Sometimes a game comes along that, as soon as you start playing, you know you are in for a special time, one where you will savour every minute, one where you will endure the pain and frustration to get to the other side, and one where you will look back on your time with great fondness and happy memories, and Sephonie easily checks all these boxes.

Sephonie was originally released on Steam back in April 2022 and has now been ported to consoles. It was created and published by Analgesic Productions. Consisting of just two people, Melos Han-Tani and Marina Kittaka, they have created a catalouge of games that stimulate the senses through their unique visuals and storytelling. I came across one of their games, Anodyne (a Zelda-like exploration game), through the All N podcast, and although it had some running issues on the Switch, it managed to envelope me, and I was not satisfied until I had explored every nook and cranny of the game map. Ever since, I have been keen to explore their back catalogue of games, and when Sephonie came up, I couldn’t resist the chance to play the latest game from them.

Sephonie starts with three researchers, all of whom are of Taiwanese descent: Amy Lim of the USA, Riyou Hayashi of Japan, and Ing-wen Lin of Taiwan. They are on their way to Sephonie Island to catalogue the animal species found there, but unfortunately, the team gets shipwrecked on the island, with a strange dome barrier engulfing the island. The team decides that they need to explore the island, find a way to remove the barrier, and make contact with a rescue team. You take control of one of the team members (which are interchangeable with a quick shoulder button press), and it’s not long before you find a cave entrance and a path to where most of the game will take place, through the island’s vast cave system containing multiple levels that you will need to explore to find the answers to the barrier issue and so much more.

Doing this is not a small feat, as the caves are structured for some platforming that will test the skills (and patience) of even a skilled game player. Jumping, air dashing, and wall running will all come into play as you try and explore to find the answers you seek, with other mechanics mixing in with these in the later areas to make for an even more challenging experience. The route to take is also not easily navigated; with multiple ways to reach different areas, you will spend a considerable amount of time trying to figure out where exactly you will need to go and if you are going in the right direction.  More time will be taken from just admiring the caves themselves, as though the first cave is what you would expect from a cave, you will find others based on forests and the ocean, and at some point they will start to take the shape of the team’s personal memories thanks to the linking system ONYX, which is implanted into each of them.

On your travels, you will find some of the animals, insects, and plant life that are unique to the island, and to better understand their impact on the ecosystem of the island, the team links with them through the ONYX system. Most of these are optional, but completing them will give you a better understanding of the island and the environment around you. Linking with a species contains its own minigame with multicoloured tetris-style pieces that you have to put together on uniquely shaped boards. Connect as many pieces of the same colour together to increase the bar at the top and complete the link. There are obstacles in your way, but these are more annoyances than anything, and I found these sections to be more of a welcome break from the platforming areas than challenging.

You come to learn that you need to link with five key species on the island to help Sephonie defeat the null virus that exists at the heart of the island, which will not only save yourself but also save humanity. When you link with a key species and complete the puzzle, you will of course learn about that species, but you will also become more intimate with Sephonie and the other members of the team, which is shown through involved and sometimes strongly themed stories told from the trio’s personal memories or life experiences. This is the magic to the game, and it plays more into the plot than you may think, but one I will leave for you to experience yourself. 

The graphical style of Sephonie will unfortunately put some people off playing this game and missing out on these aspects and experiences, which would be a shame. Yes, it’s not the most detailed graphics you will see. Yes, other indie games can and do look prettier, and yes, the species models are static and look out of place, but it doesn’t matter, and it plays into the game’s atmosphere perfectly. I couldn’t imagine Sephonie looking any different; it gives the game its charm, its weirdness, and its beauty.  Look closer, and you will see a ton of work put into the character models and other small touches here and there, but it just made me feel like I was playing an N64 game, which in this day and age of indie games replicating older generations shouldn’t be something to diminish it by.

Of course, not everything is perfect, and you will not only be fighting the platforming in the game but also the controls. More often than not, I died because of the way in which the mechanics have been implemented, mainly through the run feature. Press the run button, and boom, you run in the direction the character is facing and not the direction of the camera. This caught me off guard throughout the game, even at the end. My gaming reflexes just couldn’t adjust. This caused me to run off ledges many, many times, and I thanked Analgesic many, many times for implementing the many checkpoints that they did. The wall run could also prove challenging to get right, especially when you had to jump to another wall on the other side. Although I struggled with the run, you do learn the underlying systems to these moves, and your skills do improve; it’s just a rather large learning curve that some may struggle with. The camera could also be an issue, but thankfully, a range of accessibility options can be found in the game settings, including a range of ways to change the camera or to change your game experience, for example, to give you unlimited jumps or dashes.



Sephonie will devour you into this sometimes surreal and weird world, with its wonderful network of caves, non-combat exploration, and difficult platforming. Its delicious soundtrack will emphasise everything you see, and you’ll want to listen to it outside of the game. By the end, you will feel like you have linked with the trio and Sephonie yourself, and it will leave its mark on you for some time to come. Try to look past its tricky controls and it will lead you to a story filled with important messages, not only for our environment but for us as humans and If you do take the plunge with Sephonie, just be prepared to want to visit every other Analgesic game to find out what unique experiences they also hold.


Release Date: 21st July 2023

Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One & Xbox Series S/X

Price: £19.99 (Switch & Xbox), £16.75 (Steam), £15.99 (PlayStation)

Launch discount of 20% on consoles