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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.

There are a dizzying number of branches to the story. Even in Paris—your first stop on the journey—you can choose to go to the World’s Fair or skip it entirely, see a small section or try and take it all in. And from there, as I said, the story can head to three different cities immediately, each with its own unique events to discover.

80 Days

And then there are the contingencies. Certain events only trigger if you’ve met earlier requirements in the story, which means even visiting the same city on two playthroughs may lead to different events, depending on which route you’ve taken.

It’s an astounding achievement in branching narratives. 80 Days is short—about two hours to run through, maybe—but there’s so much to discover it practically demands you play more than once to get the full effect. Where most games give you the illusion of meaningful choices (i.e. Telltale games) while basically funneling the player down a certain path, 80 Days provides for nearly-unlimited player freedom.

Unfortunately I think 80 Days worked a bit better as a mobile game—not because the PC port is in any way bad, but because thematically it plays better on-the-go. The sparse graphics, large blocks of text, and minimal interaction just seem more suited to the pick-up-and-play-for-five-minutes pattern of phones than sitting down at the computer and churning through an hour or two straight.

80 Days

But that’s by no means a commentary on the game’s quality! It’s fantastic on either platform, it just…feels a bit like a mobile game ported to PC. Which it is. Spruced-up graphics and an easier time managing the game’s inventory don’t belie that fact.

Bottom line

80 Days is one of the most approachable pieces of interactive fiction ever produced, managing to largely retain the heavily branching stories the genre is known for within the much simpler choose-your-own-adventure format. While I can think of a handful of interactive fiction games/text adventures I like more, they all involve a text parser. 80 Days is a wonderful alternative.

And it’s a damn good game in general. While I think you’d be better off playing on a phone, that’s largely a personal preference based on how I like to consume text-heavy games—especially ones structured, like 80 Days, around short pick-up-and-play encounters. Whether on phones or on PC though, you should play this game if you have any interest in branching stories. At least twice.

 

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