For a modern game, Paper Mario: The Origami King’s settings are archaic. When you first start out, you can adjust the brightness, or the rumble in your Joy-Cons. You can toggle the motion controls on or off. There are three other options, but they’re listed, literally, as “????” To find out what they are—as well as access some other fun features of the game—you need to visit, and revisit, Paper Mario’s Battle Lab.
What you don’t know initially—and what you can easily miss for the bulk of the game—is that those obscuring question marks mask the identity of some game-changing options. One offers hints for puzzle battles. The second adds a buffer of time to each battle’s countdown clock. The third allows you to modify how large that buffer is. You unlock these extra settings in the Battle Lab, a nondescript building on the northeast corner of Toad Town’s town square, right outside the Museum.
The Battle Lab isn’t open for business when you first visit Toad Town; that doesn’t happen until you make your way through Picnic Road. At the tail end of the path, you’ll see an origami dog barking incessantly. (You can’t miss it.) Like most oddities in The Origami King, yes, it’s a Toad. If you smack it with your hammer, it turns out the Toad in question is the owner-proprietor of the Battle Lab. He’ll invite you to swing by his establishment during your next visit to town.
When you first visit the Battle Lab, Toad gives you a one-up mushroom, which functions in The Origami King the same way it’s functioned in every Mario game since 1889. It’s a helpful gift, but not a necessary one. You can stick around and futz with some of the training machines, but at that point in the game, most of the puzzle battles are tremendously simple—not the type of stuff you need practice for. If you, like me, are prone to headstrong gaming behavior, you’ll write the Battle Lab off. Who needs another one-up mushroom? Who needs to hone their skills against goombas?
So this is a case of “Do as I say, not as I do:” Go back to the Battle Lab.
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Return to the Battle Lab once and you’ll get the Puzzle Solver, which adds a setting that allows you to show puzzle solutions. Turn that on, and the battlefield will display bright red circles showing the correct placement for enemies. You still have to physically go through the actions of spinning and shifting those concentric circles, but it helps immensely with figuring things out. The Puzzle Solve is especially valuable for frustrating late-game battles.
A second trip to the Battle Lab unlocks the second and third “????”s. On your second return visit, Toad will give you an item called the Timer Extender. In battles, you can hold down the Plus button to extend the battle clock at a rate of ten coins per second. When you turn the Timer Extender on—which you can do in the settings menu—that process is more or less automated. You can also set a limit on how many coins it’ll spend for you. This all might sound extraneous; after all, watch the countdown clock, and you can just extend battles manually, nullifying the Timer Extender on paper. But every Origami King player can tell of a time where they didn’t notice the time running out until it was far too late. This gizmo builds in a nice buffer.
Even beyond those settings, the Battle Lab is well worth your time. On the right is an arcade cabinet called Ring Trainer. It has two mini-games. The first is called The Ringer: You have to clear ten waves of puzzle battle lineups as quickly as you can. The second, Speed Rings, gives you 100 seconds to clear as many waves as possible. In both mini-games, all of the “enemies” are Toads, which is a little disconcerting at first. (These are the very same Toads that cheer you on, in the bleachers, during regular battles!)
Finally, there’s the Bossotronic Animated Machine Fighter, or BAMF. This machine allows you to test your skills against the various bosses you’ve fought throughout the game. It’s split into three categories: vellumental battles (those are the elemental deities that summon strange-looking practical effects), Paper Macho battles (giant papier-mache creatures that you fight in real-time, like a traditional Mario platformer), and boss battles (the stationary creatures with distinct, usually terrifying personalities).
Complete all three categories and you get a prize. No spoilers as to what it is, but, if you’re gunning for 100-percent completion, you’ll need to tackle the BAMF like a BAMF. Since your goal is to win as quickly as possible, sorry, the Timer Extender won’t help you there.