Should memory serve me well, my first encounter with Wayward Strand came during Nintendo’s latest Indie World presentation. Almost quietly, the quirks and mannerisms of this benign game appealed to me. I’ve come to like the idea of simply sitting down and interacting with people, getting to know their perspectives and insight. Assuming it would release much later, I came to find out that not only was a demo available, but it’s releasing in full next month. Convenient!
Quick structure disclaimer: Given this (and all the others) is only a demo, I won’t be too in-depth with my coverage, and will only reflect on the good and the bad. No overly long personal history or filibuster. No nonsense. That said, I will provide a synopsis for the game below.
“Wayward Strand is a heartfelt story, told in a curious way. Hop aboard an airborne hospital to meet an eclectic, fully-voiced cast. Staff & patients carry on with their richly interwoven lives as time passes for everyone on board; each & every playthrough is an opportunity to discover something new.“
Real quick, I want to specify that my thoughts on this demo are not going to be super in-depth. I ended up only playing about fifteen minutes due to an error with my recording software. After realizing my progress did not save, I had not the motivation to repeat the introductory process.
Given the more narrative-focused style Wayward Strand is going for, that will immediately put into perspective the kind of player this appeals to. Fortunately, I quite enjoy reading and getting to know quirky characters, which this has no shortage of. Immediately upon starting it up, the player character, Casey, greets an old woman who announces she needs to investigate a mystery about a goat. Buckle your seatbelts, everyone.
Obviously, not every character is going to be this quirky. Even still, among the cast of characters I was able to interact with, there were a number of memorable personalities. A standoffish dullard, a mute(?) botanist, a kindly granny, and an eccentric fellow who shouldn’t be drinking coffee. It sets the table for a number of different situations to do in a given day; a timer ticks continuously as one goes from room to room.
Presumably, this is to add replay value to the gam after the fact. Will it be possible to exhaust all communication options with every character within the hospital by game’s end? I assume not, if the early warning of “You can’t be everywhere at once” by one of the nurses is any indication. My hope is that the first impressions end up being as good as what is to follow, lest the game become a one-and-done shtick that falters when it counts.
Most things are technical here, even if I’m unsure what is and isn’t technically technical. Did that make sense?
For instance, with the recording software I used to collect screenshots (no screenshots in this post are mine), I use a particular hotkey to start and stop recording. The key in question ended up breaking my game. It kicked me out of dialogue with someone and transported the camera to the hallway; I couldn’t do anything but fumble with the keyboard until eventually resetting. That certainly doesn’t bode well so close to full release.
Then with gameplay in general, there were small things that were hard to distinguish as actually intentional. One instance had me eavesdrop on said eccentric individual referenced above; on my way there, one of the nurse’s at the reception desk noted that she “had to confirm something.” Was… she addressing me? I was somewhat close to the front desk, but not within conversation range, at least I didn’t think I was.
She then stood behind me as we both listened to the man’s conversation, eventually storming off with a “Hmph!” Was… she addressing me? Or the conversation? I spent a few minutes wondering if she wanted my attention and I missed out on dialogue with her. Maybe she was just mad at his conversation? It wasn’t entirely clear, and my limited time with the Wayward Strand demo included a couple more of these situations.
Gentle and playfully upbeat, the better portions of the game are in the simplicity of human connection. Interacting with all sorts of people is entertaining enough here, assuming all is as intended for the player. Upon its release next month, I’ll hope that it doesn’t release with some nasty bugs hidden deep within the code. Should no problems arise, it’s good for those who want just a little more interactivity with their visual novels.
Wayward Strand has a demo you can play now on Steam. (Link under “Game Summary.”) It will also be releasing on Nintendo Switch, PS4/5, and Xbox consoles.
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Thank you for your time. Have a great timezone.