LadiesGamers 80 Days

80 Days Review (Nintendo Switch)

Game: 80 Days
Genre: Interactive Fiction
System: Nintendo Switch (also on PC, iOS, Android)
Developers | Publishers: Inkle
Age Rating: PEGI 3+ | US E10+
Price: US $12.99 | EU €11,29 |UK £9.99
Release Date: 1st October 2019

No review code used, purchased the game myself.

If there’s one thing to say about 80 Days, it’s this: Savor it slowly, like a cup of afternoon tea.

I think that you—Monsieur Passepartout, protagonist of the game—would agree. But your Master Fogg might not, as he’s all about efficiency. After all, he’s bet a sum of money on how quickly he returns to London. And regardless of your private preferences, as Fogg’s valet it’s your job to carry out your master’s wishes! He doesn’t care a Fogg’s whisker if you’d rather stop to smell the roses.

LadiesGamers 80 Days
Yokohama, where I joined the circus because I was broke.
LadiesGamers 80 Days
What would Passepartout think of Mulan?

But to really enjoy 80 Days, remember that it’s more like a novel you snuggle in bed with than an adventure you play to beat.

I learned my lesson after the third or fourth playthrough. I hurried through the game and, as a result, was initially not so impressed. Though I was impressed at the sheer amount of text written for this game, stories taking place in dozens of cities and journeys, plus their branching outcomes—half of which you won’t encounter without replaying the game several times. Hats off to writers Meg Jayanth and Jon Ingold!

The Adventures of a Man’s Valet

There is a goal—to go around the world in 80 days—but you can fail to reach it and still achieve what the game intends for you: to experience the adventure of travel in an age of technological marvels. Developer Inkle plays on this theme wonderfully through a steampunk setting.

It’s an alternate 19th century. You journey not only by humble boat or train, but also by walking city (yes, a city with four mechanical legs), flying chinthe (what?), submarine, experimental hovercraft, and so on. It’s all about the journey—and the people you meet—rather than reaching London on time or hauling a fortune home (though it does feel good to make a profit of 20,000 pounds).

LadiesGamers 80 Days
Airship: my favorite mode of transport.
LadiesGamers 80 Days
You’ve seen the Taj Mahal, but have you ridden the Taj Mahal?

While the meat of the game is reading the stories that unfold, your role as player is to decide between different travel routes, dialogue options, and how to feel about events. The last of these is what I find most interesting and engaging.

How do you, Monsieur Passepartout, feel about a parade of fearsome automaton soldiers? Or the friendly advances of a man dressed as Death? The proposal of a jewel thief? Your master’s sleepwalking incident? Or even your own subordinate role as valet to Phileas Fogg? After all, that’s what travel is often about: not mere facts about a place, but how you felt about the place, the people, the wonders and mishaps.

And there are many mishaps waiting to befall you, both minor and major. The long ocean crossings are particularly dramatic: being accused of murder, being kidnapped, being asked to organise a mutiny… plenty that a French valet and his proper English gentleman would rather do without, thank you very much! As a player, though, I found these events to be a clever way of passing time on lengthy journeys.

LadiesGamers 80 Days
Will your French accent help or hinder? You get to decide!
LadiesGamers 80 Days
What did you say, mate?!

I liked the novelty of being the hero’s servant, rather than the “hero” himself, and getting to decide how the servant feels and reacts to events. These reactions can determine story outcomes, or even serve as the point of the story itself.

Playing Passepartout is also a good reminder that behind every great man is his porter. Sometimes, it turns out that the porter is the better man.

Well-Oiled Gears (Save One or Two)

Apart from trying to discover new plotlines and new cities with each playthrough, you’re also managing time, health, and funds. Funds ebb and flow as you buy and sell possessions at each city. Clothes, gear, weapons, jewelry, curios, etc. will not only fund your journeys, but can also restore health points and trigger interesting events. These game-y elements aren’t particularly fun mechanics; but they do give you a break from reading.

LadiesGamers 80 Days
It’s wise to dress for the climate.

Other than inventory management, which is the only time you’ll see a splash of color, the rest of 80 Days takes a minimalist, muted-tones approach to visual style. Cities are depicted almost as simple silhouettes, and likewise the vehicles are black-and-white silhouettes but sometimes rather intricate ones. The music and sound effects are likewise minimalist, rather like Master Fogg: spare, reserved, and removed from center stage, but elegant and up-to-standard when you do pay attention. All of it is secondary and background to the text of Passepartout’s experiences.

LadiesGamers 80 Days
Will you block, jab, or punch heavily? Takes you back to the days of text adventures, doesn’t it?
LadiesGamers 80 Days
Knowing the real Singapore, this just cracked me up.

The only game element that appears a little unrefined is mid-route conversations. These are brief chats you can have with the driver (or occasionally passenger) of whatever transport you’re on. They don’t feel worth the time, even though they can potentially reveal new travel routes. Conversations with Fogg are vapid and useless, rarely providing valuable information. Occasionally, the person I’m talking to is briefly labeled with the wrong name.

I’ve also encountered a minor bug, or so it appears. I got stuck in Cambridge twice. In both cases, Fogg refused to leave the city and stayed night after night. After a month passed in this manner, I had no choice but to restart the game. This doesn’t always happen when I visit Cambridge, and I’m not sure what triggers it.

LadiesGamers 80 Days
Little stories take place mid-route. You’re also given the option to chat, read the news, or make your master comfortable.

These hiccups don’t affect the game’s overall quality, though. If conversing mid-route is a waste of time, you can always choose other options: give Fogg a shave to recover health points, read the newspaper, or do nothing. Sometimes “nothing” is precisely what I want to do on a trip.

In fact, playing 80 Days is my ideal holiday: the kind you enjoy in solitude, propped up by pillows, ready for a good tale. As someone prone to motion sickness, I’m only slightly ashamed to say I prefer seeing new places via image and imagination. To that end, 80 Days does the job alright, but don’t expect it to be hi-def National Geographic.

LadiesGamers 80 Days
Finished late, massively in debt. But I had a blast going round the world!

Designed for Leisurely Replay

If you haven’t been playing much interactive fiction, just remind yourself to switch mental gears and put on your metaphorical reading glasses. After I made that switch and carved out time to enjoy 80 Days slowly, I really enjoyed the little stories that make up Passepartout’s grand adventure.

After six playthroughs, spending about two hours per playthrough, there are still many cities I’ve been thwarted from reaching and mysteries to fully uncover. Perhaps I’ll revisit old cities just to take in the scenery if I had rushed through them earlier. I’ve almost died, but I’ve yet to actually die. Who knows, perhaps I’ll stumble upon a plotline that lets me!

Verdict: I Like It a Lot!

I like it a lot!

Note: Not to be confused with a 2005 video game with the same name.

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