The world’s most famous plumber (or not) returns to a two-dimensional state in Paper Mario: The Origami King, out today for Nintendo Switch. This latest entry in Nintendo’s long-running formerly-an-RPG series both sticks to formula (Peach needs saving again) and bucks it (the battle system is one-of-a-kind).
Whatever you’re expecting, know this: You’re bound to get caught off-guard more than once. These tips should help you avoid getting creased along the way.
The Origami King’s battles take place on a field of concentric circles, broken up into twelve slice-shaped segments. In the center stands Mario. Enemies populate the outer rings. Mario hurts them by doing what he does best: jumping on their heads, or thwacking them with a hammer.
The quickest way to power through battles is to shuffle the battlefield until enemies are neatly arranged in single-file lines (for easy stomping) or two-by-two clusters (for easy hammering). Successfully figuring out this solution will boost Mario’s attack by 50 percent, ensuring, more often than not, that you’ll take out enemies before they even get a chance to attack you.
This is the crux of Origami King’s signature mix of brilliance and frustration: There’s always a solution. Figuring it out isn’t mandatory, but it will make your life a whole lot easier.
Struggling to line up the circles correctly? You have some options, but both of them cost money. Which one you use—if any!—depends on the situation.
Every battle is governed by a countdown clock that only makes things more stressful. If you’re just about to solve a puzzle but you need some extra time on the timer, you can use coins to buy more time. Just press and hold the plus button to extend that clock at a rate of ten coins per second.
A word of advice: Don’t spend more than 200 coins at once. Generally, 50 or 60 extra seconds won’t help you any more than 20 will. You either have the solution, or you don’t. Time to move on. In those rare cases where bonus time will help, you can just continue spending more money; there’s no limit to how many times you can extend the clock, so long as you have the cash to back it up.
On the flip side, you don’t want to overspend on an easy solution. Few gaming experiences are more worthy of a face-palm than dropping a significant sum on a battle only to figure out the solution in 1.3 seconds flat.
Now, if you’re totally stumped on a puzzle and extra time won’t help, you can call in the Toads. As you rescue Toads in the overworld, they’ll fill in the bleachers in the background of battles. During the opening hours, those bleachers might resemble a high school talent show. But soon enough, they’ll swell to become more jam-packed than a pop-up Deadmau5 appearance. You can call on this bona fide mushroom-faced army to support you in battle. It’s never clear what they’ll do—maybe they’ll heal you, maybe they’ll attack your enemies. And maybe, if you spend enough, they’ll partially solve the puzzles for you, putting enemies into a less complex configuration.
A third option is: “Don’t worry about it.” If you don’t solve the puzzle, it’s not the end of the world; you can just slog through the battle with lower power, use some of your stronger weapons to deal out more damage, heal up with Mushrooms as needed, or even try to run away by pressing the B button. Paper Mario’s economy is pretty generous, and you’ll be able to resupply any broken weapons and used-up Mushrooms later.
This might be immediately obvious to some players, because it’s written right on the battle screen. I, for one, missed it for far longer than I’d care to admit. By clicking the right thumbstick, you can pivot the battle camera to an overhead view. For puzzles that require more than a spin or two, switching things to a bird’s eye perspective can help solutions click. This is also the perspective all boss battles occur in, and viewing the field in one unimpeded frame feels more natural than the standard perspective.
There’s only one caveat, and yes, it’s history’s smallest inconvenience: If you extend the clock while viewing things from above, you’ll shift back to the standard, ground-level perspective. Just click in the stick again to set things back the way they should be.
Gear in The Origami King doesn’t work the way it does in traditional RPGs. Every weapon except your standard hammers and boots gets destroyed after about a dozen uses. (You can tell an item is on its last legs when a little Band-Aid icon pops up next to it.) At the start of each move, you select which weapon you want to attack with—flashy hammers, shiny iron boots, maybe a one-time-use fire flower.
In this mix are Gold weapons, which are among the most useful in the game. Not only are they more powerful than your standard equipment, but you’ll also earn a small pile of coins for every enemy you hit. Don’t hoard these! There’s no reason. Use them up and get that cash. To get the most bang for your buck, make sure you only use them when you can hit four enemies at once. Otherwise, you’re just leaving money on the table.
Weapons that deteriorate with use make the game sound like a slog, but it’s really not. Replacing weapons is relatively painless, on account of how little they cost and how rich you are for much of this game.
Whenever you have the chance to return to Toad Town, load up on a few of the most powerful kinds of weapons, and use them! You’ll win battles faster and maybe even make some bonus coins in the process, giving you more cash to buy more stuff. While you’re at it, stock up on mushrooms (buy the three- and five-packs for a good discount) and fire flowers. You’ll rarely need to keep more than a couple grand in your wallet—and even if you spend below that, you’ll earn it all back in just a few battles.
Also, the more cash you drop in shops, the more of a discount you’ll earn on future purchases. It pays to spend, not hoard!
One key mechanic in The Origami King involves the heroic saving of creased-up Toads. The truly grateful will give you coins or items. All of them will bless you with some sort of groan-worthy one-liner. So it’s well worth scanning the environment with a keen eye as you adventure. If something looks off, chances are, it’s a Toad.
Funky-looking flower? Probably a Toad. That barking dog? Definitely a Toad. An annoying bug? A shaky drawer? An off-center cactus? All Toads. Smacking these visual anomalies with your hammer will only result in good things. If you see something, whack something. (That advice goes for the whole game, really.)
No spoilers, but at some point early in the game, you’re asked if you want to buy a regular pass or a Royalty Pass. Spend the extra money.
Paper Mario: The Origami King is, at its core, a puzzle game. Every now and then, you’ll be completely stumped. Olivia, Mario’s irrepressibly cheerful origami companion, can help. She’s utterly useless in battles, and usually offers “advice” along the lines of “hey, kill those guys.” Out of battle, though, she’s invaluable. She’ll never tell you the solution outright, but she will offer up some line or reminder that nudges you in the right direction. Whenever you’re banging your head against the wall, aimlessly wandering in some wayward temple dungeon, call on her for aid.
More often than not, you won’t be able to hurt bosses with a basic stomp or hammer attack. Instead, you’ll need to identify some creative way to dish out damage. It might mean weakening an exo-skeleton. It might mean timing your moves on specific turns. Whatever the case, don’t try to figure it out yourself. Instead, queue up your first turn so your pathway goes through the envelope (every boss battle has one). That’ll give you some sound advice on how to emerge victorious. As the boss progresses through phases, the envelope’s hints will change, too.
Most boss fights are crowded with bonus spaces. Some have hearts that will restore your health. Others will activate magic circles that can protect you from devastating attacks. In boss fights, your goal shouldn’t revolve around dealing damage in every turn. They’re all helpful, even if you don’t see immediate results. Use them. Sometimes, it’s better to think ahead, plan strategically, and use a turn to set yourself up for future success rather than laser-focusing on victory.
Paper Mario: The Origami King is thoroughly modern in some ways and frustratingly archaic in others. Auto-saving occasionally happens when you switch between areas. Other than that, you’ll have to manually save at designated save points. You also can’t pause mid-battle—pressing the Plus button just ends up dumping more coins into the timer, remember—so playing this game is a bit like playing a Game Boy Advance game: “Moooom, just one more second.”
Like many other Switch games, you can suspend things by tapping the Home button. This won’t trigger an auto-save—be careful not to open up another app—but you’ll be happy to know that suspending the game also suspends the countdown clock. Whether I used this trick to tend to real-world concerns or to sneak a few extra free seconds on tough puzzles, I’ll never tell.
As you explore, you’ll come across holes in the papercrafted Mushroom Kingdom. You can cover them up by tossing a pile of confetti. Doing so will earn you a small pile of coins. It’ll also check off another box toward fully completing the area you’re in.
You have to fill in some holes to progress the story, but others are optional collectibles. Just make sure to keep your confetti bag full by fighting battles, whacking trees and flowers and other suspicious areas, and various other methods. You’ll want to always have enough on hand when you find more holes.
Never gets old.