Wayward Strand review: Stories at the speed of life

ghost pattern
ghost pattern /

Title: Wayward Strand
Developer: ghost pattern
Publishers: ghost pattern
Platforms:Nintendo Switch (reviewed on), PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
Release Date: September 15, 2022

I’ll admit when I was given the opportunity to review Wayward Strand I was somewhat reluctant. The art style didn’t quite resonate with me; the art looked like the title placard from an old sitcom like Mama’s Family, and the premise of spending three days in a retirement home was the primary plot. Whatever the opposite of an upsell was, I was feeling it.

But there was one part that really got my attention, the way the story was supposedly told. The stories of the people in the home all happen over the course of three days whether you’re there for it or not. If you’re in one part of the facility watching something happen, you’re doing so knowing that other things are happening elsewhere.

As a parent, that’s honestly how I’m very much used to life now. I can go have a talk with my wife and then find out that while I was in the room talking to her, one of my kids decides, in a different room, to completely destroy something using only the sheer creative destruction of a seven-year-old.

So I gave the game a shot and I’m honestly quite happy I did. My worry that it would be a slog was immediately thrown to the wayside when the first person I encountered in the home walked past me, speaking about wanting to investigate “the goat.” And thus my journey with Wayward Strand started.

Wayward Strand review: Stories at the speed of life
ghost pattern /

Wayward Strand puts you in the shoes of Casey Beaumaris, a teenager and aspiring journalist for her high school newspaper. She’s forced to come with her mother to work because she’s apparently on school vacation and is going to have to work during that time. Fun, fun, fun.

Casey takes this as an opportunity. If she’s going to be thrust into a retirement home, she’s going to use this as a chance to write something for her paper. She’s going to get to know these people and tell their stories while also doing what she can to help.

And the home, which I should mention takes place on a flying airship that used to be a German vessel, has many stories. There are patients such as a non-verbal former actress, a poetic German with a mysterious past, or a woman whose need to get in everyone’s business is only worsened by the fact that her memory problems cause her to forget everything she nosed her way into and more. The staff, from orderlies to chefs, also have their own stories. There’s a lot to find here but they’re not going to wait for you to get into it.

Wayward Strand review: Stories at the speed of life
ghost pattern /

From the moment you arrive on the airship and are tasked with helping, you mostly have the freedom to go wherever. They give you some suggestions but you can do what you want. You’re not going to be going through drawers or examining clues, you’re going to be listening and talking. That’s all. And every time you play the game you can try to follow and affect a different part of the story to see how it impacts the rest.

Were you talking to one of the patients when it was time for them to take their medication and the nurse seemed exhausted? Maybe next time you play, why don’t you follow her and see why? Did the nosey old lady get into an argument with someone? Why not follow her and see what she’s doing with the info? You have full freedom to see what you want. And it’ll make each following playthrough more interesting as you get a feel for what makes everyone tick.

What really completes the experience is the fact that every single character is remarkably well voiced, to the point where you get what they’re about the first time you talk to them. Special props to the person who voiced the old German man. He pauses every few words to think about what he’s saying in a way that reminded me of my family over in Germany who does that when they talk to me as they try to translate what they want to say into English.

The game does have a few minor frustrating elements to it, however. Despite the 3D setting, you can only go on a linear path. So if you want to get across the cafeteria and avoid a particular person, fat chance if the path takes you that way. Also, despite your character being an intrepid reporter, she kind of sucks at taking notes. I’ll talk to people and find out really interesting information only to try and review it later and see maybe one or two sentences in the notebook and barely anything about the more interesting things.

Wayward Strand review: Stories at the speed of life
ghost pattern /

Wayward Strand game is a really interesting experiment in storytelling. There’s not a major conspiracy or a sci-fi twist involved here. There’s no secret enemy you need to stop for the fate of the world. It’s just people with stories to tell. Even if you just sit in someone’s room and look at your notebook, they’ll eventually become so comfortable around you that THEY will start trying to talk to YOU. It’s people with histories that want to share them with someone.

Wayward Strand promised a chance to experience people’s stories in real-time and in that the game absolutely delivers. Every person I encountered became more and more fascinating as I got to know them. If you’re looking for a great storytelling medium, you absolutely cannot go wrong with this.

Wayward Strand (Nintendo Switch) Score: 8/10

Wayward Strand is a game that celebrates the fact that everyone has a story. Beyond some minor annoyances, it’s an absolute gem in the world of storytelling and fans of the medium should not miss out on this.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.