A loose leaf through Paper Mario: The Origami King
Nintendo brings another classic into the fold
I was excited for Paper Mario: The Origami King, because I figured we were getting another one in the same vein as Sticker Star and Colour Splash, games widely derided by the folks who enjoyed the earlier, RPG-flavoured titles in the series. I, however, enjoyed the heck out of them, and I enjoy the heck out of Origami King, too.
Crucially though, if you are one of those stubborn malcontents who refuses to tolerate the later, better Paper Mario games, you probably won't enjoy this either. But you should. You should wise up, buy Bug Fables to tide you over, then get stuck in to Origami King and its belter of a world.
It's the best of all things - an exploration game that doesn't hold your hand through the actual exploration. To get a bit curmudgeonly (Shocked gasp! - Regular reader), with many modern games it feels as though you're essentially walked through them, but Origami King trusts you to figure out its puzzles and dig up its secrets. Yes, your objectives are made clear and there's a lot of (funny, charming) dialogue, but the actual meat of the thing is very much based around figuring out what the tools at your disposal are able to do.
A sticking point for many are the battles, and they're still here. Without XP, a lot of people do feel as though they are a pointless endeavour, and this is a criticism I understand. In Colour Splash they often felt particularly arbitrary (Sticker Star had a resource management thing going on), but Origami King makes them into puzzles. You're presented with a ring of concentric circles on which enemies are placed, then given a time limit to make a certain number of alterations to said ring. The aim is to line up the enemies into formations that allow you to hit them efficiently with certain weapons - a straight line for the boots, a fan pattern for the hammer - and successfully making said lines gives you an attack damage boost that effectively lets you end battles in one turn. This positions them less as an annoyance and more as a regular puzzle to solve, though the punishment for failing the line-up is essentially that you'll take some damage then get another go. There are plenty of ways to mitigate the challenge, too, spending coins or having the Toads you'll rescue cheer for you.
The main problem I have with Origami King and its maligned predecessors is that it's very difficult to explain why I love them. Early in the game, I passed through an area where some sort of festival was due to have taken place. I noticed that the music in the area was oddly tinny, and my first thought was "is this just compression?", but then I noticed there were speakers mounted on large posts, either side of the field. Out of curiosity I smacked the posts with my hammer, which caused said speakers to fall off and the area's background music to stop. This wasn't the solution to any kind of puzzle, it was just the game going "this'll be funny". And it was. It was neat. The whole game is full of stuff like that, as were Sticker Star and Colour Splash. Games that reward you for paying attention. The best kind.