Developed and Published By: inkle
Category: Narrative-Driven Time Management Sim
Release Date: 10.01.2019
Most people have heard the tale of the man who wanted to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days or less in one form or another, whether through novels, films, or just through word of mouth. The steampunk alternate past setting is one that is well thought of, and on top of that you have a classic story of the underdog taking on the world, literally. This time/inventory management sim that takes you through a choose-your-own adventure is so deep and well written that it is one that commands multiple playthroughs to get the full effect of what you have in front of you. Boasting nearly 750,000 words it clocks in at 12 times the length of the original Jules Verne novel, and with over 150 cities and an almost endless number of paths to take you can spend an enormous amount of time delving into this one.
This is the tale of Phileas Fogg, a rich man who gets dared to take on this journey by his friends with a wager of $20,000 on the line. He brings along his loyal valet, Passepartout, who you will be playing as. In this role you will do your master’s bidding as well as helping make the important decisions for this long journey. Making sure you don’t run out of money, keeping yourself well-equipped, and tending to Phileas will be your job, and you must choose well in order to win the wager.
The first portion of this game you will have to take note of is the fact that you are immediately running out of time. The clock doesn’t stop, even while reading through dialogue or menus, and thus you have to be quick about it, especially when transport leaves at a certain time. You have 80 in game days to travel all the way around the globe and return to London. Overall, this isn’t a difficult trek if you have some geographical knowledge and can visualize a basic path with which you would like to navigate. For people who have never even looked at a globe, or who just hated the subject, you might have to ask around a bit more for the best routes. You have some very plain jane options as major hubs from country to country are the obvious choices, but the game gets fun when you put it all on the line and take a path that makes no sense. That is where the real meat and potatoes to this story are. Take some risks.
You also have to keep track of the money and inventory you are bringing with you on the trip. Money is basically just used to obtain transport from city to city. You can use it to purchase items and in certain story scenarios, but overall the only use of it is for travel. But, considering that is the entire premise of the game it makes it extremely important. Being able to spend top dollar on a path that is twice as fast, but way more expensive is key in making the trip in the 80 days, and so keeping your money as high as possible is the most important part of the management portion of this game. You can get funds released to you from the banks that are available town to town, but that money must be repaid when you finally return to London and takes from your ending cash. You will also have to sit around for potentially several days to get your money in this fashion. The way to properly maintain your funds is to work the markets in the cities. You can purchase a selection of items that can aid in maintaining Phileas’ happiness while travelling, as well as items that can be used in story scenarios, but the most important items are ones that are purely traded for cash. These items are generally cheap where you purchase them, and if you take the right route to the city where you can get top dollar for it you can easily fund this trip without waiting days for large sums from the banks. This portion of the game is necessary, but again isn’t intended to be that difficult. In one of my runs I acquired a bottle of wine in Paris that could be sold for thousands if I just sold it in Munich. As that took minimal route management it was an easy decision and allowed for me to bankroll the majority of the trip on that one bottle of wine. There is some randomness to this system in that way, but if you are paying attention to routing and the items in each market you can really ignore the money you are spending.
Besides the money aspect of item management, you also have groups of items that have other functions in the gameplay and story. First of all, you can grab items that are used in story situations specifically. They are marked with taglines like “Rich and pompous types like this item” and you will be able to offer these items to people you have conversation with on your journeys. Usually this allows you to talk longer with the person, and sometimes you can get better information, but overall finding routing and information from town to town isn’t something you will have to spend a ton of time on and so these items aren’t all that useful; especially when they don’t always work as intended and take up space.
You also have items that are specifically for tending to Phileas, which are more useful. Coats, shave kits, pillows, just items that make his journey more restful. A lot of these items come in sets that you have to complete to get maximum efficiency, and if you choose to travel through the cold of Russia or the heat of Mexico then having proper clothing will keep Phileas at a maximum health level. This is important because you have to make sure your relationship with Phileas is in tip top shape, as well as making sure his general health is doing well so that your journey doesn’t have to end prematurely. This means a ton of your time during travel will be spent literally tending to his every waking need. It is kind of sickening in a 21st century sort of way, but luckily for Phileas the game is set in the late 1800’s. Since the conversations you could be having alternatively allow for additional routing options you have to balance between finding direction and keeping Phileas happy, but I never found myself having Phileas drop to low levels of health, and never had an issue finding my way to the next city, so even though these are mechanics you will have to keep an eye on they aren’t that pressing. The story is what the game wants you to take away from this.
You have well-drawn character profiles and a unique art style that really nails that old-timey 1800’s feel, but based on the fact you have a lot of your time being spent staring at a map where the nice art is lost to roads and town names it really loses some of its potential. Besides that, you really have to give it to the art team for creating something so aesthetically pleasing, and even though I noted the time spent checking routes, the idea of staring at maps for hours sounds horrid, but with the art design here you really aren’t bothered by it.
80 Days is a creative choose-your-own adventure that has you travelling around the world meeting amazing people, seeing amazing things, all while racing to win the wager of circumnavigation in 80 days’ time. Although the time/inventory/money management portions of the game are on the lighter side and don’t demand a lot of importance, you still have to pay attention enough to not derail your journey. With the number of routes and length of text in this game it has nearly unlimited replay ability, and this game can be as deep and incredible as you want to make it with multiple runs. The only downside to it is missing out on all of what the game has to offer if you either don’t have the time to dedicate or dislike the absurd amount of reading you would have to do. This is a top notch interactive novel, so non-bookies will have to keep that in mind.
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*The Switch Effect was provided a review code for this game*