2D platformer meets RPG in this retro throwback from developers Fordesoft.
In Emerald Shores, you play as Alex, a young man with extremely shiny hair. He's sent on a mission by King Jeff to help save the bunny people of Emerald Shores. To do so, Alex must traverse several different worlds and conquer a handful of bosses that stand in his way.
Emerald Shores looks and plays like a 16-bit platformer from the SNES era. The art style and character designs can be hit and miss with some characters and enemies looking especially good while many of the environments are simply uninteresting. It plays like a pure old-school platformer straight down to jumping on enemies' heads to damage them. They don't all go down in one hit, though. Instead, every enemy has an HP bar that slowly dwindles as you attack them and you'll be granted some experience points upon their death.
Blending a traditional 2D platformer with RPG elements is an interesting idea but unfortunately, it doesn't really come together well in Emerald Shores. Many of the enemies take way too many hits before they finally die with most of them not even adjusting their attack pattern in any noticeable way to try and stop you from killing them. In fact, you can usually bounce on their heads over and over again until they die with minimal resistance. When you also consider the fact that the head-bouncing is unwieldy and will sometimes shoot you off in unexpected directions, you've got a recipe for dull and frequently aggravating combat.
The concept of leveling up in a platformer is quite satisfying and I spent time killing baddies just to increase my level; specifically, my HP bar. Enemies in Emerald Shores do a lot of damage so you can't just skip them completely despite the fact that it's possible to jump over the majority of foes. I just wish fighting them was actually fun. The same can be said for the bosses who simply don't feature enough unique attacks or varied patterns to pose a challenge. The platforming segments are better and at times, I wished the developer scrubbed the combat entirely and spent time refining the level designs and strictly creating a challenging platformer instead.
Emerald Shores also features a handful of mini-games that vary in enjoyment. The Bootworm races ended up being far too basic despite having a clever premise while the farming simulator is simple and actually enjoyable. A few mechanical changes appear in the game's later levels to switch things up a bit which vary from humdrum to somewhat charming and fun. There are also a few secrets and alternate paths hidden in Emerald Shores' levels but most of the unlockables only serve to improve your abilities in the aforementioned Bootworm races. Once in a while, you'll even end up in a fun new area filled with a few gaming industry references which is cool.
Levels in Emerald Shores are relatively short which is probably a good thing as it helps tone back the frustration of falling down bottomless pits and having to restart the whole level as a result. The entire campaign can be completed within about 2 to 4 hours; however, there is a remix mode that amps up the challenge by changing the level and enemy layouts which adds some replay value.
After all is said and done, Emerald Shores has potential but it's held back by tedious combat that drags down most of the experience.
- + Some nice pixel art
- + Decent platforming challenge
- + Contains some variety and mini-games
- - Combat is extremely dull
- - RPG elements don't enhance the experience and end up feeling grindy
- - Some frustrating deaths