Review: 80 Days – Train Robberies, Steampunk, and Zeppelins

80 Days is a new game from Inkle Studios, who brought us Sorcery! Part 1Sorcery! Part 2, and Frankenstein. They’re behind the inklewriter tool, which allows you to create your own interactive stories. Based on the Jules Verne classic Around the World in 80 Days, the game puts you in the shoes of Jean Passepartout and Phileas Fogg as they attempt to circumnavigate the globe because Fogg made a bet down at the Reform Club.

Watch the trailer:

Plot

Conversation

The year is 1872. Welcome to the future. Phileas Fogg has wagered he can circumnavigate the globe. Hundreds of journeys, thousands of routes. Travel by steamer, express train, airship, hover-car, hydrofoil, gyrocopter, camel, horse-back, hot-air balloon… Can you make it in 80 Days?

You are Jean Passepartout, Phileas Fogg’s valet and companion on this trip. The game loosely follows the plot of the novel; I haven’t read it myself (yet), but the text of the game, while not lifted directly from Verne’s work, is written in his voice. There are many twists and turns throughout, however; you can go to places that the literary Fogg and Passepartout never went. In looking at the wikipedia page for the novel after completing my first journey, I was surprised to see that I had chosen almost the same route that they take in the book, minus going to Japan. The writing is excellent, and I was always excited to see what would happen next. I did not finish my trip in the allotted 80 days (96! So close! I blame the train robbery…), and I’m looking forward to trying again. I also only visited 23 out of over a hundred cities, and I know there are a lot more storylines to explore. There’s an element of steampunk/magic involved too, but I won’t get into that due to spoilers. I also want to note that the writer is a woman, Meg Jayanth, and you can look forward to an interview with her soon. [Edit: Here is the interview!]

[Minor spoiler] I was delighted to discover you could pursue romance on your journey – and that Jean’s sexuality is flexible. In New Orleans, he was instantly smitten with a man he met there. I’m not actually sure if he’ll pursue women; the writing/lead up to it for them was never strong enough. It wasn’t until I had the encounter in New Orleans that I looked back and realized I might have been able to kiss ladies too. I’ll try that on my next journey around the world.

Graphics and Sound

GlobeMultiplayer

The art is by Jaume Illustration and is absolutely wonderful. It’s done in a kind of minimalist/cutout style that I really liked. As you probably know by now, I love maps, and most of this game is spent looking at a globe, so it’s perfect for me. When characters are rendered, it’s in a middle ground between realistic and cartoonish; when vehicles are rendered, it’s in a more realistic, black-and-white style. The music is appropriately adventurous, and I liked what’s there, but unfortunately there’s not a lot of it. The sound design (rushing water, chugging train, etc.) did a very good job of putting you in the traveling mindset.

Gameplay

TravellingPyrennesTrain

Most of gameplay consists of reading the story, choosing between one or two options for what Passepartout says next, and moving on to the next city. You have to be very careful with your budget; you start out with £4000, which might seem like a lot but will definitely not last you all the way around the world. This is where trading comes in; you can buy goods cheaply in one city and sell them for marked-up prices in another. The game is explicit about telling you where goods are the most valuable, so you can’t mess it up. You can also get loans from the bank, but you might end up in debt. I didn’t hit a bottom threshold where I couldn’t take out money, but I think it’s something that can happen. You can also choose how loyal to be to Fogg; certain actions will make your relationship with him go up or down, and you need to keep his spirits up, represented by hearts. Traveling in harsh conditions brings him down, while attending to his personal needs (haircuts, organizing) will get him in a better mood.

Sometimes an event will occur, like the train robbery, where your course of actions will decide the outcome; I lost a lot of money that day, but I think if I played it differently I could have recovered it. My one small complaint is that some of the story threads I found had no follow-up, even if I went to the place where the story should have continued; I’m not sure if this is a bug or if I dilly-dallied on my way there, however. The game also sometimes gives you messages that say, “Your character is now more courageous,” and similar things to that, but it never seemed to have an effect. It was also not immediately apparent what having item sets did, but those are minor complaints that didn’t affect my enjoyment of the game.

There are ten Game Center achievements, all worth 80 points, which made me giggle.

Final Thoughts

Rome

80 Days reinforces my absolute love of Inkle games. There’s so much creative work you can do with inklewriter, and I think it’s a wonderful tool for blending gameplay and storytelling.

Score: A

You can get 80 Days on the App Store for $4.99. Requires iOS 6.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5. Check out the official website, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

[Disclaimer: A review code was provided for me to review this game.]

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4 thoughts on “Review: 80 Days – Train Robberies, Steampunk, and Zeppelins

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