Wayward Strand is a rather uniquely structured story rich adventure game where you play as a young teen named Casey Beaumaris, for three days Casey is accompanying and assisting her mother who is the head nurse on a floating airship turned hospital in the fictional summer of 1978. We are in an era with no cell phones in sight; all Casey has to amuse herself is her journal where she takes notes about the residents of this hospital and of course the ship itself.
The folks that are living in this hospital are of a certain age and the game plays at a pace that matches theirs, I won’t dance around the grey bouffant any longer; this game is slow, it’s a very slow game so brace yourself settle in get a cup of tea maybe a cozy knitted blanket from your grandma and let’s learn about the folks in this hospital. You control Casey as she makes her rounds with the various doctors, nurses, directors and of course the patients. You’re prompted with a menu that includes different dialogue and interactive options depending on your particular scenario all the while much like real life time keeps on a ticking and you can actually see it in action on the bottom right hand corner of your screen, you’ll live through a slightly accelerated version of all three of Casey’s days on this airship and what you do with your time is entirely up to you almost like retirement without the downside of having to live through an entire adulthood worth of work and I know what I’ve described so far does sound a little bit linear and boring but I assure you that is not what this game is.
Your gameplay and outcome may be a little bit different than mine and that’s because this functions as a living and breathing hospital but one thing’s for certain regardless of how you play nothing stops the passage of time and I think that’s the most poignant message of this title. What we do with the time we’re allotted matters, it makes a difference not just in our lives but in the lives of the people around us; you might not be able to comfort all the individuals at this hospital in fact they might not even like you at all which is a difficult pill to swallow for someone like myself who is a self-proclaimed people pleaser. The game feels like a lesson in patience and it’s not a lesson everyone is going to want to learn, but if you’ve ever spent a period of time in a rest home or with elderly individuals you already know that they move at their own pace and they’re not speeding up for anyone so while I could sometimes feel myself getting frustrated at the pace, it was a great reminder to slow down and to breathe and let things happen as they were going to happen, the whole game is going to take you less than four hours to complete but there is definitely incentive to go back in and play again just to find out what was going on while you were doing other things or perhaps develop your relationship with a different set of individuals.
The art direction in Wayward Strand is absolutely gorgeous, there is something about the way that these environments and characters look that truly transports you to another world; it feels like living through a storybook it’s warm, it’s cozy, it’s welcoming and it really just invites you to become engrossed in this world and the story that they’re creating. The undeniable the sparse and soothing soundtrack also contributes to the comfy vibes of the game, most of the music you’ll find are simple acoustic strings and keyboard; nothing overpowering and you do get full voice acting which is wonderfully done and brings the characters to life and helps you become invested in their individual stories and I just think the game wouldn’t be the same without them so I have to give the voiceovers a little round of applause.
Wayward Strand is just an incredibly wholesome experience and a game that I took a lot away from, the game’s not going to change your life, but it might make you think twice about how you spend your time and how much of it we take for granted. I definitely recommend this game to anyone who enjoy story rich adventure games and don’t mind the slow pace.