Mario leads a pretty busy life. Whether he is racing karts, adventuring as the world’s least conventional plumber or even practising medicine – the moustachioed man always has something on his plate. And while his 3D-platforming ways are undoubtedly what he’s most famous for, there’s often something special that happens when the Mushroom Kingdom flattens out and takes the form of paper. It’s been about four years since we ventured into that version of the world and soon (July 17 to be exact) Paper Mario: The Origami King will launch and while we’ll have a full review up before then, we’ve already had the opportunity to play some of the game and can’t wait to whet your appetite for the game and tell you what we’ve learned so far…
An unfamiliar folded fiend
Of course, it wouldn’t quite be a Mario game if the Mushroom Kingdom wasn’t in some kind of danger. This time around though, instead of being taken by a boastful Bowser, Peach and the others fall under the evil influence of Olly the Origami King. The new King rips away the princess’ castle, leaving several bright ‘streamers’ (not the online content creators but rather the strips of coloured paper type) in varied lands. And so, it’s up to Mario and the gang to save the world by flinging confetti to fill holes, battling origami enemies and unravelling the various strands (look, it is becoming a genre!).
The somewhat dark folded fiend with his cult-like airs and his newly brainwashed followers seems to hint at a slightly ‘heavier’ plot (so we will have to keep an eye for that) and purposefully contrasts with the trademark Paper Mario humour. It is everywhere to be seen and the blend of cheesy puns and clever wit had me giggling through the parts of the game I played so far. And without wanting to spoil anything – I’ll just say this… singing sequences. So you have that to look forward to…
New Partner, New Powers
For preview purposes, we played the first two Streamer-themed lands of the game. While progression is quite linear (at least so far) the world feels big and real. The other currently inaccessible lands can be seen and it all feels very connected. And because of this, it makes sense that this is very much an action-adventure game with some (very) light RPG elements. Mario can run around, jump, solve puzzles, fish and more while exploring the world freely. And it is a wonderfully bright, beautiful paper-styled world that looks great on the Switch. The areas we visited were unique, and each has its own personality with some fun NPCs and visual and musical callbacks to older Mario games and enemies.
Olivia (Olly’s sister) is also a fun new companion. Mario being the strong silent type means her role is mostly communication-related and moving the plot along. However, she also combines with Mario for the Origami 1000-Fold Arms power (which we saw in the trailer) to accomplish some rather unique things both inside and outside of battle. Interestingly, this ability is motion-controlled by default (can be switched off) and while I usually am not a fan – it is used sparingly enough that I didn’t mind it. In the areas I played for the preview, defeating special ‘Vellumental’ bosses gives the duo new abilities which you can then use later on in the game. These along with the two Stationary-themed bosses (you’ve likely seen the ‘coloured pencil’ baddie in videos Nintendo has released) add a few extra layers of strategy and I found tackling these bosses a lot tougher than the other parts of the game; And that’s not a bad thing. In fact, these varied boss battles – are an early highlight and I can’t wait to face some more.
Battle Bits and Bob-ombs
And talking about battles… The light-RPG elements of the recent Paper Mario series are mostly back. Turn-based combat with that added’ attack-timing-boost’ returns, but the new ring-shaped battle grid adds a little freshness. It’s hard to describe this specific mechanic in words (I had a ‘good’ idea to explain using the analogy of pizza and toppings – it’ll make more sense when you see it) but it’s best described visually and Nintendo released a video doing just that. Early on these puzzles feel a little repetitive, but some of the enemy arrangements still managed to break my brain. I love the idea of this unique puzzle element, especially how it is cleverly mixed up during boss battles and can’t wait to see how this develops later in the game.
In this early playthrough, Mario did gain HP and while there was no visible representation of XP – attacks did do a little more damage every time your health bar grew. And while this is therefore quite ‘RPG-light’ – fans of the genre will be pleased to hear that there are at least equipable items/weapons to be collected and which can be used during battles. These were quite fun to use but you could manage quite well without them early on at least. Mario was also joined in battle (at times) by one of his companions. however, their attacks were random and not (yet?) upgradeable. I’m hoping this expands later on.
More to share soon…
This preview has a lot to digest. And the good news is there is still so much more to find out! But for now, we hope this starts to answer some of the questions fans and newcomers to the series have. Now, I’m heading back into the Paper world so be sure to keep an eye out for a final review… coming soon!