80 Days by Inkle

Inkle’s 80 Days is a text-based adventure game that adapts Jules Verne’s 80 Days Around the World, and it’s my latest obsession. (Available for Windows, iOS, and mobile devices!)

You play the valet Passepartout, whose new master has just made a wager that he can travel around the world in 80 days or less. Monsieur Fogg has left all the actual planning to you though. It is your job to choose the best travel routes, obtain the necessary funds, get into and out of all sorts of scrapes, and still iron your master’s shirts. On my first playthrough, I got us kicked out of the Trans-Siberian railway by a fake waiter; on the second, Passepartout kissed Death in New Orleans; on the third, Fogg calmly asked me to arrange a mutiny so we could cross the Pacific faster. I lost track after that!

My excuse for reviewing a SFF game on a SFF book review site is that 80 Days is a modern choose-your-own-adventure book. (While the graphics are lovely, they’re deliberately abstract, so the focus is on the words.) You choose both which city to travel to as well as how Passepartout interacts with Mr Fogg, the locals, and the world’s wondrous steampunk technology. To make the scope clear: there’s about 150 cities to visit; the full game is 750,000 words. But a run-through takes me under two hours, and I typically only visit about 20 cities per game. This makes 80 Days a crazy, extremely replayable, ever-changing novella.

To be fair, I have a particular weakness for the setting: post-colonial steampunk. 80 Days keeps the original book’s spirit of adventure. But Meg Jayanth, the game’s writer, purposefully updated its themes and morals. This not only helps the game discard a lot of the baggage associated with Victorian novels, it simply makes it more fun. There’s a mechanical travelling city in India, a Zulu Emperor who can control deadly automatons, a floating First Nations city, etc etc etc. That’s way more exciting than “Everyone else is a savage, may the British Empire last a thousand years”. I also found it endlessly amusing to play Passepartout as a kind-of travelling revolutionary, subtly and unsubtly encouraging revolt from Serbia to Peru.

Speaking of Passepartout, your choices can make him either snobby or with a zest for new experiences, either clever or bumbling. Regardless, he’s a very entertaining character to follow; his rare serious moments feel genuinely sweet. His employer Mr Fogg acts as a foil: ridiculously (and hilariously) unflappable, with a very deeply hidden heart. And of course there’s tons of others to find during your journey. They all have their own goals and interests, and may help you or hinder you, just as you may help or hinder them. Or you all can just flirt (Passepartout is bi).

In short, 80 Days is a wonderful game that I recommend to anyone who likes steampunk and/or adventure novels. Just be aware: there’s no back button/previous save reloading, so it’s near impossible to play a “perfect” game (I’m so sorry, Mr Fogg, I thought it said decide to jump overboard to rescue your top hat, not decline). If you’re really stuck, the wiki is very thorough. But honestly, without getting lost, getting cholera, or getting kidnapped by pirates, it’d be a pretty boring adventure, no?

80 Days is available on Steam for PC and Mac, and on Google Play and Apple’s App Store for mobile devices.

2 comments

  1. I played this game for an embarrasing amount of time. INKLE is a great company… they worked with Steve Jackson (from the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks) to make a 4-part mobile game series called SORCERY! and it’s similar to 80-days. It’s also HUGE. Like, massive. The Skyrim of CYOA text games. Check it out, they’re seriously great!

    Liked by 1 person

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