I always try my best to read books that my friends and family recommend me, but besides literature for studies and tabletop RP, I rarely take my time to read other books. This is a shame, but I at least got recently done with Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. It is a captivating tale about just what the title indicates: travelling around the world within 80 days, making it an exciting and intriguing journey with memorable events, characters, and writing.
Inkle decided after their Sorcery! games to take clear inspirations from this book in order to make a game out of it. In short, their take on it in the form of 80 Days is just as wonderful as its source material and is even interesting to play for those familiar with the original tale. Because of this, you should just go and play this game already. If you need this review to convince you, then allow me to do so.
Every moment counts
Set in a fictional version of London in 1872 where the age of steampunk is flourishing, you play as Jean Passepartout, a french valet working for the rich Phileas Fogg. One day, Mr Fogg declares to Passepartout that he is to travel around the world in 80 days, and Passepartout is to join him. With little to no time to argue against him, Passepartout packs their suitcase and joins his master on this strange journey. Their travel begins toward France, before tackling the rest of the journey in whatever manner you see fit.
This is what Inkle excels at and what makes this adventure around the world in 80 days so interesting: the amount of choices on how to travel. You can decide to go north towards Scandinavia and onward to Russia for other trains to hop on board or perhaps you would like to continue your journey south and see if you can take the heat of Africa? Taking a ship from India and sail around the world would be wise or maybe flying in one of the strange contraptions unfamiliar to you might be a better option? All of the choices will lead to interesting cultures, characters, and stories to witness, providing a world brimming with fascinating and immersive experiences.
The people you will meet will have their own tales to tell and can either lead to short or long events. You might be conversing with another man about an artistic construction, admiring technological advancements with one of the workers or go so far to help someone escape their family’s clutches in order for the person to achieve their own true dream. There are so many optional conversations that can happen and all contain multiple choices that will have outcomes affected by how you chose to react. They might even give you info on what the best route might be or which ones to avoid. Even with limited time at disposal, it is hard to not care about every person you come across.
This is thanks to excellent writing that describes every significant motion, atmosphere, and detail in the environments and characters. Since you play as Passepartout, you have the responsibility to make all the right choices for you and your master. In fact, your relationship with Mr. Fogg is quite interesting, as there will be clearly some interactions that can affect his feelings towards you, and even from outcomes if he intertwines. This is another intriguing aspect of the game, as this relationship is professional, but also clearly affected by your choices and can have an affect on the journey itself.
Just as important, is the world you are exploring. Every nation, city, and even smaller locations are affected by the growth of steampunk in terms of technological, cultural, and political aspects. This is even shown in the characters you meet, making the theme of steampunk more than just a stylish concept. Through this, the game creates fascinating historical theories on how the world could have been, and how land and cultures could have reacted to each other, giving you a ton of intriguing speculations. It also helps that everything is new and unlike anything Passepartout has ever seen before (except for France), making it easy to introduce this world and its concept to newcomers.
This title is the true essence of a fantastic role-playing setup and storytelling in general. You are always invited by fantastic writing, memorable characters, intriguing lore, and all clearly affected by how you act. I truly have nothing of criticism to give here, as I was always on the edge of my seat and always followed every single line, while pondering on what my next step should be. I will also say that having Passepartout being bi truly helps for different and interesting relationships to make. Even Passepartout’s status, such as being courageous, truly affects the story. No two journeys will ever be the same, making this a wonderful tale to share amongst fellow players.
Story Score: 10/10
The clock is ticking
As mentioned earlier in this review, 80 Days focuses on you making the choices on how to proceed your journey, giving you tons of alternatives to consider. However, while this adds to the replay value in the form of encountering different locations, characters, and stories, you are still in a race with only a limited amount of resources to go by. This is a true visual novel, where your interactivity will be severely important.
First of all, the clock is always ticking. Only when you are reading dialogues will it stop, making everything such as looking at the map, checking your suitcase or even going to the bank, market or station, important to consider whether you actually have time for it. The game is lenient enough to not require you to skim over every option, but still expects you to pay attention and get a move on. A nice form of pushing the player, as those 80 days will fly by if you are not careful.
However, even if a choice seems to get you further, you will have to be prepared for any unseen obstacle and gain as much info as possible. Perhaps you will explore an area for more ideas, talk to passengers on your travels for possible destinations or buy a schedule if available? Also, just because a travel seems to be the safest, does not mean it will be. There might be delays in the form of wagons getting one of their wheels broken, ferries altering their routes, blimps malfunctioning, and much more. There is no such thing as a smooth sailing, and good preparations will be important.
Of course, maybe you will meet someone who can be bribed for providing a better shortcut, help a person out in order to gain help back or perhaps you can do something else to get a move on? This all comes from the choices you make, but also from your status. You see, as Passepartout, you have your status that will have an affect on certain choices, be it making you more courageous to take upon difficult tasks or even gain negative ones like “unkempt”. These will be acquired through the results from previous choices, and further affect upcoming ones for better or worse. This is wonderful for making sure your choices not only affects upcoming events, but also your character’s behaviour, adding to the role-playing.
However, while you are a strong valet, your master is another story. He is the only one who has any form of a health bar, making it important to keep his mood and comfort up. You can do this through a number of ways, such as providing him a pillow for his travels, something to occupy him whenever the journey is dull, and generally taking care of him when the opportunity arises. The last one is the only direct option, and how much you heal him is determined by your relationship. The more he is satisfied with your behaviour and actions, the more health will be restored and vice versa. This is important to take into consideration, since if the health bar reaches zero or your master becomes ill, the journey will come to a halt until he is well again.
Even with all of this, there are still more to elements to consider. You have to stay at hotels to gain some rest, go to markets in order to buy stuff to help you out on the journey, and be mindful of how the travels might affect your health and money. You do not have unlimited currency, and while Passepartout can take on some side jobs to gain more, that is at best pocket change. To truly get more, you will have to sell exotic items to specific locations or go to the bank. The amount you take out from the latter will always affect the amount of days you have to wait in order to receive it, making you loose more time.
However, it can be worth the wait if you get the money to buy warm clothes for travelling in colder regions, bribe services to get faster to your destination or even to be able to take more suitcases with you. Yes, while you start out with only one, you can always take more with you, but it can be costly. This all might sound like 80 Days has a lot to be aware of, and while that is true, nothing is overbearing as everything is clearly explained and you will be able to make rational choices based on the information you acquire.
Making it to the end within 80 days is no easy task, but it never feels impossible. You might have just gotten unlucky or forgotten to take something into consideration. Every misstep feels like something you could have avoided, even if an alternative course was made in your disapproval. A playthrough takes about three hours and the journey only ends when you have reached London again, making it easy for replaying and trying again should you fail.
This all makes 80 Days a fantastic journey to partake in with plenty of strategies and choices to consider. The only minor nitpick I have with this title, is that I wish your relationship with Fogg and your status was clearly explained, but this might have been done to make this trip more immersive and rather be subtly hinted on through the adventure. Everything else is simply brilliant and intriguing. Why cannot more visual novels be as interactive as this one?
Gameplay Score: 10/10
I suppose this is the best way to present 80 Days’ visuals, as it is all clean and pleasing to the eyes. You will mainly be looking at Earth with clear layouts of cities and your discovered lines for possible travels. There are shadow figurines to represent how you travel, nice and simple profiles of characters talking, and environmental elements such as buildings and plants to showcase aspects to the area you are visiting. It is all intriguing and delightful, with the contraptions for traversing being lovely detailed and clearly inspired by steampunk.
However, the visuals could be argued for being too simple. I would have loved some more elements to it in order to showcase altitudes of the landscapes or distinct climates the areas are known for. There are uses of colours to showcase temperature or the time of day, but despite going for a simple setup, I still believe more could have been done to emphasise this world you are exploring. Especially when the characters have lovely designs and colours to them. With that being said, it is all still appealing to look at with nothing in the visuals being intrusive or of poor quality.
Then we have the audio, which is magnificent. The sounds of the different vehicles, busy markets, and animals roaming around to name a few, all adds to truly make you feel like a part of the environment you are in. This especially helps with instruments to the areas’ cultural heritages being well presented, adding to the atmosphere and diversity of our world. The wonders and excitement of the music is further enhanced by the amazing Laurence Chapman, giving us a gorgeous and uplifting theme to this game that shows tension from the use of string instruments, but lets the flute add in a mysterious and soothing tone to it. An overall simple piece of high art.
Presentation Score: 8.5/10
With over 160 towns to visit and plenty of routes to consider, this game is not just exciting to replay in order to see if you can reach London again within 80 days or if you can beat your previous score, but also for what you might be encountering on your next trip. Who will you meet, what stories or cultures will you witness, and will this travel be any easier? All of this adds to tons of replay value, helped further by the ending of each playthrough presenting you with the results of your travel.
The miles you have journeyed, what your relationship with Fogg became to, your behaviour as a Valet, and the amount of time your adventure took, are just some of the elements you will see the results to. When both the journey and reaching the goal are so entertaining, do not find yourself surprised if you play this game right away after one run. You can even compare your scores with others online, should you wish to do so. With how short the journey can be as well, it lends itself easy to take on multiple times.
Extra Score: 10/10
This is a game I believe anyone can get into, as it has tons of fantastic stories to witness, exciting journeys where you have to make difficult choices, and a calming atmosphere that is truly inviting. It is not just doing it all in respect to the source material, but also exceeds by focusing on the interactivity, making it only comparable to the book by its setup alone. This is probably the finest work of Inkle, as this is truly immersive and addictive. It is available on pretty much any device, so get your hands on this amazing game and please let me know how fast you could go around the world.