Review

Paper Mario: The Origami King Review

  • First Released Jul 17, 2020
    released
  • NS

A new approach to combat transforms the series' combat from its glaring weakness into one of its biggest strengths.

The Paper Mario series thrives on a clever irreverence that can be hard to maintain. Its outlandish scenarios mash the absurdist, dreamlike world of the Mushroom Kingdom and the mundanity of the real world. It takes jabs at the very concepts that inspire it, nodding knowingly at the audience and whispering, "This whole thing's kind of weird, right?" It's a fun take on the usually-earnest Mario games, but that kind of slyness turns grating when the bits--or, in the case of a game, systems--that are supposed to prop it up don't work, which is where the last couple of Paper Mario games have struggled. But in surprising course-correction, Paper Mario: The Origami King's most clever trick is how its overhauled combat complements its sharp wit, turning the series' Achilles' heel into one of its biggest strengths.

Paper Mario: The Origami King's conceptual gimmick is how its titular origami king, Olly, transforms the flat cutouts of the Paper Mario universe, folding them into subservient, 3D origami figures, and kidnaps Princess Peach along with her entire castle, wrapping both up in a wall of colorful streamers. So now Mario, along with Olly's repentant sister Olivia, need to flatten everything out again. The origami premise adds a nice visual flair to the already-gorgeous papercraft look of the series, and you get to see yet another take on Goombas, Shy Guys, and Koopas, even if this time they're imbued with a slightly creepy energy.

Like other Paper Mario games, The Origami King is less about plot and more about throwing a joke at you at every turn, whether it's a smart turn of phrase, one-off bits that reward you for exploring its environments with a gag or item, or extended setpieces that deliver killer moments. Not every joke or bit lands, but they hit far more than they falter: a theater play that quickly takes a turn for the weird, a guessing game that has you desperately looking at a Snifit's face for any sign of emotion, an extended sequences that riffs, of all things, on The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. The Origami King is consistently sharp, using both Mario characters and its interactivity to tell some great jokes.

That's been true of the Paper Mario series for a while now, but The Origami King also manages to find new life in its combat--something the series hasn't done in a while. Moving away from the limiting and resource-dependent combat of the last couple of entries, The Origami King instead has you arranging enemies on a circular, tile-based grid around Mario. Your goal is to rotate or slide the tiles on the grid to arrange enemies in lines or squares, making them easy to plow through with your jumps or hammer. Every encounter is essentially a timed puzzle with one or more "correct" solutions, and you're encouraged to solve them quickly, usually in a single turn.

Every fight requires just the right amount of involvement--not so simple that you're mashing your way through them, but not so intricate that a few fights wear you out. Even early on, when fights require just two clearly telegraphed steps to solve, the extra effort it takes to arrange enemies then time your attacks properly made me want to wade into fights rather than avoid them.

As the difficulty ramps up, it's easy to become a little too obsessed with lining up every group of enemies correctly. The in-game timer (which you can spend gold to extend) adds a pressure to think quickly, which occasionally clashed with my perfectionist tendencies. I wanted to properly "solve" every encounter, and as the difficulty ramped up, I started circumventing the timer by asking Olivia for hints (which pauses the timer) or taking screenshots. It made for some fist-pumping moments where I felt like a genius just for properly stomping on random Hammer Bros, but also moments of frustrated despair when I just couldn't grok a solution after spending minutes staring at it, opting to forego the bonus gold from solving each encounter and taking some damage.

If you're not bent on solving every encounter this way, I don't blame you. Thankfully, you can pay the crowd of Toads watching your fights to make the first move for you, and later get the option to have encounters solved for you entirely. It's a great way to tweak the difficulty to your mood, even if I did end up circumventing the timer in a way that felt like cheating.

No Caption Provided

The effort I put into some random encounters was better spent on boss fights, which invert the flow of combat to create intricate fights that cap off each act with a showstopper. Your most intimidating enemies are common household tools used to make origami, like a set of colored pencils, a hole puncher, or a roll of tape (each of which have their own entertaining, caricatured personalities), as well as "Vellumentals" akin to summons in Final Fantasy games. To fight them, Mario moves to the outer edges of the board and must move tiles with arrows, switches, healing items, and attack prompts on them to deal damage.

These fights are more involved than regular battles, and later fights throw harrowing twists at you; during the fight against the roll of tape, parts of the grid are taped together, preventing you from moving some columns or rows individually. These fights play out a bit like puzzles, but there's just enough strategy here to avoid the feeling you're following prompts; I regularly had to choose whether to eat up precious time and see if I could run Mario through a healing heart, a switch to turn on a magic circle, and said circle itself in one turn, or if I should just be quick, take the risk, and not heal. These fights do take some time, but, besides a relatively disappointing final encounter, they're a fantastic showcase for how versatile the grid-based combat is.

Every fight requires just the right amount of involvement--not so simple that you're mashing your way through them, but not so intricate that a few fights wear you out.

Outside battles, The Origami King keeps its RPG aspects light. Your main resource is gold, and while battles are your main source of income, you also get lots of it from covering up tears in the world with confetti, finding hidden quests and question-mark blocks, and completing some light side quests. And as you explore, you also find health upgrades, buy accessories that extend your timer and help you find secrets, and shop for better boots and hammers that wear out over time.

This fusion of adventure-game exploration and light RPG combat plants it squarely in the shallow end of both pools. I was rarely in danger of getting a game over, and finding every secret was more about being thorough than smart. But the overall sense of discovery and progression is still rewarding enough that I felt stronger over the course of my playthrough, and I was motivated enough to find more gold and collectibles to comb every area. At a time when most games throw experience bars and crafting elements to get you invested, I appreciate The Origami King not getting too bogged down in stats and loot grinds.

No Caption Provided

The one area where both the world and combat do suffer is how they leave little room for the ensemble cast to flourish. While you do pick up a few party members along the way, they're mostly an afterthought in combat, throwing out an extra attack at random. There are a handful of great and surprisingly heartfelt moments here, but most of your party members don't stick around long enough and don't have enough great moments for you to form a bond with them. This puts a large emphasis on your journey with Olivia across all of The Origami King's worlds, and with Mario being his usual mute self, it feels lonelier than it should.

It's a concession I'm willing to take, though, since just about every other part of Paper Mario: The Origami King works so well. With a newfound combat system that steals the show and offers a novel take on turn-based combat, its winking, nodding, and adventuring shine all the brighter. Its world and characters might not be the series' best, but it's still able to consistently throw left turns, good gags, and smart surprises at you. Each piece of The Origami King elegantly fits into its whole, taking its irreverent flair to new heights. The Paper Mario series has recently shown that being clever and being smart are two different things, but thankfully, it's once again managed to be both.

Please use a html5 video capable browser to watch videos.
This video has an invalid file format.
00:00:00
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Now Playing: Paper Mario: The Origami King Video Review

Back To Top

The Good

  • Grid-based battles are finely tuned and revitalize the series
  • Boss battles make great use of the new combat system
  • Tons of great gags and moments told through smart writing and gameplay
  • Light progression mechanics motivate you to explore the world...

The Bad

  • ...but are still a little on the shallow side
  • Cast of characters isn't as charming as previous entries
  • Battle timer keeps things moving but ends up a frustrating restriction

About the Author

Suriel Vazquez spent about 45 hours completing the main questline, finding most of the collectibles and secrets in every area, and at one point drawing the battle grid on a paper plate to figure out some of the more devious encounters. Review code was provided by the publisher.
52 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
  • 52 results
  • 1
  • 2
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for super-khalid89
super-khalid89

75

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

Is it worth buying?

Upvote • 
Avatar image for onesiphorus
onesiphorus

3734

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

It seems that Gamespot has recently updated the design of the review breakdown box for all its reviews. It is a better design that the previous one.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for a7ibaba
A7ibaba

98

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

How is this crap deserved 8 is beyond me .

Upvote • 
Avatar image for rikku45
rikku45

750

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 10

User Lists: 0

Why is it so hard for them to understand that we want a proper paper Mario like the first 2. I get that they want to try something new but at least listen to the fans that have been there since the start.

4 • 
Avatar image for s1taz4a3l
s1taz4a3l

334

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 0

Edited By s1taz4a3l

@rikku45: Because you/they will buy it regardless whether at launch or on sale, Nintendo is aiming to capture a younger audience that this could be their first paper mario.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for justthetip
JustTheTip

1164

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

The combat just looks and sounds like a dealbreaker. I know I can’t make a judgment on it without playing it, but the combat just looks so lame.

2 • 
Avatar image for Sound_Demon
Sound_Demon

847

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

@justthetip: The whole point of reviews are to inform you whether the title is good or not and worth purchasing. They don't do it just for fun. You are capable of judging whether the game is good enough for you or not.

2 • 
Avatar image for justthetip
JustTheTip

1164

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

@Sound_Demon: What did I say that made you think I don’t understand how reviews work? I said I couldn’t judge the game, because I could be very wrong and end up loving the combat. Am I likely to be wrong? No. I just didn’t want to say 100% that I wouldn’t like it. It’s funny to me that if I had judged the game, some people would’ve told me I couldn’t judge it without playing it. I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for aross2004
aross2004

7618

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 4

User Lists: 0

Edited By aross2004

@justthetip: Of course you can make a judgement without playing it.

There is so much that you can learn about games nowadays without having actually played them. I can watch several hours of gameplay on a livestream and absolutely make judgements about a game, (ie-it is/isn't my type of game, I would/wouldn't enjoy that style of combat, the story seems interesting/shallow, the graphics look great/shitty, and on and on).

This whole "you can't judge a game unless the controller is directly in your hands" thing is complete BS. It's just a lame excuse that people use to try and invalidate someone who has a different opinion than them. Don't fall for it.

4 • 
Avatar image for asnakeneverdies
asnakeneverdies

3427

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Maybe it felt like cheating... because it was cheating. And in a game with sanctioned venues for cheating, no less! Given that, cheating outside of the game's reckoning was even cheatier. Cheaty AF! 🤯

Upvote • 
Avatar image for s1taz4a3l
s1taz4a3l

334

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 0

I been playing it and having fun so far, i dont agree with the battle timer complain. You get more than enough time to solve the puzzle, am guessing his frustration is lack of intelligence to solve the puzzles ( you can pay the toads to solve it for you or " cheat " and use the device the scientist gives you). I mean battles last no more than 10 sec on a solved puzzle.

Am definitely going to finish it.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for super-khalid89
super-khalid89

75

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

@s1taz4a3l: is it worth buying?

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Poodger
Poodger

1275

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

Paper Mario. The first two games were phenomenal. Perhaps the very BEST Mario games ever.

Then the series turned to shit.

This game looks like it went halfway towards fixing those problems. Which is welcome I suppose, but there are still some glaring issues. Issues I will ignore, since I have every intention of picking this game up.

Not having "starpoints" (or exp) that lets you level up is heartbreaking. Truly awful. Based on everything I have gathered from this game, there is NO incentive to get involved in any battles that don't actively push the narrative forward. They only slow you down. The first 2 paper mario titles rewarded you for combat, because you leveled up. It was fun, rewarding, made you consider whether or not that optional fight was worth it. Now, your best move ALWAYS is to just weave around the enemies and leave them be.

Looks like the allies in this game are another half step forward. Not having a consistent party, or partners that function similarly in battle as Mario, with multiple attacks... it's just lame.

This new game looks decent. Fun even. But it is BAFFLING that they continue to ignore fans, when for years they have been asking for another Paper Mario with the same systems as N64 and TTYD.

3 • 
Avatar image for Barighm
Barighm

14733

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 27

User Lists: 0

@Poodger: So was there ever a proper spiritual follow-up to Mario RPG?

Upvote • 
Avatar image for BLKCrystilMage
BLKCrystilMage

1168

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 80

User Lists: 0

@Barighm: Mario and Luigi

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Poodger
Poodger

1275

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

@Barighm: I never played Super Mario RPG

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Barighm
Barighm

14733

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 27

User Lists: 0

@Poodger: Dude! You're missing out.

4 • 
Avatar image for aross2004
aross2004

7618

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 4

User Lists: 0

@Barighm: So...much...this 👉💯!

Upvote • 
Avatar image for clockworkengine
clockworkengine

308

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I'd love to see a switch port for Super Paper Mario. I've played the entire series and SPM is easily my favorite.

3 • 
Avatar image for funkyflab
Funkyflab

1

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

Edited By Funkyflab

@clockwohrkengine: I literally just started SPM last night in anticipation for OK and I have to say that it's quite a fun, well structured Paper Mario game so far. The "dimensional flipping" is quite a novel mechanic that perfectly complements the "paper aesthetic" of the universe. Looking forward to seeing it through to the end!

Upvote • 
Avatar image for croxus
Croxus

312

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 55

User Lists: 5

They gave 7/10 to ghost of Tsushima and 8/10 to paper Mario. I have both a ps4 pro and a switch, Pre ordered both games and i will enjoy them. But the amount of bias shown by GS is still irritating. They have always been MS funded and they got to promote them for their next gen push, but this is just too much, they sacrifice their credibility so easily...

Upvote • 
Avatar image for aross2004
aross2004

7618

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 4

User Lists: 0

@croxus: Don't drag that ridiculous shit in here.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for zimerust
zimerust

106

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@croxus: Ghost of Tsushima is 84 on metacritic, 7 isnt that crazy. Sounds like the structure is similar to days gone, which was also good not great.

2 • 
Avatar image for Barighm
Barighm

14733

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 27

User Lists: 0

@croxus: First time I've seen anyone accuse GS of preferring MS.

5 • 
Avatar image for bdrtfm
BDRTFM

5511

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

Edited By BDRTFM

Almost time to get a Switch. Almost.... Still waiting for a release date for Metroid then I'm sold.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for alastor529
alastor529

889

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@bdrtfm: If that game is even worth the hype, I mean Nintendo already cancelled it once because apparently it was terrible, so that isnt a good sign lol

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Poodger
Poodger

1275

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

@alastor529: Why? I'd say that's a great sign. It means Nintendo is not going to allow a poor Metroid title to pass through their gate again. That, to me, shows quality control. It means that whatever final product they do push out will be good.

2 • 
Avatar image for hardwenzen
hardwenzen

6997

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 0

hardwenzen  Online

This and the SMG series are the only Mario games i respect. Everything else feels like a yearly rehash a la AssCreed.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Poodger
Poodger

1275

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

@hardwenzen: Mario Odyssey was REALLY good, and I say this as someone who generally ignores Mario titles.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for hardwenzen
hardwenzen

6997

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 0

hardwenzen  Online

@Poodger said:

@hardwenzen: Mario Odyssey was REALLY good, and I say this as someone who generally ignores Mario titles.

meh. it was an inferior SMG.

2 • 
Avatar image for Poodger
Poodger

1275

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

@hardwenzen: I actually loathed SMG though. I just really didn't like it's structure or (lack of) difficulty. It had good music, that was about all I liked about SMG.

Odyssey was breathtaking to me though.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for zmanbarzel
ZmanBarzel

2512

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

Good to see a Suriel byline. I enjoyed his time at GI and like what he is doing over at MinnMax.

Upvote • 
  • 52 results
  • 1
  • 2

Paper Mario: The Origami King

First Released Jul 17, 2020
released
  • Nintendo Switch

8
Great

Average Rating

15 Rating(s)

7.7

Developed by:

Published by:

Genre(s):

Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
Everyone
Mild Cartoon Violence