Game Review | 80 Days
Game Summary: 1872, with a steampunk twist. Phileas Fogg has wagered he can circumnavigate the world in just eighty days. (Metacritic)
This started out as a mobile game and is a pretty good example of how some types of game are more suited to one medium than another. This might be a perfect little time-waster to help you through a commute, but can’t really compete against full games on a PC.
Yes, it’s cheap, but that’s the case for a lot of games on PC, and a lot of those were explicitly designed to be played on a desktop or laptop and take full advantage of what the platform can do. In comparison, 80 Days is more than a little basic.
As the title suggests, the story is based around the Jules Verne story, Around the World in Eighty Days, with you playing the role of Passepartout, valet to Phileas Fogg, a gentleman of London. You have the titular amount of time to circumnavigate the globe before Fogg’s wager fails, although the game does allow you to complete your journey even if you are late.
A nice twist here though, is that it is set in an alternate reality, with much of the technology being steampunk or clockwork in design, including artificial people. World history has also unfolded differently as a result, so you can’t rely on your knowledge of real history to gain any advantage.
It has a nice visual style, but that’s about it. Most of your time will be spent reading rather than marvelling at the visuals and it’s a genuine shame that the developers chose not to add more graphical flourishes or even some additional animation to complement the aesthetic.
Likewise, the sound is as basic as can be, with some cheerful background music altering to fit your current location and basic sound effects to add to the atmosphere, but little more than that, with all of the game’s dialogue only present in written form.
80 Days’ saving grace is the writing, which is fantastic throughout, really helping to boost your immersion and the sense of time and place in this alternate world. Each place is truly distinct from every other and almost every location has its own little story to tell.
The branching dialogue and character choices work exceptionally well too, with enough variety to completely change your perception of Passepartout and the world he inhabits. There are any number of colourful characters to meet, and each of them is well-written and with their own distinct identity although only a handful truly stand out.
While the writing is superb, and each play-through an excellent novella in its own right (it takes just a couple of hours to complete the game), it is worth remembering that this is a game and not a book, which is where 80 Days ultimately falls short.
Once you’ve moved on to your first stop at the very beginning of the game, you’ve experienced all of the gameplay there is to the title. Seriously, there are no hidden modes or gameplay changes, no new mechanics to learn and nothing to break up the monotony that can set in on some of the longer journeys it’s possible to make.
Yes, there are a lot of locations and more than enough characters to fill up the fictional world, but many of them just aren’t that memorable, feeling like space-fillers to pad out the experience. It doesn’t help that they just repeat themselves on each play-through – as far as I can tell, once you’ve been to a location, you’ll never have a reason to go back there again on subsequent play-throughs.
Maybe this is something that could have been altered to add some variety, because you’ll have to go out of your way and essentially ignore the central narrative of the game to experience anything new after you’ve finished the game for the first time.
Then there’s the issue of completely unexpected events that can derail your game – there’s no foreshadowing or any other kind of indication to the player that something might be about to happen and you can have your carefully-played game ruined by an event that serves no purpose other than to be randomly harmful to the experience.
On mobile, 80 Days is a perfectly enjoyable experience that will help you fill in bits of free time here and there; on PC, it simply can’t compare to games designed for the platform and extended sessions of play. It’s cheap and will fill a couple of hours, but then I’d advise leaving it aside for a good long while or its drawbacks will soon begin to grate.