80 Days: review

  • Format: Switch (version reviewed), mobile, PC, Mac
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Inkle
  • Developer: Inkle
  • Players: 1
  • Site: https://www.inklestudios.com/80days/ 
  • Game code provided by PR

Games based on books are few and far between (the ones jumping on the bandwagon of a multimillion-dollar Hollywood adaptation absolutely do not count). This one, as you may have so very cleverly deduced from the title, draws from Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. ‘Draws from’ is a more appropriate phrase than ‘based on’ here, as it’s not a straight adaptation. Indeed, it would be a lesser game if it was.

The basic premise, as you would expect, remains the same; Phileas Fogg (he of the kettle chips, and inspiration for an anthropomorphic lion with a top hat) makes a wager that he can circumnavigate the globe within 80 days. Because he is preposterously upper class, he has a valet – the Frenchman Passepartout (that’s you) – who accompanies him on his quest. Fogg and Passepartout largely retain their personalities from Verne’s vision, and the writing style aims to stay in keeping with the late 19th century classic. Otherwise, however, it is very much its own story.

Appropriately enough for a literary adaptation, 80 Days is in effect a text adventure, supported by minimalist illustration and a strong audio background (though no speech). And oh, what an adventure. Where to start? The script is as good a place as any. Superbly written and largely unpredictable, it’s a beast at approximately 750,000 words… only a very small percentage of which will you see during any one playthrough. Partly, this is because you are constantly choosing Passepartout’s feelings, reactions, and decisions as adventure follows mishap follows revelation. That alone would be enough to encourage repeat playthroughs, but that wasn’t enough for Inkle.

Rather than follow the route taken in the book, the cities you visit and the path you take are entirely dependent upon you. Each time you set off for a new destination, the available options will vary depending on where you have and have not been, who you have and have not spoken to, and what you have and (you guessed it) have not asked them about. Each time round, you will miss entire countries. Each and every stop has a fascinating story to unearth.

Indeed, the world that you’ll be travelling around differs from both Verne’s and ours. Historical conflicts and tensions are blended with a strong steampunk influence. Mechanical horses draw carriages, distrusted ‘artificers’ are prevalent, and fully aware automatons play a variety of roles. It’s a rich and deep alternative history that you’re sure to want to revisit again and again.

Despite the lack of a traditional videogame world to move about in, it really does feel as though you’re on a journey. In addition to choices already mentioned, you’ll need to buy and sell items via the various markets you come across. Many items have a practical use – such as certain items of clothing keeping Fogg’s comfort high in certain weather conditions or during particular journeys – so you need to be careful about what you sell for a quick buck.

Then there’s the fact that you want to try to complete your journey within 80 days (clue’s in the name). Every night spent sleeping in a hotel, or waiting for a vehicle to depart, pushes your goal further away. If your funds are nearly depleted, then you can go to the local bank to withdraw more; but this, too, takes time. A combination of poor travel planning and liberal use of hotels meant that our first run through lasted an embarrassing 91 in-game days. Naturally, we dove straight back in for another try…

For a long time, every trip around the globe holds new secrets and surprises, each a unique and captivating adventure utterly unlike the last – with the added bonus that the clean, crisp visuals look equally lovely on a TV or on the Switch itself. This is a trip well worth taking again and again and again.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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