There has always been something magical about choose-your-own adventure books. My first exposure was with the “Give Yourself Goosebumps” series and I remember flipping back pages because I had died in the story. The whole choose-your-own adventure thing had gone by the wayside as media advanced. There was a small niche of video games that featured some of the hooks, but it had largely disappeared. Or at least I had forgotten about the genre. ‘80 Days‘ is the logical progression of the genre and carves out its own beautiful section of the adventure game market.
’80 Days’ is the story of attempting to make it around the world in 80 days. Yes, it is very much based on the Jules Verne novel. You take the role of Jean Passepartout, the French valet to Phileas Fogg, who has taken a wager that he could not make it around the world in 80 days. Your job is to plan the navigations, care for Fogg, and make countless decisions with money and conversation. ’80 Days’ was released earlier this year for iOS, but was released today for Android and Kindle Fire.
I received my Android copy just in time, because we’re starting to work on game-of-the-year business here. So I was just about done playing games for the year, but had been wanting to get my hands on ’80 Days’ from Inkle Studios. I have the horrible misfortune of owning no iDevices, but was ecstatic when I found out I could finally play a game that just seemed so fitting for me. I was right.
’80 Days’ is an adventure game in a way that few other games can call themselves adventure games. I made hundreds, likely thousands, of decisions during our adventure around the world. Along the way, I made friends, upset cults, boxed a man, fell in love, led a mutiny, cared for an ill Fogg, was reprimanded by a detective, and so much more. But truly, the most astounding thing is, I only visited 29 cities. That means I only took 29 routes to get from London all the way to New York. That means I missed over 120 cities! HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE? I had all those story moments without seeing four-fifths of the rest of the game.
My adventure around the world was unique to everyone else’s. I could see the other people with review copies adventuring around the world. Some went North. Others went straight-line across the country. I personally zig-zagged around and failed to recover from my own mismanagement of funds, a steamship exploding, and Fogg’s illness, eventually completing my journey in 93 days.This did not hinder my experience at all. Sure, I failed initially, but I’ve already jumped back into a second playthrough because there is so much more to see in ’80 Days’. The universe that Inkle made is so very deep and rewarding that I wanted to see what would happen to the protagonist if I ventured elsewhere and didn’t go so far north on my next trip.
Unfortunately, since this was a review copy, I was unable to try out the sharing features at the time of this review, so I have no opinion on their Twitter and Facebook integrations. I would’ve liked to share my journey as a type of documentation and put the Twitter links here. But I can’t. So be quiet about it.
During my journey I had plenty of dialogue options to help construct my version of Passepartout. I made him take courageous action, as well as some very risky nights of drinking and even some opium in there, because I was trying to best please Fogg. Often Fogg would be upset by my transgressions, but occasionally he appreciated my boldness. There are so many ways that the player can go through ’80 Days’, but so much of that hinges on the character that the player creates. I was not one to shy away from the opportunity to shovel coal on a steam ship, but others might be, and that could branch the storyline in many different ways.
Regardless of how the storyline branches, the world of ’80 Days’ is just fascinating. The whole universe is some kind of warped past where everything is steam-punk-esque. This means I was hearing about “Artificers”, taking steam-powered cars, and being pulled by a mechanical horse and buggy. There’s a lore behind ’80 Days’ that is difficult to dig into, because the game is so vast, yet surprisingly palpable. There’s a specific sheen to the game I won’t soon forget.
’80 Days’ has a well-thought-out look to it. It doesn’t quite look like anything else I’ve seen. There are contrasts between black & white foregrounds to blue and bright orange backgrounds. Each city has its own pieces of art, including individually constructed vehicles that each have their own names. ’80 Days’ is just teeming with imagination and polish. The game runs so smoothly and looks so fantastic, that it makes me sad about the reused and unimaginative assets in most other mobile games. ’80 Days’ is very much its own.
’80 Days’ is not completely without problems. The inventory and suitcase management crux of the game was fairly boring. Sometimes I would only be able to carry one suitcase onto our transportation, while I had three. I would then have to decide what to drop or sell. It wasn’t enjoyable because while you’re messing with the mediocre inventory interface, there is a good chance your train will depart because the clock is running. This could be avoided with some proper planning, but that isn’t who I am. This also leads to a bit of tedium when you aren’t traveling. Waiting at a bank is not particularly fun. Neither is staying at a hotel.
Despite this, ’80 Days’ is one of the most inventive and imaginative games released this year. In a year where we saw plenty of stable and easy releases, ’80 Days’ was a little magical gem that warms me deeply. My journey was my own, and I felt like I had immesne ownership in what happened to Fogg and Passepartout. This is a memorable and brilliant game worth any adventurer’s time. and with its immense replayability, fantastic art, and some top-notch writing, ’80 Days’ is likely the best mobile game released this year.
Indie Games AAA’s Rating: