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Review: Paper Mario – The Origami King (Switch) ~ Fold And Turn

Official websiteWikipedia entry

2020 is quite a strange year. Back in May, we got a trailer for this game and to everybody’s surprise, the game dropped a few weeks later. The game has been out for around a month now and I have finished the game a few days ago. So, I want to talk about this game. Especially, since some people are quite curious how this game holds up compared to the previous entries in the series. The two previous entries in the series weren’t that well received, so will this game “save the series” or will it divide the fanbase even further like Color Splash? Let’s take a look at the game while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

Fold The World

So, the story starts a bit similar to Sticker Star. A festival is held in the (paper) Mushroom Kingdom and something goes horribly wrong. In this case, the princess is converted to origami and suddenly, you meet an evil origami character called Olly that wants to fold the whole world to origami.

In your journey to save Princess Peach and save the Mushroom Kingdom from certain destruction, you team up with the sister of the evil origami character called Oliva. She is able to grant you special powers that aid Mario in his quest.

To avoid spoiling the whole game or sections of it, I’m going to try to keep story explanations to a minimum. But, I do want to give my honest opinion of the story. The writing and the dialogues are pretty good, the pacing is excellent as well. I barely felt that any sections were filler or padding. But, the story isn’t thrilling at all.

The structure of the story is somewhat like the Pokémon anime series. Just replace the gym badges with the streamers and you have the structure of the story in this game. Barely any of the characters, apart from the main duo, of course, go from one section to another.

The next point I want to bring up with the story is that it’s a bit too predictable in my eyes. I can’t pinpoint exactly why but I felt that I experienced this whole story somewhere before or that I had seen the arcs. I think that the main issue with this game is that it barely does anything creative story-wise.

Does this game have a bad story? Well, yes and no. Apart from the predictability and the “safeness” of the whole story, the charm of the story is so great. I have a few ideas that could have improved the story. The first thing is the world-building, I felt that wasn’t done enough. For example, you have an area called “Picnic Road”. Why o why are there no picnic benches? I mean, one of the previous areas had a whole barbeque setup…

The second suggestion I have is that there could have been a bit more side stories. A great example is with Luigi. Side-arcs, side quests, or just things to explore on the side. I know that you can free toads, fill in Not-Bottomless Holes but in most cases, those don’t affect the story that much.

It almost feels that the developers just cut out several sections to improve the flow or the pacing but with that, they also cut out too much. Sometimes a bit of padding or filler doesn’t hurt.

Oh, and before I go to the next section, I usually talk about the voice acting and voice work right after the story. And I can finish my opinion quite fast. That’s something where I think they could have done more but on the other hand, the animations are so good during dialogues that the very little voice work is “replaced” if that makes sense.

Turn Your Way To Victory

One of the biggest criticisms of the previous two entries in the Paper Mario series was the battle system. The games before those had an RPG style battle system. Then in Sticker Star and Color Splash, we got more of a sort of puzzle system.

I think it would make this review too long if I start to analyze the flaws of the two previous battle systems. For the sake of going forward, let’s focus on the battle system of this game. There is no real RPG-style battle system in this game. But, something that does return somewhat is the buddies from previous games. Now, before you get too excited, the buddies just provide a chance of an attack after you finished yours. And that’s it.

Before I talk about the puzzle battle system, I do want to mention a huge improvement compared to the previous two titles. At certain moments, you can find a health improvement. Besides having more HP, these improvements have other implications on the mechanics of the game. For example, after a few upgrades, I was able to just jump or hit these Goomba’s with my hammer and I didn’t have to go into battle. The only downside is that you don’t get all your coins like you would have defeated them in the puzzle battle. But, it does save your weapons for each little encounter.

Speaking about weapons, I barely had any problem with those. At the start of the game, I just stocked up on weapons and healing items and I do have to say, I barely had to go to the shops in the game to stock up on items. The game is quite generous with items to use in battle. A bit too generous for my liking.

The game is a bit too easy. Apart from some scripted sequences, I barely saw the ‘game over’ screen. Also, quite rarely, I felt challenged during the battles. Even when I was unable to solve the puzzle in front of me, I was almost always able to beat the enemies with relative ease.

Now, what is this “puzzle battle” I’m talking about? Well, if you look at the screenshot a bit higher, you might notice that Mario is in a battle area with four rings. Your goal is to line up the enemies in a line or in a group of 2 by 2. You can do that by either rotating a ring or move planed vertically.

In order for you to solve the puzzle, you have a limited amount of moves and time. But, here is where some amazing game design shines through. During the adventure, you can buy various items that give you more time, health and defense during battles. You can enable or disable all of these items in the pause menu. On top of that, you can invest your coins in more time or cheering. Now, what is cheering? Well, that means you can invite the Toads you have rescued during the adventure to aid you in healing or solving the puzzle in front of you. The only moment where the Toads don’t solve the puzzle is during the boss battles. But more on that in a minute. So, if you find the game too easy, you can challenge yourself more by disabling all these support items and not cheering or buying more time during battles.

So, do you HAVE to solve the puzzles to be able to attack the enemies? Oh no, you don’t have to. It just gives you an attack bonus that can one-shot most enemies. Otherwise, you have to rely on your partner or block the attacks and try again. Also, just like the previous games, when you time your button press correctly during the attack, you do more damage to your enemies.

I could talk more in-depth about the battle system but I want to avoid that this review gets too long. So, I’m going to link you to an interesting article of a great blogging buddy of mine Adventure Rules, who talks a bit more in-depth on the battle system on his blog. Be warned, there are some spoilers in his article. (And yes, I know that he is going to read this article… And no, the fact that I’m shouting him out here has nothing to do with it… Maybe… Maybe not. 😉 )

Now, let’s talk boss battles. These battles are the highlight of the game for me. The sheer creativity in these battles is just amazing. Each boss throws a unique challenge your way that changes up the battlefield or the way you have to solve the puzzle. It’s really amazing stuff. I’m not going to talk more in-depth about it to avoid spoilers but I found myself saying out loud, several times, “wow, this is creative and unique.”.

Speaking about creativity, I’m still surprised at the huge amount of different puzzles in this game. Rarely I had similar or the same puzzle during the game and if there were, I barely noticed. I always had to think about how to line up those enemies to win.

Stardance

This review is getting quite long and I have only talked about the story and the battle mechanics. There is still so much to talk about in this rather enjoyable game. For starters, let’s talk about the Starman Theme in this game. I’m just blown away by the amazing remix that has heavy metal influences and electronic influences.

And the rest of the soundtrack, my lord. These tracks are just amazing. I think that this game might have my favorite soundtrack of 2020. If the soundtrack ever comes out on CD, you can be sure that I’ll add that to my collection. The soundtrack is even part of my playlist when I’m writing or games like Minecraft. Now, the sound design of this game is equally as well done as the soundtrack.

Overall, this game is visually quite impressive. In very rare cases, I found that some textures weren’t the best or that the scene had a tad bit too much lighting, but I think that most players won’t notice the moments that I noticed as a hobbyist critic.

The theming of the areas are quite well done as well. So yes, the visual presentation of this game is something to enjoy. It really shows the power of the Nintendo Switch in my opinion. The art style is also quite consistent, vibrant, and colorful. Couple that with great animations and you have a great and smooth running game. Speaking of smoothness, the only time I noticed some slowdown was during the loading of some battles.

The UI of this game is extremely well done. The only minor complaint I have is that you can’t change your weapons during a battle, but that isn’t such a big issue because you just need to remember to swap your weapons after a battle.

One thing I loved in this game is the mechanics in place to help players who have trouble with the game. The electronic manual is quite easily accessible and on top of that, there is a training area for when you need to practice your timings to hit enemies and such.

In most of this review, I have been praising this game and pointing out some minor flaws. To end off this review, let me talk about some things that I didn’t really like. The first thing is the overall running speed, I found that a tad bit too slow. After seeing how fast you can go to the Boot Car or on the ship, I found it a shame that there was no run button. That’s the biggest complaint I have about the controls.

The other issue I have with the controls is that it sometimes was a bit too tricky to hit some enemies with the hammer. But I think that the issue is that you are unable to interrupt the animation and most of the time I wished that I was faster with my hammer because I barely missed the enemy.

A nitpick I have about filling the Not-Bottomless Pits, I found that sometimes it was a bit too tricky to get in the right position to fully cover the hole with confetti. Thankfully, this problem occurred maybe two or three times in the whole game.

One of the biggest irritations in this game is how the bells work. You can buy three bells, one for hidden Toads, one for treasure, and one for hidden blocks. They ring when one of those is close, but I can’t tell the radius of those rings. Especially now when I’m trying to find some parts I have missed during my main playthrough.

But my biggest disappointment is the lack of a completion reward and post-game content. There is barely any post-game content to find and the completion reward is just a 5-second extended ending that changes barely anything. Oh, yes. You get a gold star instead of a silver star on your profile.

And with that said, I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. I did leave certain things out of this review because I wanted you to have some surprises when you play this game. So yeah, it’s time for the conclusion.

Wrapping up

The bad:

-The bells can be a bit irritating.

-There is no post-game/completion reward.

-The walking speed can be a bit slow.

-Overall, the game is too easy. You have to create the challenge yourself.

The good:

+ Charming story (even when there was more that could have been done with it)

+ Amazing soundtrack.

+ Creative puzzles and battle mechanics.

+ …

Final thoughts:

It’s quite possible that you will see this game on my top 10 games of 2020 list. This game came out of nowhere and really blew me away. I was expecting an “okay” or a fine game but I was blown away. I can understand that Paper Mario veterans expected more out of this game, but I don’t think we are going to get an RPG Paper Mario in the near future.

I think that this game took major steps in the right direction of an enjoyable adventure game. I enjoyed my time with this game and I can recommend this game to everybody who enjoys adventure and/or puzzle games.

The biggest flaw of the game is that there is just a major lack of depth. There is so much more that could have been done and the game is over after 20-25 hours of gameplay. But, these 20-25 hours are quite enjoyable.

But this game gives me high hopes for the next Paper Mario game. Since if this is the direction that they are taking with the series, I’m carefully optimistic about the series again. While there is a very vocal veteran fanbase that wants the old school style of Paper Mario back, I think that is better suited for the Mario & Luigi series. I think that Paper Mario is better suited for games like this. But, that might be just me, I still have to beat the original Paper Mario trilogy.

But, I’m trying to see this game apart from the whole series that it originated from. And when I look at this game as a standalone game, I’m quite impressed with the game. Compared to the two previous games, this game makes a ton of improvements that make the game more enjoyable and entertaining to play.

Any with that said, I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 85/100

Review: Kirby – Return To Dreamland (Wii)

Kirbys_return_to_dreamland_boxart.jpgWikipedia entry

It has been quite some time since I looked at a console game. Well, honestly, I do play console games here and there… But mostly, I play games on my handhelds and my PC. In any case, a few days ago, I have finally beaten a Kirby game I have been playing on and off for the past few years. It’s called Kirby’s Return To Dream Land on the Nintendo Wii. Before I begin the review, I first want to address something about the name of this game. In Europe, this game has a different name. It’s called Kirby’s Adventure Wii. This is really annoying to me since the first Kirby game on the Gameboy is called Kirby’s Adventure. Why didn’t we Europeans got the same name as the Americans? Such a shame. In any case, enough stalling. Time to get into the review. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below. Thanks in advance for that. 

The story of Kirby

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In this game, Kirby’s adventure has two big parts. In the first part of the game, Kirby helps a stranded alien to repair his ship. In the second act, Kirby helps to defeat the evil overlord in on the alien’s home planet.

That’s all I’m explain about the story. You rarely find deep story lines in a Kirby game. From all the Kirby games I played, the story is just there. Yet, the twist at the end is nice. While I honestly saw it coming, I didn’t mind. The story is fun enough to play through. In my opinion, the story isn’t that memorable. It doesn’t bother me since the game has a lot more to offer than just the story. I found that the journey was more fun than the actual story.

The writing of the story was great. I’m so glad that they used text boxes in this game since I feel that’s how Kirby stories shine the most.

4 players

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A moment of honesty here, I haven’t played this game with 4 players at once. But I have played this game with two players at once.

Together with my cousin, we have played this game a lot. This game is what I call a “sibling game.” The difficulty of this game is just right. It’s challenging for the younger players but it’s not too hard. Yet; it can be challenging to the older sibling if (s)he let’s his or her guard down.

Speaking about the difficulty, the last boss battle is rather brutal in my opinion. Since it’s mostly in a totally different gameplay style which I’m not an expert in. Then this game can become rather difficult.

In any case, the gameplay of this entry in the Kirby series is what you can expect from any other Kirby game. It’s a fun platformer where you can copy (some of) your enemies powers. The powers in this game are fun to use and every single one of them are useful. Apart from one, the sleeping one. Still as unuseful as ever.

In certain points of the game, you can receive a special powerup. This one transforms Kirby into a powerhouse. The way this powerup is used makes for some fun(ny) situations. But, that’s something I’m going to leave up to you guys and girls to discover.

Also, in each level, you can find some wheels. With those wheels, you can unlock power-up rooms. In these rooms, you can easily get any copy ability you want. On the top of those rooms, you have a doll where you can practice them.

With those wheels, you can also unlock challenges. In these challenges, you have to complete a course using one copy ability in a certain time.  These are fun to play since I love that kind of challenges.

Actually collecting the wheels can be rather challenging since some of them are very well hidden. Also, in some levels, you have a sort of bonus stage where you fight a boss at the end to receive two or more wheels. Those are really difficult and some of them, I wasn’t able to beat in few tries.

Since this is a Kirby game, I have to mention the mini-games. And man, they are a real blast to play. I have lost hours playing those with my niece. Mostly the ninja star throwing one is a real blast to play in my opinion. I had a lot of fun with it.

In any case, I think I prove my point that there is a lot of fun gameplay in this game. But I still have to talk about different aspects of this game so let’s do just that.

Kirby and more Kirby

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So, first of all, the length of this game is perfect. This game has 7,5 worlds. Each world contains around 5 levels, with the final level being a boss.

The 8th world is actually a long level with the final boss of the game. It doesn’t have multiple levels. That’s why I count it as a half world.

In Kirby tradition, each world gets a funny name. And yes, most of them have to do with food.

The presentation of this game is one of the strong points of this game. I really love the art style in this game. It’s very bright and colorful, yet sometimes the game uses a way darker pallet to suit the story.

The animation is really top notch. I have no complaint about them. The world design and the animations are really well crafted. Combined with some amazing level design, this game is almost perfect.

The music in this game is really catchy. I wish I was able to buy the soundtrack somewhere since it’s that good in my opinion. But hey, I didn’t expect anything less from Hall Laboratory.

The controls are very responsive and I have nothing to complain about there. If you doubt about the controls, you can see them in the pause menu.

Up until now, it seems that I haven’t anything bad to say about this game. Well, there is one nitpick. That’s that the first player always leads. When the first player dies, the second player dies as well. That’s the only negative I have with this game.

It’s time to wrap this review up. Here comes the conclusion!

Conclusion

The bad:

-The first player dies -> Everybody dies.

The good:

+ Amazing presentation. (Visuals & animation)

+ Very nice controls.

+ You can play with up to 4 players.

+ While this game can be rather easy, some challenges can be challenging to veteran players.

+ Great level design. And it’s fun to play more than once through some levels.

+ …

Final thoughts:

If you are looking for an amazing Kirby game, look no further. This Kirby game is one of the best in the series. The gameplay returns to its roots (like in the first Kirby games) and it’s a blast to play.

I had so much fun playing this game with my family and friends that I would love to recommend it to every Nintendo fan.

When you like what you saw on the screenshots, give this game a shot! I also heard that this game came out on Wii U Virtual Console, so there is no excuse to not pick up this gem of a game. It’s released in the summer of 2015. So, go ahead and pick up this game. It’s totally worth it.

Score: 100/100