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Review

Wayward Strand Review

When I think of my time playing Wayward Strand, I imagine driving along the Victorian coast on a hot summer day. The windows are down as a gentle warm breeze flows through the car. Between small regional towns, the landscape changes from rolling hills dry and thirsty for the rain to forests of giant old native trees to open fields sparsely populated by cows and sheep. Just a little further, the ocean is in view. Following the winding road, I pull up to a coastal town, enjoying the blue skies, warm breeze and cool water at my toes. Wayward Strand’s opening art evokes these thoughts and memories as you remember that feeling.

Why the unusual intro? Wayward Strand isn’t your usual game. It’s an interactive story about life, experiences and memories that invites reminiscing and empathy. More importantly, it is a story that is a joy to discover.

It’s 1978, and Casey Beaumaris is a teen joining her mother, the head nurse, on the large airship anchored at a small regional Victorian town by the sea for a few days. Casey is there to help on board the airship and to spend time with the elderly residents. An aspiring journalist, Casey is also looking to write a story for her school paper.

While it presents like a point-and-click adventure game, Wayward Strand is not about solving puzzles or where to go next. Once boarding the airship, Casey is given a fob watch to keep track of the time as events unfold in real-time. Your only task is to help the patients if needed and spend time with them. Over the days, the patients will get up and about and visit others, nurses will make the rounds and assist, and meal times fill the dining area. As you stroll around the ship, Casey can listen to conversations and moments between the patients and staff. While it is a way of allowing you to get a glimpse into the lives and dynamics on the ship. It can feel a little awkward to be spying in, but then Casey is inquisitive and has plenty of room in her notebook.

Notes are added regularly as the passengers/patients share information with Casey or are overheard. When conversations are happening, you gain the ability to listen in and sneakily get some further information. Use this information to ask questions to learn more about the patients and their interesting lives as they share with you.

Wayward Strand can be a relaxed game as you move around the ship and stop by whoever is along the way, but also action-packed as you want to run around and see what interesting (or less interesting) things people are getting up to. Sometimes I would be in a conversation and see someone walk by the room, leaving me to wonder what was unfolding.

Wayward Strand feels relatively free form as you’re told to go off and spend time with people. Casey is trying to write her story and work out what she is meant to be doing to help as the world keeps moving around her. I did get a twinge of anxiety when the game gives you a ticking clock and only a nudge in a possible direction. It’s part of not wanting to miss anything, and the risk of missing out on important moments if I hang around in ‘the wrong place’. That worry melted away almost instantly. After visiting a few patients, it didn’t feel like I was missing out on something better. I just wanted to know more about their stories. Even the option to sit with them and share the moment felt meaningful. I think there’s a lot to relate to throughout the game. It was easy to want to spend more time getting to know the people on board. It’s a credit to the staff of Ghost Pattern that the characters feel so fleshed out.

Because of the real-time nature of the game, it invites repeat playthroughs. At around three hours to go through once, you’d be missing out to leave it at that. As the story progresses, you’ll want to be able to go back and see what else was happening while you were busy the last time.

Wayward Strand is charming from the get-go. Despite the airship-turned-hospital floating near a small ocean town in the 1970s, it feels pretty grounded. Seeing the knitted Cockatoo jumper alone will resonate with plenty of Aussie readers, each room reflective of the character that inhabits it. Ghost Pattern also has a great voice cast, where Aussie accents don’t stand out for being overdone or fake. I doubt I’m the only Australian who still gets a little chuffed when there’s something recognisable and familiar like a town name. With the relaxed music with guitar and piano playing as you walk around it’s relaxing and gentle, like a warm summer breeze.

Coming from a background of working in a similar field of providing care and support, it was great to see the sensitivity and care put into how the patients are portrayed and the system they live within. It also portrays the all-too-real moments of a retirement home or hospice. For all the touching and gentle moments, there’s the sadder and more reflective moments. The game does an amazing job of portraying a side of care that many won’t see, not completely. Casey is a visitor, usually seeing them for limited windows of time, while Wayward Strand is a reminder of the full lives led before and still live.

Wayward Strand is a very heartfelt game. Across different media, it’s been easy for characters such as elderly residents in care to be defined by an illness or exist to die, created as an easy tug at the heartstrings to teach the main character to live in the moment. In Wayward Strand the people feel fully realised. When you spend time with them it’s not about unlocking the next conversation or solving the residents like puzzles. They are people first and foremost, the game might tell you why they’re in care, but it doesn’t define them. I would happily spend more time playing assistant detective to help a curious pair, or sit amongst the greenery and just spend time sitting in the moment with them.

If you were to look at the game more traditionally, there were some minor visual glitches, like a floating tray or characters clipping through each other. The game sometimes trips up when you’re already interacting with someone and then a timed story moment happens. None of these hiccups messed up the game, or took away from the experience.


Wayward Strand is a special game, made with love, respect, care and empathy, and it shows throughout the game. It’s easy to get caught up in this version of 1978; the time of the airship hospital and those few days getting to know the people who live there. As I write this review, all I can think about are the different moments I just happened to chance upon as the day unfolded and what more there is to learn next time.

Rating: 4.5/5

The Good

+ An adventure game that feels lived in
+ A story you’ll want to explore more than once.

The Bad

- Some visual glitches

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Final Thoughts

Wayward Strand is a special game, made with love, respect, care and empathy, and it shows throughout the game. It's easy to get caught up in this version of 1978; the time of the airship hospital and those few days getting to know the people who live there. As I write this review, all I can think about are the different moments I just happened to chance upon as the day unfolded and what more there is to learn next time.

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About The Author
Paul Roberts
Lego enthusiast, Picross Master and appreciator of games.

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