Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Review: Shephy


When I first saw Shephy listed in the eShop I’ll admit my reaction was quite dismissive. A card game on the Switch is one thing but then with cute little sheep? Really? After playing it for quite a few hours and in different modes I can say that, yes, there is something worthwhile here for the right crowd. While Shephy can’t break away from the fundamentals of what it is that isn’t to say that people looking for some light strategic card play on the go or while doing something else won’t find consistent enjoyment from it.

Based on an actual strategic card game variant of Solitaire the goal in Shephy is to effectively use your cards to multiply the single sheep you start with into a flock of 1000 (note, as a single card) before you’ve exhausted the deck of cards 3 times. To do this you’ll need to make careful use of the array of choices you have, both helpful and destructive, trying to keep yourself from losing your whole flock or simply running out of cards before you meet your goal. The gameplay is structured, smart, and pretty engaging. The question that arises will be whether you can get sufficient mileage out of it.


That is where the variety of available alternative modes come into play and they do a pretty solid job of ensuring you won’t just drop the game out of boredom once you’ve beaten the “basic mode” a few times. These alternative modes will shift the contents of the deck in various ways as well as introduce new rules that govern how you’re allowed to play or your objectives. While the core gameplay remains the same the removal of cards that will help you avoid the use of other ones that will do damage really shakes things up and will require careful planning and execution to minimize the losses you’ll be now forced to take. It keeps things lively if you enjoy the core game but also does nothing to elevate it if card games aren’t your thing.

The final thing worth noting with these additional rule modes is the “Post Loves” mode which essentially tells a story in a few chapters. The catch is that despite the very cute appearance of the game overall (though some cards like “Plague” do show dead sheep certainly) the tone and some of the art to the story is decidedly grim and a tad bizarre. I suppose some people might not appreciate its inclusion but oddly enough I find it to be a bit comically strange so I’m compelled to try to beat the rule sets at each of the few stages just to see what shows up next.


At the end of the day, though I’ve managed to inventory the variety of ways the game can play out in order to point to the effort that has gone into it, this is just a pretty simple card game you could buy physically. Granted, in this form it may be cheaper or more convenient but what will likely first guide your purchase will be your desire to have a game like this on your Switch specifically and not in some other form. I’ll give credit where it is due, this does not feel in any way like a low-effort shovelware conversion, someone took the time to do some work on the game and make the most of the situation. All the same, it is all a relatively simple experience and if you’re not looking for a strategic solo card game nothing in the package will likely win you over. That said, I can genuinely say it is the best game of its kind that I’ve played on the Switch, noting for the moment there doesn’t happen to be any competition.

Score: 6

Pros:
  • The additional modes and rule sets help keep it from all being one-dimensional
  • At the core the strategic card game is well-planned and executed
  • For people with a bit of a twisted streak the “story mode” is a bit of a hoot


Cons:
  • In the end it is a card game in portable form, nothing more and nothing less
  • While I was able to figure out a few nuances of the game rules within a round or two the tutorial seemed to only get my understanding to 85%
  • If you somehow didn’t like the core card game mechanics they’re inescapable, everything is a variation on that foundation


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