Ghost Pattern has been working on Wayward Strand since 2016, and now the interactive narrative video game is out in the world for everyone to enjoy. Birthed in Melbourne, Australia, Wayward Strand delivers a unique and heartfelt journey available now on PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, and Steam (so everything, basically!).
It’s 1978, and 14-year old Casey Beaumaris, an aspiring journalist, travels with her mother to work on an airborne hospital on the coast of Australia. Casey is writing an article about the airship for her school newspaper all while assisting the nursing staff care for the elderly patients on board.
This review will not contain any story spoilers for the residents of the hospital, as it will result in detriment to the overall experience. If you are going to play this game, it is best experienced without prior knowledge of the characters or plot.
Ghost Pattern has achieved something I have never seen in a video game. I found myself overwhelmed at times with the complexity of multiple narratives unravelling at once. Every character in Wayward Strand has a narrative playing out even if you’re not in their presence. Unlike most games, a character’s story isn’t relying on you, the player, to advance the narrative. It makes the world feel so alive in a way I haven’t experienced before.
I would be talking to Ida, a sweet elderly lady who very much reminds me of my late grandmother (RIP), and another patient would be slowly scooting past the room prompting me to quickly wrap up my conversation with Ida in fear of missing out on something. You will never be able to catch everything in one playthrough, this game is best served after multiple playthroughs.
Each character you meet is from a different walk of life. The representation in this game is next level; different cultures, illnesses and ages which are usually underrepresented are present in this game. One of my favourite experiences in the game was Ted, an aboriginal character, teaching Casey about the aboriginal flag and briefly touching on the racism his people face daily.
The attention to detail in each of the patient’s rooms is phenomenal. Before you even meet the patients you can tell exactly who they are just by their room. Nothing in the rooms are placed there to just ‘fill space’, everything is there for a reason – which is to tell a story. Ghost Pattern has managed to make these characters so personable, you have definitely met at least one of these characters in your everyday life.
The art style is gorgeous. It has that aesthetic of the Australian children’s story books I read growing up. The music played throughout the game is perfect for the setting. I hadn’t thought about what a game based in 1970’s Australia should sound like, but this is it. The artwork and soundtrack are so complementary to each other, which uplifts the experience even more.
If you’re Australian, you will recognise a number of the voice actors in Wayward Strand. You can catch iconic Australians such as Neighbours’ Anne Charleston, Wentworth’s Jennifer Vuletic, The Castle’s Michael Caton, Blue Heeler’s Jenny Seedsman, and more. Wayward Strand quite possibly has the best and most authentic Australian voice acting I’ve heard in a video game. All of the Australian imagery and sound will be quite comforting to any Australians playing this game.
My only major criticism would be the lack of checkpoints/saves. Your progress is only saved between each ‘day’, which I completely understand why that decision was made, but if you can’t commit to an hour-long play session, you may need to pause the game for prolonged periods of time.
Ghost Pattern has delivered an experience like no other. The complexity of the simultaneous narratives that unfold around you in real time creates a beautiful experience that should be played by all gamers. I can’t wait to see what is next on the horizon for Ghost Pattern.