Landing on the Nintendo eShop is a new game entitled 80 Days, and if this sounds vaguely familiar, well it should be if you’ve ever had to take a literature class in your school days. Jules Verne, the legendary French author and poet who wrote some of the most grandiose adventure stories of all-time, including Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, also wrote a little book known as Around the World in Eighty Days back in 1873. This book is what has drawn the inspiration for the interactive novel from developer inkle. Will your journey with this game be as exhilarating as a trip around a 1870s technological-fantasy world? Let’s pack our suitcase and trusty wool socks to find out.
80 Days finds its footing initially with relation to Verne’s book. You’ll play as Phileas Fogg’s trusted Valet Passepartout as you set forth on a journey to circumvent the globe in 80 days, departing from London. It doesn’t take long to learn that the game’s narrative setting has broken the realism from the book, and found its thematic place in a steampunk futuristic world, where Airships, Hovering Locomotives, and Bathysphere’s are all common modes of transport to get these fine gentlemen across the world.
What makes this all a bit more interesting is that Jules Verne was very well known for his science fiction/futuristic characterizations, however his writing of Around the World in Eighty Days drew none of that style and instead focused on a more literal adaptation of the times. So, when inkle developed 80 Days, they took it upon themselves to write their own fiction in the style that Verne was arguably still known the best for. The outcome is a narrative game housing a very well written half million worded script with incredible attention to detail and choice for players.
I’ve had the opportunity to play many a narrative game in the past, and I do tend to enjoy the genre. Many games fall into a very traditional “choose-your-own-adventure” style, with little to no support mechanics, and for many of those titles it works out OK. 80 Days, however, found a path in which to create several accompanying game mechanics to create a truly layered and immersive experience.
The most unique, and albeit slightly stressful feature of the game is that it utilizes an active clock when you’re playing in most areas. This means the clock keeps ticking, and hours, and days in game-time will pass you by if you mull over a decision on what to do for too long. You see, with a clear goal of circling the globe in 80 days, time is precious. Spending time exploring a city will eat up half a day, as will time planning out your next stop or the route ahead you wish to take. Every medium of travel also incurs some time constraints. The Trans-Siberian Railway is fast for example, whereas a Submersible Cruise Liner is less so. On the surface, one might think this would be easy to strategize, but as there are multiple layered elements to manage on your journey, it’s anything but…
The main feature that ultimately keeps this game highly replayable as well is that of an open world styled game. And when I say “open world”, I’m not talking about a sandbox environment in a singular region. No, I’m saying that how you navigate the entire world is quite up to you (well barring the many obstacles that can thwart even the best of plans I found). Once you depart from London, you’ll start gaining information on routes available from various cities. It’s then up to you to secure your transport and continue your adventure. What I liked most about this was that in order to learn about certain routes or travel methods, you had to engage with citizens. Doing that meant exploring the city via dialog and striking up a conversation, or maybe hearing about a new route from the locals. You can also learn about regions and directions from the method of travel you may currently be engaged in, such as a Train’s Engineer, or a Ship’s fellow Passenger. Entice certain people enough and you’ll gain that knowledge, but act rudely or against their beliefs, and you’ll be hard pressed to find information you’re satisfied with.
If juggling the navigation around the globe wasn’t enough, it’s best to not forget you’re ultimately just the Valet to Phileas Fogg, the wealthy Brit who’s invested in this whole ordeal. It’s up to you to keep him happy, healthy, and not too grumpy as you encounter all of the various locals from around the world. There’s a surprising amount of depth here, but in my time with the game, I didn’t seem to risk Fogg’s well being too much as indicated by a heart meter that counts down from 100 should he become apprehensive about the travels.
Since Fogg has invested a hefty sum to partake in this worldwide outing, it’s up to you to manage the finances as well. Every leg of your journey will incur a cost dependent on the style of travel. Since time is precious, you’ll also need to determine if you need to bribe pilots, captains, or otherwise to expedite their arrival or departure times for your sake as well, sacrificing precious currency in favor of potentially faster travel.
Not to worry though, as the majority of the cities you stop for you’ll find a market that has a variety of goods. This is where the game however gets a bit confusing. When you start off, you’re equipped with a few commodities in a suitcase that is effectively your limited inventory space. As you travel, there are plenty of opportunities to find other goods and items. Some are straightforward when reading their description. You may find an item that has a high resell value at certain other locations, so it becomes a buy & sell mechanic not unknown to most strategy games. The items that you can wear are where the confusion element comes into play. You can buy warmer gear for example; however as I personally went fully north and travelled across the Siberian region, having not bought any of this heavy winter gear, I didn’t find any negatives happen to me. Was this by chance? Could I have gotten stuck in a blizzard and risked Fogg’s well being if I had chosen some other route, or during some other timeframe? It certainly feels like this game could offer a unique adventure nearly every playthrough. Regardless, there’s plenty of things to buy at each stop, but you’ll have to watch out for how many suitcases you bring with as not every transport method can accommodate a lofty luggage claim.
80 Days plunges you into international travel like no other. It’s absolutely the most engaging interactive narrative game I’ve had the pleasure of playing so far. Even if it was just that alone, I think I’d have had a wonderful experience, but the game takes some big steps further to bring you a well-delivered strategy and management sim as well. Even when I nearly ran out of funds, I never felt like I was truly doomed, and the pacing never slowed to a crawl. There are nearly countless many journeys ahead for players, and the visual style and soundtrack the game delivers work completely to its advantage, with sleek UI and precision touch and button controls on the system. If you haven’t had the pleasure of playing this before when it released in 2014 and subsequent years on other platforms, the Nintendo Switch is just as good a home as any for this game. 80 Days is worth the journey into the eShop to embark on a much larger adventure.
80 Days Review
- Graphics - 7/107/10
- Sound - 8.5/108.5/10
- Gameplay - 8.5/108.5/10
- Lasting Appeal - 9/109/10
Final Thoughts: EXCELLENT
Embarking on a wonderfully written adaptation of Jules Verne’s timeless classic, 80 Days is the steampunk fueled global adventure featuring some of the best writing I’ve seen. Fans of narrative driven games are going to want to sink their teeth into this one for sure. With a ridiculous number of cities to stop in and explore and the need to manage your travel finances and time management, the game becomes a layered strategic experience without becoming overly complex or frustrating. There’s a grand adventure to be had here!