Release date: 2022
Version played: Xbox Series X in 2022
Developed by Australian studio ghost pattern, Wayward Strand is a 2022 story game. Taking control of young aspiring journalist Casey Beaumaris (Nancy Curtis) on a long weekend in January of 1978, players are tasked with spending time with the patients of a flying hospital, and assisting the nursing staff when necessary. However, the staff and patients will not just wait around for Casey, each going about their lives however they see fit on a schedule, which Casey can note down in her notepad. There are a dozen unique and fully voiced characters, with a voice cast including the likes of legendary Australian actors Michael Caton and Anne Charleston.
+ the entire cast of characters are truly fantastic, with their own personalities, quirks and habits which are sure to get on your nerves. I have been trying to pick a favourite character/voice work to highlight, but all of them are so unique and engrossing. I genuinely felt like I was getting to know these characters
+ for once in a video game, missing conversations felt natural. You can ‘peek’ into conversations that you are not a part of, but it is when you catch just the tail end of a hushed conversation that made me immediately want to reply the game to see what I missed. Importantly, these never felt ‘better’ than the conversation I’d just had or activity I’d just completed, it was just Casey’s — and my own — inquisitive nature
+ I am usually not a fan of in-game timers and/or missable moments, but the format here is forgiving enough that I really felt like I was spending the ‘right’ (that is, morally acceptable) amount of time doing each activity or talking with each patient. I was surprised how invested I got with each character, and was almost personally offended when they had other things to do than let me just ask all manner of questions
+ both of the above points make this game very replayable, as you tend to discover different stories or facets of a character each time
+ graphically, the game appears inside a rectangular box akin to a post card. I really enjoyed this visual style, including the character designs and animations in some instances. I especially liked the loading screen artwork
– a few very janky animations, such as characters miming drinking out of a tea cup still in front of them on the table, or walking around with a sheet of paper floating in front of them after previously reading it. Characters would often walk through each other to get to their designated spots, which is understandable but still noticeable, much like I mentioned in Twelve Minutes
– all games like this (such as The Walking Dead TellTale series) have this same issue, where the option of what to say is not exactly what Casey then says, including my misinterpreting the dialogue prompt. Sometimes there is the choice between three or more options of things to say, which are not the questions that I, the player, want to ask
– there is no saving at any point throughout each of the three days Casey spends on the ship, and each day takes somewhere between 90 minutes and 2 hours (from my one attempt at counting, it was a ratio of one in-game minute to about six seconds of real time). Similarly, there is no way to skip through conversations, so replaying some sections could become very repetitive
> this might sound cheesy, but it’s nice to hear real Aussie accents in a game. It made me really feel like my own real life, and the conversations I have had with people, especially in some volunteer work at an old folks’ home I have done
Should you play this game: I had seen a mate talking about this when it was announced, and I make it a habit to support small studios making games. Even without that foreknowledge, this would have been a wonderful purchase. I played this over a long weekend of my own, doing one in-game day each day, and I cannot stress enough how invested I got with every character. This is absolutely worth your time, and you’ll most definitely find yourself playing it a few times through.