Sephonie review for PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PC

Platform: PS5
Also on: Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Developer: Analgesic Productions
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

Sephonie is one of those games that’s absolutely bursting with ideas. Its Steam page called the game a “Tony-Hawk-esque 3D platformer”, it’s got lengthy dialogue sequences that are basically just philosophical musings, and one of the core parts of the game is cataloguing all the flora and fauna of an underground cave network – which you do via minigames that look like Tetris reimagined as a match-3 puzzle.

Unfortunately, it also doesn’t have any notion of how to turn those ideas into a particularly interesting game.

The platforming and exploration form the biggest part of the game, so they’re as good a place as any to start when explaining why Sephonie doesn’t work that well. You’re mapping a massive underground cave network, except there’s no real urgency to any of it – you just wander around, falling off ledges and starting over from your last checkpoint with no direction or hint about where you’re supposed to be going. You have a map, but it’s barely usable – think of the most unhelpful Metroidvania map you’ve ever seen, and then multiply that by a few orders of magnitude, and that’s what you have here.

Worst of all, though, the platforming is a massive pain. You have to turn running on and off, and while I’ve seen games that toggle running before, I don’t recall ever seeing it done in a way that’s as frustrating as it is here – I’d often run to my death because the game was inconsistent in deciding whether you were still running after you’d double-jumped. Likewise, you can wall-run…sometimes, sort of, and when you pull it off it feels more like you’ve stumbled across a glitch than done something well.

Building on that point, jumping is a massive pain. You can sort of double-jump, and you can sort of push off walls to boost yourself higher, except it always feels inconsistent. Plenty of times I’d reach a ledge and have no idea why it worked that time after failing the previous half-dozen times. Sephonie’s physics are inconsistent, and in a platformer, that’s one of the worst crimes a game can commit.

As for the Tetris-influenced match-3 puzzles, the less said about them, the better. They’re not challenging in any way, shape, or form, and all they don’t add anything of value to the game. It feels like Sephonie’s developers felt like they had to extend the running time of their game, and threw in some mindless puzzles just so they could say the game is a puzzle-platformer.

Needless to say, nothing in Sephonie clicked with me. It doesn’t matter if a game brings a whole bunch of ideas to the table if it’s not able to pull any of them off, and judging by the evidence on offer here, that’s definitely the case for Sephonie.

Ratalaika Games provided us with a Sephonie PS4/PS5 code for review purposes.

Grade: C