A while back, as I wrote my article about traveling around the world in eighty days, I stumbled upon a simple video game from 2014, created by Inkle Studios, that’s based upon, you guess it, Around The World In Eighty Days. In this interactive novel, aptly titled 80 Days, you play the role of Passepartout. Rarely has it ever been so fun to be someone’s servant.
The plot of this game is loosely based on the Jules Verne’s novel. Phileas Fogg has made his wager that he can travel around the globe in 80 Days or less, and it’s up to the player to ensure he succeeds: choose the best route, pack the appropriate gear, and take care of monsieur Fogg’s needs. You might be a servant, but you are the hero.
The world of 80 Days is a steampunk version of 1872; carts are pulled by mechanical horses. Machinations reside on building tops. There are even walking cities.Though the game uses simple (but effective) artwork, you still know exactly what everything looks like. The outstanding writing makes it easy to envision this world. In fact, the writing is brilliant throughout the entire game.
80 Days relies on simple, easy accessible gameplay; discover new routes through narrative choices, and travel to your destination simply by clicking on it. Traveling however, costs money. You do start off with a small budget, and additional money can be earned by purchasing and selling goods you encounter in the cities you visit, or working in the hotel your staying at. You could also withdraw money from the bank, if need be. Keep in mind however, that withdrawing money from the bank can take several days.
Another game mechanic to deal with, is Fogg’s health. traveling can be exhausting. It’s up to you to make sure your employer doesn’t tire out. Take care of him during your trip, or simply rest for a while in a hotel. Packing the right travel gear also stops his health from deteriorating too rapidly.
“The outstanding writing makes it easy to envision this world”
As fun as the game mechanics are, what really makes this one of the best travel games ever, is the writing. It’s rich and detailed, without ever becoming heavy-handed. No matter what route you take, or what place you visit, there’s always a story to discover, or a plot line to follow. At one point in the game I became part of a large espionage plot during my travels. At another, I had to solve a murder while travel on board a hovercraft. It’s up to the player to pursue these stories, or ignore them altogether. If you want, you can simply follow the book’s plot and itinerary. No matter your choice (and discoveries), it always feels like this is your story. That’s a feat not many of these type of games accomplish.
It only takes a few hours to complete a single playthrough of this game, but half the fun is doing it all again, but differently, and discovering a new and faster route than before. The writing prevents it from becoming repetitive, and the simple and fun game mechanics prevent it from becoming a chore.
One of my favorite aspects of this game, is how it encapsulates the spirit of travel and adventure, as well as all the pitfalls that come with it; the rush you feel trying to catch your boat ride on time, the wonder of visiting some far away market, or the worries of seeing budget vaporize before your eyes. Even the feeling you get when you finally can spend some time in a hotel, and get some much needed rest, is perfectly captured. The music too, captures these feelings perfectly. It’s near impossible not wanting to book the earliest flight to wherever upon completing this game.
80 Days is one of the greatest games about travel. It’s addictive, fun, well written, and has great replay value. Highly recommended.
80 Days is available on Windows, iOS, Android, and OS X.