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80 Days (PC) review: Choose your own adventures

Hayden Dingman | Sept. 30, 2015
By plane, by train, and by mechanical elephant.

2015 09 13 00020

“I have entered into the service of a new gentleman. It would seem he is a gambling man.” And with these words, your adventure begins. It’s 1872 and your master, a Monsieur Fogg, has bet some of his colleagues in London that he can circumnavigate the globe in under eighty days—by ship, by train, and occasionally riding on the back of an elephant through dense jungle.

As his servant, it’s your job to accompany him. Haul his bags, handle the travel arrangements, fend off unwanted attention, and above all keep him safe.

Around the world

This is the wondersome world of 80 Days, which originally became a hit on Android and iOS and has now been ported to the PC. Like the classic Jules Verne novel, you’re charged with making it around the world in eighty days by any means possible.

80 Days
(Click to expand)

80 Days is in many ways 2015’s version of the classic text adventure genre—and no surprise, considering developer Inkle was cofounded by Jon Ingold, a relatively big name in interactive fiction circles. You’ll find no text parser here, but the game does consist mostly of massive blocks of text which spool out into a massive branching narrative. It’s like a fancy choose-your-own-adventure.

Setting off from London, you must discover and decide between different methods of travel at each stop along your journey. For instance, upon arriving in Paris you can choose to depart by way of the Orient Express to Budapest, the Pyrennes Express to the south of France, or by private car to Amsterdam. Each takes a certain amount of time and money—and, for particularly rough modes of travel, a toll on your master’s health.

Upon arriving at your destination you choose another mode of travel, and then yet another and another until (hopefully) you arrive back in London before the eighty day time limit is up.

80 Days

This “puzzle” aspect of the game is but a framework though—a delivery mechanism for a story that spans the globe. Each city and each stretch of your journey is accompanied by unique events, conversations, and encounters that make up the meat of 80 Days, all eloquently written in a pseudo-Victorian Era, Vernes-ian style.

During my first journey for instance I met robot soldiers, encountered (and charmed) bandits in the jungles around India, went diving amongst the zebra fish in Australia, traveled by gyrocopter in Peru, took over as lightweight boxing champion of North America, and arrived back in London by blimp after sixty-four days. Among other things.

 

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