80 Days ($5) is an interactive fiction adventure from inkle based on Jules Verne’s classic novel Around the World in Eighty Days. This game brings steampunk into the story as well, as players try find the quickest way around the globe through exploration and conversation.
In 80 Days, you inhabit the role of Passepartout, valet to Monsieur Fogg. It is your duty to help Fogg circumnavigate the globe — this is done largely by talking to locals and exploring new cities. This is game is heavily centered around reading. Though the in-game art is very nice and adds to the proceedings quite well, graphics are not the star of the show. It’s all about the story, which resembles a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Unlike those old children’s books, however, the timeline in 80 Days is fluid and constantly changing. Though you will make many, many choices that affect the game, you are often a spectator as well.
As the game begins, you’ll likely leave your starting point of London for Paris. From there, it’s up to you. Talking to locals and those who offer you transport will open up new routes to different cities. Along the way, you can visit the market to buy and sell goods, drop into the bank to acquire more funds, plan your next route, or hole up in a hotel and get some rest for the next day. All the while, you must make sure that Master Fogg is in good health and fine spirits, while monitoring your funds, your luggage, and more than anything else, your time.
This may sound boring to some, but to us, it was anything but. The game is full of strategy, twists, and turns. Should you take the longer, more expensive route leaving in three days, or a cheaper, shorter route leaving tomorrow? Is it better to walk away from a nasty stranger, or probe them for further information? Every choice you make can have an impact on the outcome of the game. In our first run-through, we seemed to cut a path down the center of the earth. Next time, we took a more northern route. Replay value abounds, especially when you realize it’s not so easy to hit your goal of 80 days. One trip around the world should take a few hours in real time, and gamers can exit the app and pick up where they last left off. As an added bonus, players can also compare their progress to other gamers making their way across the globe.
It is possible that some gamers might be wary of a text-heavy adventure from the get-go, while others may find it a bit tiring. There’s also no rewind button — you can’t go back on your choices, unless you want to start all over again. That might be a problem for some, but we preferred this, as decisions truly matter, and it feels more like a true story. There’s also the question of whether gamers really have a sense of how their choices will actually affect the story. But to be fair, whipping across the world as quickly as you can lets you throw caution to the wind — should you really have a good sense of what will happen next? The first time around, we got derailed for weeks in Yokohama after Monsieur Fogg came down with a case of cholera in Manila. There are 150 cities to visit in 80 Days and a wide variety of routes, so each trip should never be the same.
In our current run through the game, we’ve actually found a teleportation machine, and now we’re far, far ahead of the desired pace. Will use of that device come back to haunt us in some way? No idea. But we can’t wait to find out. And that’s the beauty of 80 Days. It sucks you in with a well-written story, phenomenal depth, and a reason to return again and again. It’s one of the best iOS games of the year.
iLounge Rating: A