Shephy (iPad, iPhone, Android, Switch [reviewed])
Developer: Pawn, Adventure Planning Service
Publisher: Arc System Works
Released: July 10, 2016 (mobile), July 6, 2017 (Switch)
MSRP: Free-to-play with $3.99 upgrade (mobile), $4.99 (Switch)
Shephy is a single-player card game in the vein of solitaire, only here your goal is to mate sheep until they there are 1,000 of them. Games consist of 3 rounds with around 22 cards each round. Decks consist of both cards to help your flock expand, as well as negative cards that will either remove sheep cards from the board or drop their rank. There is even one card that, if played, means you lose instantly, and seeing as you must play every card in your deck every round, you’ve got to find a way to discard it or remove it from the game (thankfully, there are a couple cards to do just that).
You start with one single sheep on the board, which can be doubled by using a ‘be fruitful’ card to two single sheep cards. Once three sheep are on the board, a ‘dominion’ card can be used that combines them all and gives you a single card with the closest ranked card available. Cards can either be 1, 3, 10, 30, 100, 300, or 1,000 sheep. There are cards that upgrade all the cards to the next rank on the board except for your top-ranked cards, which are import to use at opportune moments.
The discards consist of cards that make you discard one sheep, half your sheep, two sheep, all but two sheep, discard every sheep of one rank, the instant lose, discard seven sheep cards, and so forth. If that sounds brutally hard, you’re not wrong.
Like most card games, Shephy has a bit of a learning curve. I’ve personally put hours into this simple-looking game and I think I’ve won maybe 3 of 50 games, and I’m not convinced that it is totally my fault. Many of if not all of my losses seem totally based on when the game decides to give me which cards, and often there just doesn’t seem to be a way to win. When comparing this to solitaire which has very few deals which can’t end in a win, it is rather frustrating. I’ve certainly gotten better at the game the more I’ve played, usually able to hit 100 most of the time, but I still don’t feel like my losses are often fair.
Outside of the basic mode, there is a challenge mode that allows you to collect more than 1,000 sheep (which I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do), and a story mode called Post Loves that has various missions with decks with specific twists, typically making the game even harder than it is to begin with.
In Post Loves, you’ll learn the story of Shephy through manga-like cutscenes with very basic animation. The bizarre and dark story revolves around talking sheep who are taking care of by an old shepherd they call Grandpa Bruce. Yes, they talk. Some evil group shows up and wants to harm the sheep in some way so their brave grandfather figure sends them through a portal to alternate dimensions, including a hell-like landscape with plague doctors roaming the land, and to a land where they are gods. I can’t make this shit up.
I love the hand-drawn art found throughout, with the scribbly style found in the Post Loves’ cutscenes as well. Something about it is cute and creepy — such as seeing three sheep humping each other in what I’m assuming is a male, male, female threeway — which seems to be a thing a lot of games have going this year for some reason.
I just wish I loved the rest of the game as much as I love the concept and art style. The music is repetitive and worse than what you’d hear on an elevator, and the randomness of the difficulty just isn’t fun, at all. You could even say it’s baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad.