spend time in feel like a vacation. I’ve been through a forest with talking trees, a dusty old Water Dragon temple, and a Japanese Samurai theme park. And each level, no matter how many times I combed through in search of elusive Toads or chests, didn’t feel like work. It felt relaxing, almost as if they are specifically tailored to keep players relaxed and happy while solving such difficult puzzles. I can appreciate, most of all the work that the developers paid to the world of Paper Mario: Origami King. World-building has always been a core strength of any Mario game, found most particularly unique and beautiful in the Paper Mario games, ironically. It’s so amazing what you can do when the enemies and characters are “flat”, but moving inside of a three-dimensional space, with three-dimensional objects.
For me, Paper Mario: Origami King is a must-have for anyone that loves Mario, puzzles, or just wants a stunningly beautiful RPG. I’ll have another update when the game is finished, but as of now, I know Nintendo has given us yet another amazing Mario ringer. Rarely, does Nintendo disappoint, and they definitely did NOT when it comes to Origami King.
Paper Mario: Origami King is now available on the Nintendo Switch for $59.99, so pick up a copy today, and get started on your own beautiful origami adventure today!