What the heck is a Shephy?: A primer

Shephy is weird. Shephy is adorable. Shephy is a game for the Nintendo Switch. Let’s get into it.

What is Shephy, the analog game?

Shephy is a solitaire card game designed by a Japanese indie creator who goes by the name Pawn. A specialist in these solo sorts of experiences, Pawn focuses on the puzzle-like element of completing an objective using limited actions. In this case, your job is to take a field with just one sheep and use various abilities — some positive, like filling the board with sheep or combining lots of sheep into one card to make space for more, and some negative, like discarding sheep cards — to get a 1000-sheep card on the field.

It’s clearly a labor of love, with lots of hand-drawn doodles on the cards (all done by the designer) and a feel that is quaint in all the right ways.

Is it good?

Maybe! It’s definitely a solvable game — there’s an optimal move in every situation and you can reasonably learn what it is — but the experience of getting there can take enough plays to be enjoyable.

What is Shephy, the digital game?

Made by Arc System Works, this adaptation generally keeps the card game intact, but as with most of these, it cleans up some of the tedium of actually moving and shuffling all the cards. The Nintendo Switch iteration is clearly a port of the iOS and Android releases that are also available in English, so it supports touch controls as well as button play, and the relatively low number of releases on the platform make it an interesting proposition for those who want something for breaks between Splatoon 2 matches.

It’s been getting a lot of attention for its story, which… yeah, it really goes places you wouldn’t expect from a sheep-doodle number game. Where it really earns its worth, though, is in the actual gameplay of the campaign, as it changes up the deck composition and objectives, fixing the card game’s problem of being so solvable by giving you myriad configurations to solve.

Is it good?

It’s fine? It doesn’t feel totally natural to play with either buttons or touch, but it’s not the most awkward setup we’ve encountered. It should, especially on the big screen, use more legible card art, as it’s silly to have to magnify one to read “discard a sheep card” on it. That said, there are not very many cards and you begin to recognize them by their art fairly quickly.

The iOS and Android versions have free play options if you just want to try, but those versions cost roughly as much as the Switch one if you want that campaign, and you really do if you’re going to take the plunge.

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