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About the Story
1872, with a steampunk twist. Phileas Fogg has wagered he can circumnavigate the world in just eighty days.
Winner, Best Game; Winner, Best Story; Nominee, Best Setting; Nominee, Best NPCs; Winner, Best Use of Multimedia - 2014 XYZZY Awards
This brilliant interactive novel re-imagines Phileas Fogg's journey around the world with you as loyal valet Passepartout. Phill Cameron says it is one of the finest examples of branching narrative yet created.
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80 DAYS is an interactive, steampunk retelling of Jules Verne's classic 1873 novel Around the World in 80 Days. You play as Passepartout, valet to Englishman Phileas Fogg. Fogg has made a wager with some members of his London club that he can traverse the globe in only 80 days. It's up to you to see that he succeeds.
Much of the charm of Verne's original novel is the madcap dash around the world, using a variety of modes of transportation: steamships, trains, elephants, even a sledge. 80 DAYS outdoes Verne's novel, though: Its steampunk take allows for dozens of fantastical ways to travel, from mechanized versions of horse-drawn carriages to ice walkers to submarines to experimental hovercrafts - not to mention the Orient Express, the Trans-Siberian Railway, and a hot-air balloon.
You can, if you want, try to recreate Fogg's actual route from Verne's novel. In fact, that's what I had planned to do at first, since I thought it would be the most efficient method to navigate the globe. However, I picked up an object in Paris that the game told me could be sold in Berlin for a tidy sum. So I took a detour to Berlin and then Athens before heading to Suez to get back on track. But then I bought another item that I could sell in Dubai for a nice profit, and so I spent an inordinate amount of time getting to Dubai before finally arriving in Bombay for the trek across India. After having my passport stolen, surviving a mutiny and an aircraft crash in the Indian Ocean, being blown off course over the Pacific, being held up at gunpoint by Jesse James, and earning the American lightweight boxing title, I did eventually make it back to London. But not within 80 days. And then, of course, I had to try again. Because there were so many choices and routes I did not take - choices and routes that I just had to explore.
And therein lies much of what makes 80 DAYS work so well. A major way to make a game fun is to give the player a combinatorial explosion of choices. However, as an author you do not want to (and in many cases simply cannot) create a different scenario for each of those exponentially-growing number of choices. So the trick is to find a way to combine a small number of choices on the author's end into an exponential number of scenarios on the player's end. I wouldn't call the number of choices Inkle and Meg Jayanth had to create a "small number," but the fact that these choices are generally city-to-city decisions means that they can be combined in a way via the map to achieve the desired combinatorial explosion. Yet the combinatorial explosion never feels overwhelming: At any city there's never more than about half a dozen choices for where to go next, and often there are fewer. Plus you have a clearly-defined goal to help guide your choices: You've got to keep going east around the globe, as quickly as you can. A combinatorial explosion of choices on the player's end that never feels overwhelming, without a combinatorial explosion of work required on the authors' end, is great design - and leads to a lot of fun for the player.
80 DAYS handles another couple of issues deftly as well. One is the cultural difference between Western Europe in the 1870s and us today. Mainstream views on topics like gender, race, and colonialism are obviously quite different now than they were then. If you're writing a game based on an 1873 French novel (especially one in which the globe-encompassing aspect of the British empire is a plot point), how do you address that worldview gap? 80 DAYS's steampunk twist on Verne's novel provides a solid platform to handle this. For example, people groups in regions that were heavily colonized by European powers in 1873 frequently have their own takes on the advanced steampunk technology in 80 DAYS. Their technologies and their cultures don't come across in-game as inferior - just different. Something similar holds true with respect to the game's portrayal of women; in 80 DAYS women are engineers, pilots, and steamboat captains with as much frequency as men are. While this would be anachronistic for a game set in the historical 1870s, it fits right in with 80 DAYS's steampunk version of that era. This isn't to say that 80 DAYS falls into the mistake of presentism, either; here and there the game gives choices that allow you to explore some of why folks from that era might have thought differently than we do today.
As a final example, even though I doubt the authors view 80 DAYS as an educational game, it actually is - and it's even a good educational game. 80 DAYS requires the player to gain a decent overview of world geography, but it does this in a very natural way - one that is completely integrated into the gameplay rather than artificially tacked-on. It even sent me to the Internet several times, looking up central Asian cities, or wondering why Yokohama rather than, say, Tokyo, was the major Japanese port of that era. A desire to learn more is the kind of player response you want for an educational game.
Overall, 80 DAYS is an interactive tour de force that does many things well. Highly recommended.
In this commercial game, you are trying to get around the world in 80 Days with Phineas Fogg. It is ostensibly based on the novel, although I haven't read it yet.
This game employs a beautiful map used to select various routes across the world, and has nice, mostly static visuals representing your conveyance, the city you're in, and various NPCs as well as the player and his luggage. However, this game is very much CYOA in beautiful packaging rather than just a text-heavy graphical game.
The usual pattern of the game is that you start each day in your current city with some funds and the chance to get more funds, buy some luggage, sell old luggage, or explore. You then pick a route to travel onto the next city, which may or may not require waiting a few hours or days for.
Each route can cost between a few dozen pounds to 7000 or more pounds. Faster routes generally cost more. Along each route, various events happen such as mutinies, romance, murders, etc. which you have to deal with. Your choices affect what city you are in, how fast you get there, NPC reactions, your amount of money, Phineas' health, and extremely poor choices can lead to death.
The setting is steampunk, a genre which I am on the fence about. Among steampunk games, the writing is very good. Some highlights for me were Haiti (Spoiler - click to show)with organic automata, Agra (Spoiler - click to show)A city that walks on four legs, with the Taj Mahal on top, and Salt Lake City, which provided my first glimpse at an interactive fiction treatment of Mormons, my religion. On their treatment of Mormons, I was pleased to see that they treated it fairly kindly, with any negative reactions being those typical of the day. This is typical of the whole game, in that it seems remarkably well-researched (although never perfectly) for its scope.
I found the game somewhat tedious at times, especially on multiple replays. I frequently found myself skipping filler text or repeatedly tapping on the clock. However, on playthroughs where I focused on exploration over time, I had an enjoyable experience.
Overall, I strongly recommend this game for anyone without a distaste for steampunk. I know several people who would love this game if it had a more realistic flavor. But the steampunk setting allows any historical inaccuracies to be waved away, and provides for some fun pictures, so it's a trade-off.
This is a truly amazing game. I didn't think it was possible to create a game so gripping out of these simple mechanics. At the same time it is truly amazing the amount of free will you have in this game, and all the amazing discoveries you can make with it. (I just said "amazing" a lot didn't I? Well, there's a reason for that!)
The basic mechanics of the game are a little bit of resource management underneath a choice-based text adventure. The game includes some very fun and simple graphics to aid in the visualization of the story, without getting in the way of your imagination too much. Also, there is some nice music to accompany you on your journey.
The story is taken from "Around the World in Eighty Days" by Jules Verne, but set in a steampunk/futuristic past. You play the role of Passepartout, the valet to the main character of the novel, Phileas Fogg. However, unlike how I think the novel goes (apologies for never having read it), you as the valet are making all the decisions on this journey, Fogg is just along for the ride and is frequently more trouble than the baggage. Rather than having to fit yourself into the role of Passepartout, think of it instead as you being given a starting set of stats/personality, but after that you are free to mold the character in any number of interesting ways.
The mechanics are simple, you are given a small bit of the story, usually small enough to fit on the screen of a smart phone without needing to scroll, then you get to make a choice. The choices are presented as what the next line of the story or dialogue will be. When you pick one the game smoothly places in line with the previous writing as if it had been there all along and then shows you the result of your choice. It is through these cumulative choices (plus making sure your luggage is full of useful or valuable items and managing your funds) that you plot your journey and move around the map. At every turn there are interesting characters to meet and subplots to discover, some of which will follow you around the globe. The writing is superb and keeps you enthralled longer than I would have thought possible in a game that gives you so much agency. It seems there would have to be some boring branches to the story, but there really aren't and even the few places where I wasn't as in to the story didn't seem to last long before something else intriguing came along. Among the things that you can discover are (Spoiler - click to show)Captain Nemo and the Nautilus, a rocket to take you to the moon, a murder mystery that you can solve and a planet-wide conspiracy by the shadowy Artificer's Guild.
The game is also very replayable. There are eight seeds to the story, with some locations or subplots only showing up in certain seeds, and you rotate through them with every playthrough. Additionally, with so many locations on the map you can always just choose to go a different route from your previous playthroughs to see what other parts of the world have to offer. A single playthrough takes about two hours, give or take how fast of a reader you are and if you encounter any material you've already read before and can skip through quickly (but still, there is always the chance to make a different choice from before and see what happens). I've played through this game at least 20 times and know that I'll be back for more again soon. Give it a try, you won't regret it.
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