Trying to come up with a nomenclature for video games can be a tricky business. People who play them tend to be a fastidious bunch, so lumping things into a genre for the sake of brevity is of the utmost importance.
When you’re playing something where the main gameplay system is choosing routes in a meandering story in order to dictate its outcome, we often call it a visual novel. It usually requires a lot of reading, and the carrot that’s dangled is often plot revelations, so that’s a pretty fitting term. But I’ve also heard people call them “guided narratives”, which I like because it makes it sound much more scholarly than it probably is. But the uninitiated will sometimes call them “walking simulators”, which has a derogatory connotation to it that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
But no matter what I hear them called, I’m always immediately drawn to the fact that these are essentially digital representations of the old Choose Your Own Adventure books, and that’s where my excitement lies for these types of experiences.
Inkle’s 80 Days takes these concepts and adds a bit of role-playing flare to it while adapting Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days into a slightly steam-punk-inspired version of Phineas Fogg and Passepertout’s journey.
The game’s beats are easy to follow: you must choose various routes to make it from London and back while balancing a budget, taking time into consideration and making sure the well-being of Fogg (as the story is told from Passepertout’s perspective) is maintained. Each destination is met with chances to rest, shop for essentials and gather information that might speed or hinder your adventure. 80 Days leaves players to figure out the underpinned mechanics of how it all works, most likely in the name of replayability.
It also adds a bit of tension to the proceedings due to a lack of understanding, which is a tough line to follow. I think I would have rather had things spelled out for me a little bit more, but that’s just me. I’m more interested in seeing where the plot goes than worrying about why me talking to someone or choosing to ride an airship instead of a camel pisses Fogg off.
Being a fan of travel, however, means the allure of replaying the game multiple times does factor in – my curiosity will forever be piqued because I’m the type of person who wonders what would happen if I took a right instead of a left. In this instance I’ll likely be rewarded with new conversations, new conundrums and a new appreciation of how 80 Days was built.
This is a game that I heartily recommend to bibliophiles, especially those who like a bit of sci-fi mixed into their literary classics. An average run lasts only a few hours, but the itch to dive back in immediately is strong. It’s partly because you want to know where the story might go, but added impetus comes from the sense that you can do it quicker and more efficiently than the last time. Fogg might be the “master,” but we all know who’s pulling the strings.
80 Days was developed by Inkle and is available on PC, Switch, Android and iOS. We reviewed the Switch version.
Disclosure statement: review code for 80 Days was provided by Inkle. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.