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Review: Paper Mario – The Origami King for Nintendo Switch

Paper Mario makes his debut on the Nintendo Switch in an all new action-adventure game. With visually stunning overworld designs and an excellent range of puzzles to boot, The Origami King has ironed out many of the past two titles’ creases. Yet something is missing. Repetitive battles, breakable weapons and a flawed coin system aside, the story feels less engaging this time around, often subverted by overzealous gameplay mechanics that make zero sense.

Described as an ‘experimental’ series by fans and developers alike, Paper Mario is a transformative game that’s free of any boundaries. What began as an RPG adventure series has slowly transitioned into a smorgasbord of gaming genres. Each entry from Sticker Star onwards appears to focus on one key gaming mechanic, building the entire world around its use. First it was stickers, then colourless cards, and now, in the Origami King, it’s confetti. But unlike Sticker Star and Color Splash, confetti isn’t something you can use in battle; it’s only purpose is to fill ‘non-bottomless holes’ that appear in the overworld as a way to earn coins. And, as coins are as bountiful as confetti in the overworld, we’re left questioning as to why it’s even there in the first place.

This is where we arrive at the crux of the matter. Developed by Intelligent Systems, Paper Mario: The Origami King just throws everything at the board and hopes something will stick. Between carbon copied elements from previous games in the series to borrowed mechanics from The Legend of Zelda (The Great Sea, Courage, Power and Wisdom Trials), Yoshi’s Crafted World (overworld puzzles), Labo VR (submarine mode) and more, The Origami King persistently refuses to settle on one identity that it’s somehow merged into several Nintendo IPs in one fell swoop. And since many of the gameplay mechanics are often tied to storyline progression, with no real reason other than to elongate time spent in a certain area, Paper Mario becomes a strange concoction of puzzles, luck-based scenarios and a lengthy search for an unfeeling cause. It’s ironic, really, since The Origami King’s entire story revolves around soulless, refolded paper enemies that force you into puzzle-based battles, designed to break both your weapons and patience.

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However, that’s not to say the game doesn’t have its star-studded moments, and it would be detrimental to the series itself to simply skip over these elements. While the storyline isn’t as engaging as past entries, (see our preview for a quick summary) there are still times where I’ve found myself giggling uncontrollably due to the sheer wit and humorous writing seen in Olivia, the Origami Princess and Mario’s cheerful assistant, or via Luigi’s epic fails, as well as through partners such as Bob-omb, Professor Toad and Kamek – all of whom assist in battles too.

The Origami King’s visuals are also noteworthy. After the first two streamer worlds, you’ll visit Shroom City, located in the Scorched Sandpaper Desert, which looks like a pop-up Agrabah and is absolutely stunning at night. After a trek across the Great Sea in your boat, you’ll happen upon a heaven-like paradise (also known as The Shangri Spa) where you can take a hot dip in the Spring of Purification, later meeting up with Bowser’s minions.

Speaking of, adventuring in the sumptuous overworld locations like The Great Sea to discover islands or by exploring underground caverns and dungeons in search of ‘Vellumental’ magic are where you’ll find some of the best puzzles. Between image and action-based slide puzzles to locations that feature unique contraptions, buttons and trials to test your memory and logic, The Origami King is truly a puzzle game at its core. In fact, it feels more like a traditional Legend of Zelda game – think Wind Waker – than it does a Paper Mario title. Yet unlike the Zelda franchise, where the puzzles, action and enemies get more difficult as you progress through the 30+ hour storyline, The Origami King falls foul of that pattern.

Throughout all five streamer worlds, The Origami King is defined by its unique ring-based – and time-based – battle mechanics. Essentially restricted to the same gameplay difficulty through its own making, forced enemy battles become highly repetitive and mundane, while boss battles (though enjoyable) are constrained to puzzle-based logic that’s almost identical to the previous fight. While bosses do showcase quirky elements pertaining to their character, for instance Sellotape sticks the battle rings together and Hole Punch attacks the board like an overenthusiastic dog with a chew toy, nothing is too taxing once you’ve understood the basic elements. Simply switch the board around – either horizontally or vertically – to strategically place the arrows, treasure chests, ‘on’ switches, magic circles, coins, hearts and action points together to make your way to the boss.


For added hilarity during boss fights, using the 1,000 Folded Arms – a special motion control movement that sees Mario wield corrugated cardboard arms – when using your Switch in handheld mode makes it nigh on impossible to watch the action as you repeatedly shake the console up and down. It’s true that motion controls can be turned off, but where’s the fun in that? I’d rather just shake it like a polaroid picture.

There are moments, though, when Origami King veers off course – for the greater good, might I add. Action battles with a paper mache Blooper in The Great Sea and another enemy later in the game are prime examples of Paper Mario doing what he does best; defeating an enemy in a skill-based, action-packed battle – all without the constraints of a ring-based puzzle mechanic. There’s also no time limit in these battles either, making for a great change of pace.

As spoken at length in our preview, The Origami King’s battle system offers no experience or level ranking, only rewarding players with coin bonuses after enemies are defeated. Due to this, there is no real incentive to fight enemies in the overworld – unless you are forced into doing so. Aside from your standard boots and hammer, Mario can also wield upgraded hammers and boots that are either stronger or offer unique properties. These weapons, however, break after so many uses, ensuring you spend your coins in the game’s battle shop. And herein lies another unfortunate flaw: the game’s use of coins.

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Instead of confetti, The Origami King revolves entirely around collecting coins. Between battles, filling non-bottomless holes, discovering Hidden Toads, and an accessory that hilariously rewards you with 10,000 coins after taking 10,000 steps, the game encourages you to use your coins to reward you with – that’s right – even more currency. Eventually, coins become meaningless and are often used solely as a bargaining chip to obtain more collectibles, purchase accessories for stat / health increases, upgrade your boat, or assist Bowser’s Minions by purchasing items via their extortionate prices.

On the other hand, coins are also used to make the game easier. Between paying collected Toads to ‘cheer’ you on in enemy battles, lengthening the countdown clock, and making trials or puzzles easier in the overworld, coins are bizarrely tied to the game’s difficulty. The more you have, the easier it gets. Yet by avoiding spending coins to increase the difficulty, you’re also missing out on some of the game’s most interesting weapons (the Legendary Hammer is particularly cool), accessories and more. It appears the Origami King is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

When all is said and done, Paper Mario: The Origami King is a solid, wonderfully charming adventure-come-puzzle title. Thankfully, for series’ fans, it’s closer to Color Splash than it is to Sticker Star, but the game still doesn’t come close to The Thousand-Year Door territory. Perhaps this is down to The Origami King’s need to do everything at once, rather than focus on one core element of gameplay. Until the series can truly settle and develop an identity to call its own, Paper Mario will always be a little creased in the corners.


A review copy of Paper Mario: The Origami King was provided to My Nintendo News by Nintendo UK. To discover more about the gameplay mechanics and storyline, take a look at our preview.

26 thoughts on “Review: Paper Mario – The Origami King for Nintendo Switch”

  1. I myself am one of those people who thoroughly loved Color Splash. So if this game is at least similar to that, I know I’ll love it. Honestly, Color Splash surprised me. Hearing so many people put down Sticker Star and even comparing it to Color Splash made me skeptical. I’m just glad that skeptiism didn’t stop me from buying it. And now on Friday, I’ll discover whether or not I love The Origami King. : )

    1. Yea color splash was amazing for me, if we get more of that I’m happy. Sticker star was definitely a purchase I regret so as long as it’s better than that I’m happy.

    2. I’m with you! I understand people’s complaints concerning color splash’s battle system, but the game in general did a great job of being entertaining and exciting, with tons of varied locations. People mostly don’t like it because it isn’t similar to TTYD, but I think color splash did a great job at what it set out to do. Not to mention that it was the funniest game I’ve ever played! I guess we’ll see soon if Origami King is as fun as Color Splash was.

  2. What a nice and fair review, alot of reviewers gave accurate scores saying they either like it, or its good step in the right direction, its nice to see stuff like this than hearing toxic people rain on others people parade all week saying they shouldn’t give the game a chance, or there not a true fan for liking the past titles at the end of the day its still a video game, and the core factor for playing video games should be whether you had fun with it or not. I still don’t like sticker star tho lol.

  3. I enjoyed Color splash. The problem with paper mario verterans is that they love the first few. In order for Nintendo to get more of an audience, they NEED to change up the formula.

      1. But Coca Cola is one of the most popular sodas in the world. They shouldn’t change anything up. But paper Mario isn’t the most popular game. So I feel like the are trying to make it appeal to a wider audience as has been said, as a lot of normal players, kids and such, would do better with something easier (this is a very corporate way of thinking about it, and kids should be able to be challenged, but I think it’s what they are doing) I definitely agree that not everything should be changed. I have been working through Bug Fables on hard mode so I’m looking forward to something a bit easier after that

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  5. Having finished the game today, I have to say a 7/10 for this game is a criminally low rating. This same site gave Color Splash an 8/10 which is a much more appropriate score for this game. I mean, there isn’t one thing Color Splash does better than this game and that’s coming from someone who really liked color splash. You’ve basically just said Color Splash was better with these scores. I can not agree with this review at all. I hadn’t read it before now, but this and the preview came of as scathing to me, like I could feel the venom dripping from it. It read like a disgruntled or jaded TTYD fan saying “not my Paper Mario” and then proceeding to knock it repeatedly for not being an RPG when it actually never claimed to be an RPG. It’s Gere is Action/Adventure clear as day on the eshop. Then rather that judging it as a traditional adventure game which it clearly is, you judge it as an RPG instead. Okay. There definitely wasn’t any obvious bias here. Even if you genuinely don’t like a genre as a reviewer it is your sworn duty not to let your bias sway your critiques.

    Personally I loved this game. I could hardly put it down, just found myself wanting to know what shenanigans Mario and Friends were going to get up to next. Was it perfect? No, not very close close actually, but then no game is. Could it have been better? Absolutely. But this game oozes charm from every inch of it. It had me smiling the whole way through, really we need more cute, charming, feel good games like this. It played exactly like a traditional adventure game (my fave genre btw) and pulled that off well, the sole exception being the turn based combat. I get how that’s not for everyone, but personally I liked it. It did get repetitive towards the end, but all these battle systems do for me, including the ones in the first two games. I like how the battle system makes you feel engaged, you constantly have things to think about, so that it doesn’t just become mindless button punching at any point. The thing is that these battles actually do play out very much like a traditional Paper Mario title near the end, when you won’t necessarily be able to kill all the enemies in one go, and then the attack and then you block, then it goes back to your attack and you select a jump, hammer, or item attack. Seems pretty standard to me. On those times you fail to line up the enemies; which happens occasionally as some of those ring puzzles can be real brain busters toward the end (and you’re on a clock), it will play just like Paper Mario originals battles.

    The boss battles were actually fun to me, I liked how the mechanics to beat them are all built in unlike Color Splash where you needed to squeeze the proper items to win ahead of time. (which btw wasn’t really a puzzle since those needed objects were so painfully obvious) I’d imagine it would be too easy if you used the cheers, but I didn’t. I decided I’d give myself no handicaps in my play through and each and every fight felt very engaging and even stressful at times thanks to the clock. (and getting to laugh at my self when I forgot to move an arrow in front of Mario the couple of times I did that :P) To me feeling stressed in a battle is a good thing it keeps one on their toes and actually punishes mistakes. Not that this game was difficult, but then no Paper Mario game is, lets be honest. I always made the TTYD have false difficulty by coming into things as under leveled as possible and still didn’t have too much trouble with it. Granted that little trick is not possible in this game because no XP, but even still the fights get more difficult as you progress through the game. The ring puzzles become harder, the enemies hit harder, your weapons have less of an impact on them, well at least your basic weapons. You could definitely pad the difficulty quite a bit by just using the basic weapons and forgoing the toad cheers. The bosses also become more intricate, though admittedly the final conflict was disappointing based solely on those that proceeded it.

    Anyway, I find the puzzles being so frequent in this game to be one of it’s strong points, it’s not a good adventure game without lots of puzzles and dungeons. Of which this game has plenty. I also loved all the game play variety, it breaks up what could be a monotonous trek into an experience with perfect pacing. I also love how this game gives you lots of reasons to explore it, with all the holes to fill, and toad and collectibles to find. It just makes you want to search every nook and cranny, and keeps you engaged with each and every area rather than just being a hold left or right down journey into a bunch of fights most of the time. It also helps that these areas are quite large, much larger than the areas in Paper Mario or TTYD. I mean there is even a Wind Waker type adventure right in the middle of this game.

    So for a game that’s has such gorgeous graphics, humerus writing, and so much charm… I just can’t wrap my head around a score of 7, that means average. This game is not average, it may not be as good as TTYD, but it doesn’t need to be compared to that, and it does do a lot of things better. (If you guys could just take off your nostalgia glasses for a minute you could see that). While I’ll admit it would have been better with Super Paper Mario’s real time combat just to make it fully an action game. The combat was not bad at all. I thoroughly enjoyed this game. It deserves at least the same rating as color Splash, but I’d give it an 8.5 or 9 easily. My only major disappointment with this game was it ending; really that’s it. I wanted more. It was that charming. Time wise t’s actually quite a bit longer in length than Color Splash, and longer than TTYD for a straight story run, which is certainly a plus.

    The point is, I am 100% fully satisfied with my purchase of this game and I hope others will give it a chance and not just join the “if it’s not a carbon copy of TTYD it can’t be good” crowd. This game has been a pleasant surprise.

  6. Great Article By Colette, Mario is my Childhood Companion, How far we go with the gaming technology but Mario is still there. But I am very upset that Mario isn’t available on PC.

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