MSRP: $9.99 (Steam) / $5.00 (mobile)
Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android
Let’s get it out of the way right up front: 80 Days is interactive fiction. It’s a very very pretty choose-your-own-adventure based on a book by Jules Verne. If you go into this expecting heavy game play and light reading, you are going to be sorely disappointed.
You take on the role of Passepartout (which means “master key” in French, if you were curious), valet to Phineas Fogg. Your master has just made a bet that he can travel around the world in 80 days, and it’s up to you to make it happen. In each city you visit, you can buy supplies, explore the city, and most importantly, plot the next leg of your journey. In order to maximize your options, talk to people whenever you’re able, and pick up transport schedules at market. However all of these things take time, and you don’t want to dawdle too long in any one place – the game time keeps running, and you can miss that train you wanted to take if you aren’t careful.
Plan to read. Plan to read a lot. There’s so much story here, but you’re unlikely to be able to follow any one thread to completion in your first play through. You can try to chase story if you want to, but remember that the primary goal is circumnavigation, and the routes you choose will likely leave plot points hanging. I have no doubt this is a source of nearly endless frustration to some players – it’s like having someone switch out the book you’re reading every couple chapters, and not allowing you to read what comes before or after.
But that’s also the thing that gives 80 Days its replay value. You’re not going to explore everywhere you want to in one trip. You’re probably not going to explore everywhere you want to in 10 trips. Each time you start a new game, you can be sure that somewhere along the way, you’re going to discover something new.
There are some scraps of economic simulation here. Travel isn’t cheap, and one way to finance your endeavors is to buy low and sell high – there are items you can buy in almost every city that will turn a profit in another place. There are also mechanics in place that let you disregard this if you so choose. But that’s about the only concession this “game” makes to being a game.
My one annoyance is that the controls are a little less intuitive than I would like. While trying to figure a route, I mis-clicked slightly, and managed to miss the transport I wanted to take. With no other options departing that day, I couldn’t figure out how to get back to the city screen (which I needed to do since we were going to have to stay overnight). Clicking on the city name on the map worked, but I’m not sure if that’s the intended method or not.
I have no doubts that the amount of content in 80 Days warrants the full purchase price. At the same time, I feel like it’s a game that just barely misses the mark as far as target audience goes. For many, the satisfaction of interactive fiction is not just in feeling like you have a hand in how the story happens, but also in seeing everything resolved and tidy at the end. There is nothing tidy about 80 Days. If that’s going to suck the fun out of it for you, give this one a pass.