My first encounter with Jules Verne's Around The World In Eighty Days was not by reading the book but rather watching an anthropomorphic lion and cat travel around the world with a tremendously catchy theme song. 80 Days is probably closer to the source material since the main characters are human and neither are called Willy, but it is no less fantastical with a steampunk alternative reality it presents.
You play as Passepartout, Phileas Fogg's personal valet, and you start the game in London, taking the bet from the members of The Reform Club to see if circumnavigating the globe in fewer than 80 Days is possible. Immediately it becomes apparent that 80 Days is not historically accurate as your first trip from London to Paris involves an aquatic train. As you travel further around the world you'll encounter a wider variety of automata that definitely wouldn't have featured in the 19th century novel.
Before you depart you can grab a few items to take with you, some like train timetables will show you more routes you can take, others will give you stat benefits for certain types of journeys. While you visit different cities you can shop around for things to sell around the globe to fund your travel or to complete certain sets to aid your journey.
Mr Fogg himself is a bit of a delicate flower and needs near constant attention from you. He's probably a bit of a hindrance to Passepartout's journey, coming with a certain type of British egotism when interacting with other nationalities and needing to be groomed and comfortable as much as possible. It is your job to keep Fogg as happy as possible, failing to do so will end your journey just as sure as taking too long to return to London. This means you have to juggle his needs with the need to explore and find information which will help you to get to the next city. Will it be better to take a longer, comfier route or a shorter, rougher ride which might be detrimental to your relationship.
80 Days is heavily text based, like a Choose Your Own Adventure book with a world's worth of branching paths. Almost every interaction you have with other passengers, residents, captains, leaders, spies, rebels and assorted folk will have choices for you to make. Brilliantly you can't be sure what you'll get out of any particular encounter so you'll try anything, just in case. Maybe you'll get information about a route you've not heard of, befriend someone who's piloting an airship you wanted to board or even be warned of a rebellion brewing in a city you were on your way to. By exploring the cities you arrive in you can shape your journey and Passepartout's personality.
Because there are so many choices to make, 80 Days has a lot of replayability. I tried one journey where I thought I'd go up to the arctic circle, quickly go round the North Pole and be back in London in time for dinner. Sadly we got stuck in the snow and froze to death instead. A different journey found us being taken on board the Nautilus by Captain Nemo somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Even the best laid plans can be scuppered by bad luck and the most doomed excursions redeemed by a twist of fate.
Throughout the game the writing is excellent. It gives such a great sense of places and the people you meet and the personalities of Fogg and his valet as they pass on through. Interactions tend to be quite limited since you are always just passing through, but you'll be left with a strong impression of the people you've met on your journey, if not necessarily their names.
At any time in the game you can take a good look at the globe to plan your route, which is handy for those of us who are perhaps geographically challenged when it comes to place names. There are 169 cities to visit so it's handy that you can take a look where they are before spending your cash on a ticket. Speaking of cash, while you start with £4,000 that definitely is not enough to make a whole journey, so you must either buy and sell items or pay a visit to a bank. Assuming the city you're in has a bank, you get to choose how much you need but the larger the sum the more of your precious travel time you have to waste waiting for the transfer.
With modern technology having taken a lot of the mystique out of global travel and the pandemic having taken a lot of the actually travelling out of it, it's nice to virtually explore the far flung recesses of the world in such an expansive and free manner. Although if I were going to make the journey myself I'd pick a travelling companion who can shine his own damn shoes.
Article written by John Edwards
Banner Graphic created by Paul L. Russell.