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80 Days

Entry updated 16 January 2021. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (2014). inkle. Designed by Meg Jayanth. Platforms: iOS.

80 Days is a text-based videogame which rewrites Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days (1873; trans 1874) as a Steampunk Adventure. The player witnesses the events of the game through the perspective of the novel's original protagonists; Jean Passepartout, manservant to the dilettante and adventurer Phileas Fogg, who must navigate around the globe in less than eighty days in order to win the game (in both cases framed as a bet made by Fogg with the members of his private dining club).

80 Days combines elements of Choose Your Own Adventure games, allowing the player to decide between different narrative options throughout the game, with more traditional adventure puzzle game elements such as inventory management, fact-finding through the textual exploration of cities, or interrogative conversation with non-player characters. Time management in the form of the ever-present game objective (to circumnavigate the world in eighty days) means that the player must carefully choose a route across the globe to meet their objective, juggling this with exploration of each location, waiting for finances to arrive, or plotting a route that allows Passepartout to sell artefacts in the markets of each location for cash. In addition, Phileas Fogg becomes fatigued if the journey undertaken is too harsh, and the player must either buy items that reduce this – subsequently increasing luggage space and overall travelling costs – or wait for Fogg to recover over time. In the interests of narrative, it is possible to continue playing 80 Days even if the win criteria are not met; although to encourage replayability, it is possible to show the progress of other players at the same time, via the iCloud (an online storage facility which sometimes allows shared data to be seen by others). There are also multiple routes around the world, and several narratives that direct the player in specific directions or derail them if they make incorrect decisions during conversations.

80 Days is ostensibly set in the future, but the Earth depicted in the game is more of an Alternate World where steam-powered Transportation and clockwork Automata (and animals) predominate. The game has also removed several elements of the original book – most notably the character of Aouda is considerably changed – and added routes around the world that allow the player to choose their own path; the game contains over 150 cities and locations. In this respect it also draws on Verne's other writing – namely Five Weeks in a Balloon (1863; trans 1869) and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870 2vols; trans 1872) – in particular through the use of different modes of transport between locations.

80 Days uses the same fundamental game design technology previously employed by inkle to transpose two Fighting Fantasy titles by Steve Jackson; Sorcery! (2013 inkle, iOS; 2014 Android) and Sorcery 2! (2014 inkle, iOS, Android) to a virtual format. These games are based on two Gamebooks by Jackson, respectively The Shamutanti Hills (1983) and Khare – Cityport of Traps (1984). 80 Days also bears strong comparison to interactive comics or story games, which include Telltale Games' The Walking Dead series (2012 Telltale Games, iOS, Kindle X-Fire, Mac, Ouya, PS3, PSVita, PS4, Win, XB360, XB1; 2014, Android) and The Wolf Among Us (2013-2014 Telltale Games, iOS, Mac, PS3, PSVita, PS4, Win, XB360, XB1), although unlike these games, 80 Days was not released episodically. The game has been praised for its diversity and sexual inclusiveness – Passepartout has several romance options or potential encounters, including with Fogg – and the game contains engaging characters from around the world that avoid racial and sexual stereotyping. In this respect, 80 Days is a strong example of an increasing trend in videogames to include diverse relationships and characters throughout their narratives. [EMS]

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