I love stories in video games and the indie game space is often where you see a lot of creativeness when it comes to how to tell them. The first game from Melbourne, Australia based developer Ghost Pattern is one of those cases of creative storytelling. It’s called Wayward Strand and here is my review of the PlayStation 5 version.
Wayward Strand is an adventure game that takes place in 1978 Australia onboard an airborne hospital. You play as a 14-year old girl named Casey who is an aspiring journalist that writes for her school newspaper. Casey ends up visiting the hospital to help out her mom who works there as they are currently running a little short on staff. It’s up to you to visit with the various elderly patients at the hospital and see how you can best help them while also trying to see if you can get any juicy information. The game takes place over the course of three days and it’s up to you on how you spend your time and who it’s with. It’s a game that really drives home the fact that we only have so much time in our lives and you should make every moment count. I can also relate to the situation in the game quite well as I spent a lot of time around my grandfather when I was little and spent a lot of time around older people working in a care home for a period of time.
The gameplay is rather easy to get a hold of as you’ll walk around the airship and visit with various people. Some people aren’t so easy to talk with and will need more time spent on them in order to get them to open up to you. Conversation choices can also determine how a character feels towards you and can either open or close possible outcomes. Information you gather while talking with the people or listening in on others talk will be jotted down in Casey’s journal for reference. No matter who it was I talked to I ended up feeling really invested in it. They’ll talk about their past, things around them, and so on and each person feels distinct from the next. A lot of subjects that aren’t usually touched upon in games are also explored here such as illnesses, trauma, and more which I really admired but these could also be things that some people don’t want to hear about when playing a game. I really wanted to spend time with each person during my playthrough but that just wasn’t possible so I’ll have to go back in the future. The only problem with repeat playthroughs is that you can’t skip dialog so any conversations that you already heard will have to be listened to again. The game also is in need of more save points as while it is only five or six hours long, I wished I was able to stop and quit whenever I wanted to.
I can’t talk about Wayward Strand without talking about the art style which is colorful and beautiful and reminiscent of a children’s book. Every area of the screen always is full of details too making me always stop to scan each room with my eyes to see what I could learn. The only little nitpick with the game I had was that certain animations were a little rough but they didn’t hurt my overall enjoyment. Just like the visuals the voice acting is also top notch helping to further make each character feel unique and like an actual person I was talking with and the soundtrack is a relaxing listen as well. Trophy hunters will find 30 trophies to collect including a Platinum. It won’t be an easy list though as the descriptions are vague and you’ll have to play it more than once to earn them all.
Wayward Strand is a great narrative adventure game but its experimental nature won’t be for everyone. The gameplay is rather basic, topics may be uncomfortable for some to listen to, and the lack of clear direction won’t gel with everyone. I didn’t mind these things as the characters and stories they had to share were enough to draw me in and keep me interested until the end. Even now, I’m still thinking about certain moments from it and I want to go back to play more to see what information I missed the first time.
*Wayward Strand is available now on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. PlayStation 5 version reviewed. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.
- Has a great cast of characters that all feel alive and unique
- Really good voice acting and relaxing musical score
- Beautiful children's book like art style
- Encourages multiple playthroughs to experience everything
- Not enough save spots and no way to skip dialog
- Basic directionaless gameplay and certain topics may not please everyone