I love games that come with ambitious ideas and unorthodox new ways of telling stories and utilising gameplay. When we think back to the days of PS1, the OG Xbox and later, there were plenty of games that fell into that category – some would fail but many would succeed with their endeavours. You know the likes – Beyond Good and Evil, Portal; classics now, but they were quite experimental when they arrived on our machines.

Sephonie has similar bones in its concept and execution. It also has the feel and looks of those early console games. So let’s dive in. 

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Running through the world of Sephonie

Sephonie is a game with an intriguing setup and premise story-wise. It starts with an alien creature, narrating the story while on a train traveling through the world. The train stops and we see the world is strange. Blocking the path are three huge statues of humans. The narrator explains their story and who these three individuals are.

You then play as these three individuals, heading into the past to find out about their journey. They are three scientists who travel to the island of Sephonie to conduct some radical research. They get shipwrecked and find out that the island has trapped them. All they can do is travel around the place connecting with all the bio-diversity and working out the secrets the island holds. 

The story is very good and I was completely hooked by the way the narrative in Sephonie plays out; and how original it is. The three scientists have their own distinct personalities, and the writing and dialogue are sharp. There is so much superb detail in the descriptions of the wildlife and plant life you find along the way. 

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Block dropping beats!

Gameplay wise and there is also a lot going on. Each of the scientists can be swapped as you play, with slight differences in their play styles. Sephonie itself plays in the third person, working a semi-open world throughout. It has a relaxing nature to it as you walk around the island, trying to find the wildlife, plants, and animals, connecting them. This is done by taking part in some block-matching puzzles, connecting up different coloured blocks into a certain shape. These start simple, but can get more complicated as the game progresses with barriers in play and bacteria that eat your blocks. It’s a fun system and you can lower the difficulty if you get stuck. 

The rest of the gameplay focuses on exploration and platforming. The platforming elements are – in my opinion – the weakest elements of the game. You have jumps and dashes in mid-air that also serve as double jumps. There is some wall running as well, but personally I have had trouble getting to grips with it. It’s these moments of Sephonia that don’t feel the best; rarely fun to play through. Thankfully the save points are very generous, something that is appreciated due to occasional bug. Don’t think of them as anything major; more frustrating.  

The visuals have an early 2000s vibe about them, especially in terms of level design and textures. It all looks fine but whether you like the visual tones will be dictated by your taste in retro games. I loved the open-world feel to it and the creature design is good, but it loses a bit of the wow factor at times. The soundtrack is good without being out of this world. But it also has the same retro feel which becomes quite calming after a while. 

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There’s some real ambition in Sephonie

The ambition of Sephonie as an indie title is great and should be applauded. It tells a unique and interesting story that mixes sci-fi and real relationships successfully. And it’s a game that will drag you along, as the story hooks. But there’s a big retro vibe going on here, something which I personally wasn’t keen on, leaving the puzzle elements and wildlife discovery the good bits. And it must be said, the platforming and traveling around the world frustrates rather than excites.

But there is a lot to like here and Sephonie is a nice little place to spend some time in. 

Source: https://www.thexboxhub.com/sephonie-review/