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GrogHeads Reviews 80 Days

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80 Days is a highly addictive, highly replayable handheld game that combines steampunk and historical trivia into a fun and challenging game. GrogHeads is pleased to induct 80 Days into the Order of the Hex for its excellence in mobile addiction.

Jim Zabek, 18 February 2015

Developer: inkle Ltd

Click images to enlarge  

Once in a while a game emerges that is so simple that the writing of a review of it is far more complicated than the game itself. 80 Days is one of those games. In a nutshell it’s a game for a handheld device where the player takes on the role of Passepartout, the valet to Phileas Fogg – the same person in Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in 80 Days.

As with the novel, the player’s goal is to make it around the world in 80 days, but the story has been updated. 80 Days is set in a steampunk world and this updates the game in a spirit that I would think Jules Verne would highly approve. The game is peppered with encounters with historical figures and is driven by the player’s interaction with the and others.

 

80 Days_conversation

The game has four resources to manage: time and money (unsurprisingly), the health of monsieur Fogg (Passepartout is French), and space. The time component is obvious: you have 80 days to travel the world and a wide variety of paths to choose from. Money is how much the mode of travel costs. Monsieur Fogg’s health can deteriorate depending on the method of travel, and space considerations are based upon how many bags of luggage you bring, which in turn can be limited by the method of travel chosen. Why, the dear reader might ask, would you choose to bring lots of luggage? Because the purchase and sale of items in various cities gives the player more money with which to complete the journey. Some items also grant additional benefits such as reducing or eliminating the stress on Fogg’s health, advancing the departure date and lowering the cost of some methods of travel, or potentially allowing the player to extend conversation with certain characters in the game through which information can be found. Information can vary from discovering new cities or methods of travel to unlocking certain adventures or triggering various events. Events can range from murder to disease to rather delightful (yes, I said that) side quests which enhance the atmosphere and plot.

80 Days_globe-multiplayer

 

There is a minor downside to the game, however. There is no documentation. The player must learn as he goes. There are also certain aspects of the game which are never made clear. For instance, in the course of dialog with some characters the game may announce that Passepartout has developed a characteristic such as being suave, brave, or zestful. Exactly what these attributes do in the game is never made clear, though I suspect it has a bearing on the interaction with characters in the game. Trial and error is the only way to understand every aspect of the game, and in my first game I had traveled completely across Europe before I truly understood the mechanics of the game.

Fortunately none of the shortcomings in documentation severely infringes on the fun. To the contrary the game is highly replayable. While completing the journey in 80 days can be challenging – it took me three tries before I succeeded – after a while “winning” the game became secondary to exploring the world itself. Traveling over the North Pole yields one experience while traveling to southern Africa yields (expectedly) an entirely different experience. Along the way there are various cultural elements woven into the game as well, and it is possible to have a G-rated romantic experience with a few of the characters, including a couple of homosexual ones. The choice whether to pursue these choices in plot, however, is completely in the hands of the player and engaging or avoiding them simply moves the flavor of the game in different directions; none is critical to the success of circling the globe in 80 days.

80 Days_choices

There are some historically political hot potatoes the character will encounter. Monsieur Fogg is British and the game is set during the same time as Verne’s book, which means the Empire is at its peak. The political landscape, however, is vastly changed. The steampunk technology has allowed the simultaneous scientific and military advancement of nations across the globe, and the player will discover nations like Haiti are significant powers in the world. As a result there is criticism of colonialism, though again the play can choose to drive the plot in a direction of either sympathizing with the locals or treating them with some apathy. The choice to sympathize will unlock certain aspects of the game, and perhaps otherwise “secret” routes of travel, but none will in and of themselves create an insurmountable obstacle to winning the game. That said, in a close game where funds may be tight or time running out, the choice to befriend the locals may (or may not – be careful!) help expedite the player and make the difference between winning and losing.

80 Days_travelling-ferry

All in all 80 Days has mechanics that are highly predictable – upon boarding a vehicle the player will be prompted with at least one dialog choice and sometimes three or four depending on the length of the journey, any items carried in the luggage, and possibly (I’m speculating) Passepartout’s enhanced attributes. The player doesn’t have to participate in the conversations. Often two or three choices may be presented to the player – to wait, which provides a newspaper headline (often with a humorous comment on the player’s progress), to engage in conversation, or to attend to Fogg, whose health may need to be restored.

Upon arriving at a city there can be up to four possible courses of action, though sometimes fewer. The player can visit a market to buy and sell goods, the player can go to a bank to borrow money if he is running low on cash, the player can explore the town for possible routes out (sometimes this is the only way to discover how to proceed in the game) the player can spend the night in a hotel, or the player can depart the city.

80 Days_city

Despite the predictability of the mechanics the game’s choices provide a great deal of variety, and choosing one direction in a city in one game, and another in the next can sometimes open up an entirely new experience. I have played the game more than once with the goal to simply try to find cities on the map that I hadn’t yet visited, and I have surprised myself by actually winning the game in the process. The fastest route is not always a straight line, so it is entirely possible to travel to southern Africa and yet still end up completing the journey in fewer than 80 days.

The unpredictability in methods (and speed) of travel, the sometimes surprising worth (or worthlessness) of items carried, the various conversational choices that can unlock new aspects of the game, all keep me coming back for more. 80 Days is an absolute must-have for fans of steampunk or gamers looking for a plot-driven, replayable, and addictive game for their phone or tablet. Available through the Apple Store, Android Play, and Kindle Fire the few dollars I spent on it I have found to have been very well spent.


 

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