Sheep: cute, cuddly, tasty, but also the theme of a damn good card game for the Switch. Shephy is a single-player card game about growing the numbers of a herd of sheep to 1000. While I admittedly am not a fan of card games on video game consoles, this one is the exception.
Just like any other card games, Shephy has a large element of luck involved with card drawing. Luckily that’s the only chance-based aspect of the game and the rest comes down to situations where you must use critical thinking to determine which sheep you can kill in order to allow you to multiply a different group of sheep. It’s not the easiest game to get the hang of, but once you can start to memorize what the cards do—typically something relating to killing or multiplying sheep—it makes it easier to plan out your strategy.
The strategic side of Shephy is easy to pick up after a few games, but what really got me were the intuitive touch controls. Tap the card to select it, choose what cards it will be played on, and then swipe the card up towards the field of play to commit to your move. It doesn’t get more straightforward than that, which is perfect for this game. I’ve played too many games on Switch which lend themselves quite well to touch controls, but absolutely fail to deliver on a quality experience in the portable format. Conversely, the controller option is workable, but suffers from one poor design choice: you have to press the up button to play a card. The field of play is located directly above your hand, so it can sometimes cause you to misplay when you’re just trying to observe the cards on the field. The game at least asks you if you would still like to play the card without activating the effect, which just seems like they knew this was a problem but didn’t feel like changing it.
I can only say so much about the gameplay in a card game, but how about the story mode? You know, everyone’s favorite part of all card games. Well Shephy has a wonderful—and ridiculous—story built in with special conditions for each level, so you’re not just stuck monotonously running the same strategies endlessly. The story isn’t going to blow you away with its writing but the bizarreness of it all just might, and I am a sucker for the bizarre. I’ll give you a little taste: forces of evil, interdimensional portals, death and despair, with a touch of nihilism.
I would say that’s a pretty good description of the story in a nutshell, but as for the art, well that is another treat on its own. The drawings of the sheep are intentionally poorly drawn to add to the charm of this cute little game, but their surroundings in the story cutscenes are strikingly refined. All the drawings in Shephy are in black and white, but the manga art style gives it an aesthetic that was completely unexpected from a card game about mating sheep.
Despite my love for Shephy, I will admit that I am still quite bad at it. It takes a good handful of retries for me to make it through a level of the story, and winning just one free play game took countless attempts until I got the hang of it. I’m still just left wanting more from this game in the form of a multiplayer mode or a truly endless mode with an infinite deck of cards where you try to amass increasingly larger hordes of sheep. The multiplayer mode would take a bit of retouching to make it work, and for a $5 game I was blown away by the multiple single-player modes.
By no means is Shephy a game of the year candidate or even an indie game of the year candidate, but that does not diminish the quality of the experience. Yes, it is a card game on a video game console, but it’s the best one I have played on any console. I will warn that this game is not for everyone, but if you’re up for some slower paced fun or if you’re a fan of card games in general it’s a must-have.