‘Witch Strandings’ Review – An Experimental ‘Strand’ Game That Fails

Witching Strandings bills itself as a species Death Stranding demake. Taking on the role of a “point of light”, you must help lift a witch’s curse from a dark and mysterious forest by making paths through the forest to reach isolated animals before sending the animals an array of supplies to heal both them and the forest on large.

It’s great to see developers looking to flesh out Hideo Kojima’s most unusual game, but go beyond a broad structural similarity, Witch Beaches looks little like Death Stranding† Instead it’s more like Wilmot’s warehouse without the warehouse, an all-too-simple game of tile manipulation that doesn’t quite give itself a chance to evolve into something interesting.

viewed from above, Witch Beaches‘Forest’ is made entirely of colored tiles and resembles the bathroom floor of a nightclub specializing in UV parties. Different colored tiles represent different types of terrain, including benign tiles like mud and moss, in addition to more dangerous tiles like water and “poison thorns”. Most dangerous of all are “Hexed” tiles, which, if strayed, will drain your health faster than a hemlock smoothie.

Witch strandings. Credit: Strange Scaffold.

Each in-game day consists of finding ways to navigate this forest, threading your beam of light through holes in hazards with elegant mouse movements. Scattered around the environment are items that can help you move. For example, “Ghost Mycelium” can be picked off the ground and placed on top of other tiles, creating a pool of purple jelly that will remove the hex from surrounding tiles as long as the mycelium is in situ. Placing multiple mycelial deposits allows you to create narrow paths through the game’s knocking hex barriers. It’s a bit like Moses dividing the Red Sea, only you use mold instead of the power of God.

During your exploration you will occasionally encounter colorful animals, all of which need your help. You might stumble upon a hungry treasure, a thirsty bear or even a squirrel named Chad Shakespeare who is “disturbed”, probably because his name is “Chad Shakespeare”. These negative status effects can be negated by delivering an appropriate item to that animal, which will not only make the creature feel better, but also take you one step closer to easing the curse.

By the way, you can also choose to kill these animals if you wish, by delivering them another item that you find in a certain part of the forest. You might be wondering why anyone would want to kill cute woodland creatures. But I have to admit I was tempted on several occasions because some of them – and I’ll use the technical term here – are real needy bastards. Animals’ needs are randomly assigned with each passing day, making them seem completely random. There was a bear I encountered that was constantly hungry, despite living in a forest with abundant berry trees. Just pick them yourself, Winnie the Pooh! I don’t feed you by hand like a Roman emperor.

Witch strandings.  Credit: Strange Scaffold.
Witch strandings. Credit: Strange Scaffold.

For a game with such a simple presentation, Witch Beaches creates a surprisingly moody atmosphere. Areas such as the Flooded Bend, which are subject to a constant drizzle, accurately portray the feeling of walking through a forest on a damp fall day. Then there are even more sinister areas like the Killing Fields, where the ground becomes more and more strewn with parched bodies the deeper you go into the devastated landscape. These bodies are just pixelated sketches of rolled-up skeletons, but the place nonetheless has a strong foreboding feel to it.

The world-building is aided by some quality writing, which adds nuggets of backstory to every item, character, and ruined structure you come across. The pastoral descriptions are particularly strong, reflecting the age and dilapidated beauty of both the forest and the civilization in which it apparently grew. Below that, however, is an undercurrent of irreverent silliness that is less welcome. Not because it’s not funny, but because Witch Beaches is such a compact experience that there is not really room for that duality of tone.

This leads to the broader problem with: Witch Beachesnamely, that the game is mechanically far too rudimentary to make this idea of ​​reviving a forest satisfying. Moving or interacting with the world isn’t particularly immersive or engaging, meaning carrying groceries through the forest like an animal Deliveroo has no sense of weight or significance. Death Stranding was a game that revolves around creating memorable journeys through the complex walking simulation and rich system layers that allow you to set up extensive logistics networks. it was how Kojima Productions executed that concept that made it fun and engaging, not the concept itself.

Witch strandings.  Credit: Strange Scaffold.
Witch strandings. Credit: Strange Scaffold.

There is also a distinct lack of challenge in the game’s tile manipulation. You only need to make narrow paths through dangerous areas once and it never evolves beyond the basic “X affects Y” interaction. All progress is made by making deliveries, which quickly become repetitive because Witch Beaches has no way of making his travels surprising, varied or dynamic.

It is possible to build a more intricate puzzle game here, deploying increasingly elaborate combinations of tiles to push back various kinds of evil magic that plagues the forest, resulting in a transformative effect on the environment. Perhaps one tile type will soften one curse but exacerbate the other, requiring you to think carefully about where and how to place it. That does not mean Witch Beaches should do this. It’s just a suggestion rather than a good mechanical hook.

Witch Beaches is not a complete failure. His experiment in minimalism manages to build a moody forest atmosphere from just a few precious parts. Mechanically, however, it takes on too large a target, and in its over-simplification it loses the essence of what made Kojima’s game appealing. Sorry, Chad Shakespeare, but you’ll have to fend for yourself from now on. I’m ready to be your pastoral mailman.

Witch Beaches launches on July 7 for pc

The verdict

Witch Beaches is a bold experiment to build a barebones version of Death Stranding‘s core loop. Daring, but ultimately pointless.


  • Well written
  • Advanced Platforming


  • tonally inconsistent
  • Oversimplified Systems
  • Doesn’t make the most of its potential

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