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Paper Mario The Thousand-Year Door review header

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door review

I have a confession to make: despite being a GameCube owner and a fan of RPGs, I’ve never played Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. Terrible, I know. But after playing and enjoying Paper Mario: The Origami King on Switch some four years ago now, I was determined not to miss out a second time.

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door finds Mario once again being drawn into an adventure by Princess Peach. She’s gained possession of a treasure map, you see, and demands that Mario helps her track down the valuable loot that it leads to. Upon arriving in the crime-ridden town of Rogueport, however, Peach appears to have gone missing. Now Mario must work to find Peach, and also solve the mystery of the Thousand-Year Door, travelling far and wide to locate the Crystal Stars required to open it.

The first thing that’s likely to strike you about Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is how beautiful it looks. Much work has been done here to make the visuals pop off the screen. Colours are bold, and everything is so crisp — the latter being important given that the world and characters are meant to look like papercraft. Every minute spent playing Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is a treat for the eyes, especially when you enter a new location and find it even more colourful and eye-popping than the last.

Paper Mario The Thousand-Year Door review body 1
Image: Nintendo

Unfortunately, the gameplay isn’t quite as impressive. To progress through Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, you typically simply find yourself moving left or right through locations, with just the odd puzzle or obstacle to mix things up along the way. It’s not too bad until you have to backtrack, and that’s something you have to do rather often. Still, what really makes the gameplay drag at times is the combat.

You’ll encounter enemies frequently as you explore, and as you make contact with them battle commences. Unfortunately, trying to avoid battles is generally hard to do: ultimately you’re better off hitting enemies with your mallet to start a fight with a pre-emptive strike. The turn-based battles of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door take place on a stage and find Mario and and one of his companions taking on a wide variety of enemies. The main thing you’ll want to observe about them, however, is whether they’re spiky or not.

As ever, one of Mario’s staple moves is jumping on the head of his enemies. Do that against an enemy with a spiky helmet on, however, and it’s likely Mario is the one who’s going to end up injured. For such enemies, then, it’s wise to use alternative attacks, such as Mario’s mallet that gives a solid whack. And did we mention that all attacks and special moves available to Mario and co. have minigames attached to them? Do well and you can inflict extra damage.

Paper Mario The Thousand-Year Door review body 2
Image: Nintendo

It’s touches like this, as well as gimmicks such as parts of the stage sometimes falling on friends and/or foes, and members of the audience sometimes wanting to get involved, that make the combat of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door seem like good fun on, er, paper. In practice, however, much of it gets old real fast. Performing the same mini-games time and time again soon begins to grind your gears, and then there’s the fact that there’s very little challenge.

Boss fights, at least, are very enjoyable, not only because they offer a little challenge, but also because they often bring new elements into combat. When they’re so outnumbered by standard encounters that can easily wear you down, however, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door could become a slog for some. And that’s a real shame, because this is a game that really does have charm.

When you’re not being tickled pink by the game’s visuals, it’s the writing that will have you smiling from ear-to-ear. There are some genuinely entertaining gags here, and it’s always fun talking to the locals of the locations you visit to see what they have to say. Combined with the neat skills that Mario acquires on his travels, like being able to turn into a plane or turn paper-thin, noseying around is a delight. It’s just those pesky fights that bring things down a little.

This review of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door was facilitated by a code provided by the game’s publisher. It’s available exclusively on Nintendo Switch.

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door review - GameSpew's score

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
7 10 0 1
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door looks great on Switch, making it exciting to move from one location to the next, each interesting in its own way. Its writing is brilliant, too, with some genuinely funny jokes that will have you grinning as you play. It's just a shame that its turn-based combat gets old quite fast, and is devoid of challenge.
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door looks great on Switch, making it exciting to move from one location to the next, each interesting in its own way. Its writing is brilliant, too, with some genuinely funny jokes that will have you grinning as you play. It's just a shame that its turn-based combat gets old quite fast, and is devoid of challenge.
7/10
Total Score

We like...

  • Its visuals are astounding
  • Genuinely funny writing
  • Neat skills make it fun to explore

We don't like...

  • Combat gets tiresome rather fast
  • Backtracking can be a pain

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