Emerald Shores review for PS Vita, PS4, PC

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PC, PS4
Publisher: Fordesoft
Developer: Fordesoft
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

The good news about Emerald Shores is that it hearkens back to the glory days of the 8- and 16-bit platformer. If you tilt your head and squint your eyes and look at it just right, you can see it trying to capture the spirit of games like the original Super Mario Bros.

The bad news? If you don?t do that stuff, it looks a lot more like some terrible SMB clone, a bargain basement knock-off that has a vague idea of how platformers work, but doesn?t actually know how to pull any of it off.

Emerald Shores is so bad, it?s hard to know where to begin. We could start, I guess, with its abysmal performance. It crashed with alarming regularity, to the point that you can?t even look at the game and say, ?Hey, at least it works.? If we were talking about something too complex for the Vita to handle, that?d be one thing — but this is a retro-inspired platformer. Given that countless other indie games have run on the Vita without difficulty, it?s hard to give this one the benefit of the doubt.

Mind you, even when it works, it still doesn?t exactly work. Running and jumping are both inconsistent. Sometimes your character slides across the ground, while other times he remains perfectly still until you move him, and there?s no apparently rhyme or reason as to which you?ll get in any given level. Sliding makes sense in the ice levels; in the non-ice levels, not as much. Likewise, jumping is a constant adventure, since there?s no consistency to how high your character can jump.

These awful controls extend to other parts of the game, where Emerald Shores goes beyond your standard platforming. Case in point: one of the ice levels requires you to ride a sled. Except, for some reason, the game will intermittently have your character go flying off the sled, making you either plummet to your death or get stuck in the middle of a platform with no other platform within jumping distance. Case in point, part 2: there?s one level that requires you to jump on four moving platforms. On the first three, your character remains stationary while the platforms are moving. On the fourth, for some reason, you start sliding off the moment you land on it, invariably causing you to fall to your doom.

All that said, the worst part of Emerald Shores has got to be the combat. Like SMB and its many clones, you can kill enemies here by jumping on their heads. Unlike SMB and all its competent clones, however, the hit detection here is completely random. You?re usually expected to bounce on enemies until they die, except it?s pretty common for the game to suddenly decide that you aren?t landing in the right spot, and it whacks off a big chunk of your life bar. The hit detection isn?t anywhere near as forgiving in the other direction, though: I lose track of the number of times I either died or lost a massive chunk of life because I landed in the general vicinity of an enemy. And, to top it all off, the game?s physics are all wonky: sometimes you?ll bounce straight up off an enemy, but others you?ll go rocketing off to the side, and it?s a fool?s errand to try and guess which outcome will happen at any given moment.

There is, I?ll admit, one positive aspect to Emerald Shores. It has an RPG-ish progression system, where killing more enemies and collecting coins give you XP, which in turn helps you level up and get a bigger health bar. It?s a neat twist on the game giving you X number of lives.

But no matter how interesting an idea the progression system is, it doesn?t make up for the fact that everything else about Emerald Shores is brutally bad. In every way, from every perspective imaginable: this is just an awful, no-good game.

Fordesoft provided us with an Emerald Shores PS Vita code for review purposes.

Grade: D-