"Paper Mario: The Origami King" tries really hard to make a good first impression. The game’s art style is dressed up to dazzle, the gameplay is simple and approachable, and the music is among the best of any Switch game to date. With every preceding moment, however, this game’s chores began to outweigh its charm, making it a paper-thin adventure for Nintendo’s most iconic character and one of the more disappointing gaming experiences of 2020.
The Paper Mario series is known for its turn-based combat, and this entry continues that tradition. Even though it introduces a new ring-based battlefield that requires enemies to be lined up prior to the attack, it maintains the typical exchange of blows until HP is depleted. Rotating enemies is extremely repetitive, but it’s a lack of a leveling-up system that truly makes the combat feel like a drag. The absence of a skill tree equivalent not only creates for less attention to detail in battles, but it also had me wanting to avoid them altogether. Rather than gaining experience points, you’re rewarded with coins that allow for purchasing weapons (that eventually break down) and extra health, but with the game’s battles being so easy, I rarely felt the need to purchase anything. Boss battles provide a slightly tougher challenge, but after a few failed runs, even they begin to feel like busywork, making me long for a meaty JRPG experience with a purpose.
When you’re not in the midst of stomping out Koopa Troopas, "Paper Mario: The Origami King" tells a story that unfolds in a pretty predictable fashion. The titular “Origami King” has taken over Princess Peach’s castle and it’s up to you to save the day. Dialogue is told in a text-only fashion, so prepare to do a lot of reading in this game. True to series form, the game’s script is written in a comedic format, and while there are a few great comedic moments, most jokes fall flat. After a while, the constant cheeky humor just gets old, leaving me to cycle through conversations quickly to just move on.
The moment-to-moment gameplay is about what you’d expect. During the campaign, you meet up with new characters along with fan favorites like Toad (you’ll see Toad A LOT in this game), solve puzzles, and pick up treasures scattered throughout several environments all while taking in the stunning origami-themed art style. This feature was the one constant that kept me coming back. The diversity in colors and style throughout this game is pristine. I recommend playing in docked mode to get the most out of these gorgeous visuals.
"Paper Mario: The Origami King" fails to achieve the heights of past Paper Mario titles, making it a mediocre at best experience. As a huge Nintendo fan, I assumed that the game would grow on me eventually, but I just grew more displeased as my hour count grew. Whether it was the game’s slow pacing, its constant attempt to make me laugh, or both, this was not the Mario tale I was looking for, nor do I feel like it will be for you. Tear yourself away from any urge to check this out and dust off the Gamecube for a classic Paper Mario experience.
Review code provided by publisher