Not many games have built the type of cult following ripe for indie copycats like Paper Mario. The crafted RPG Nintendo made nearly 25 years ago hugs gamers in its artsy arms and never lets go. The sequel, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, carried on the first game’s legacy, but the ensuing releases in the series strayed from the greatness of the classics.
Nintendo’s refusal to return to the successful formula of these titles has forced indie studios to reimagine Paper Mario for a new generation. The latest doppelgänger, Born of Bread, dares to dream bigger than any other emulation of the Paper Mario lineage to date. Publisher Dear Villagers and developer Wild Arts’ expression and color capture eyes immediately and tinge gamers with requisite nostalgia and novelty. This bakery treat aces the litmus test for indie gaming greatness in 2023. It's time to get into the flour and sugar of it all!
Born of Bread’s Characters Are Comforting and Warm
Gamers follow the protagonist’s life from birth. Loaf adventures out of Papa Baker’s oven in the first scene of the game. He appears with a smile on his face and an optimistic attitude in his heart. The idea of transforming Mario into personified yeast stands as one of the better reincarnations of the plumber. Loaf stays silent, but his resolve screams louder than his enemies. Players control Loaf as he whops his enemies with a ladle, jumps through various environments, and interacts with potential partners such as Lint, the raccoon, and Yagi, the goat warrior.
Any paper-parallel adventure needs unique sidekicks, and Wild Arts put a lot of thought and creativity into their inception. The cartoon-like dialogue and relatable sense of humor allow the script to shine whether someone is trekking through the main adventure or taking on a side quest. NPCs have a large variety of sayings and opinions. Players can talk to the same character multiple times and get a different response with every talk. This level of detail and effort encourages players to dig into Born of Bread’s world.
Born of Bread’s Aesthetic Soars
The atmosphere and aesthetic often feel like the most difficult Paper Mario attributes to mimic. Born of Bread doesn’t try to duplicate the Mushroom Kingdom or knock off any Nintendo characters, and this decision aids the game in creating its own special universe. The natural environments breathe with vivid, picturesque geometry. Trees and leaves adorn the background and participate in the adventure with the same papery weight of the game’s muses, but they carve out a unique and wholly original presence. The score orchestrates levity during tramps across ancient ruins and whimsy while in the forest. Battle themes never get tiresome, and the instruments raise the tension during boss fights. The entire package looks beautiful, and it feels spellbinding.
Born of Bread’s Combat Becomes Slowly Addictive
The bulk of any Paper Mario game consists of turn-based battle sequences. The series basically invented the action commands that so many other RPGs started to integrate into their gameplay. Instead of clicking a button and watching the avatars swing their weapons, precise button combinations and timing build an intriguing and meaty combat experience. Born of Bread starts a little slow in this department, but the addition of sidekicks and attacks as the game goes on feels intoxicating.
Pressing three buttons in a specific order, timing an “A” button mash at the right time, and even twisting the control stick back and forth for a special attack makes for an interactive and rhythmic battle escapade. These fight sequences are paced pretty well, with a leveling system that moves quicker than in Paper Mario. Enemies give more experience points than in other paper RPGs, but that doesn’t mean the combat becomes easier.
Grinding through the different enemy soldiers necessitates a deserved amount of rewards, and a vital addition of health or mana (called will points in Born of Bread.) Antagonists powerfully oppose Loaf, often subtracting health at a rapid rate. Becoming a master of blocking attacks helps regain will points and subsequently helps players utilize more powerful attacks. A dearth of save points sometimes feels like a small flaw, but the succession of leveling within two or three battles helps to regenerate stats back to 100 percent.
Born of Bread Possesses a High Level of Craftsmanship
Some indie games struggle with bugs and other housekeeping issues early on. Patches and other fixes come after the fact, making the released version of the game a shaky sample of the genuine article. Born of Bread has very few of these problems and certainly no drawbacks that force gamers into a negative time. The game combats slow load times with humorous breaking-of-the-fourth-wall comments in the fine print at the bottom of the screen. Objectives in the quest sometimes take a minute to load onto the pause screen. A simple click in and out of the menu will solve the problem. An advantageous bug that occurred once allowed me to eat the same health item repeatedly until my meter was full, but this wasn’t a repeat offense. All in all, the craftsmanship in display deserves an A grade!
Born of Bread Bakes Its Own Legacy!
Any Paper Mario diehard will love Wild Arts’ version of the Nintendo cult classic! Born of Bread mirrors the mechanics and experience conceived in Mario’s universe by not trying too hard. The game takes the same road as Paper Mario but diverges off the beaten path to become a singular experience. Hopefully, Nintendo will see that gamers still hunger for paper adventures, but if they never make a new Paper Mario, Born of Bread, and similar inspirations, they will step up to the plate!