Submersible trains. Mechanical horses. Airships galore. It's the future... but it's also 1872 in Inkle's adventure sim 80 Days for iOS, based loosely on the Jules Verne classic Around the World in 80 Days. Phileas Fogg has wagered, as the title implies, that he can travel around the entirety of the globe in just eighty days, and as his loyal valet Passepartout, it's your job to make sure he does just that. You'll travel by car, train, horse and more as you explore 150 potential cities along the routes you choose, each one filled with potential surprises, discoveries, and of course... danger. Your funds are limited, so you'll need to figure out how to make money, or make use of the markets to find and sell items from different countries for the most value... or maybe you'll find other uses for them, too. The choices you make will not only impact how things play out and what you encounter, but even shape the character of Passepartout himself. Will he be a quiet, loyal, dependable assistant? A courageous firebrand? But above all else, perhaps even the health of your master Phileas Fogg himself, you'll have to contend with the clock. It never stops ticking, and you don't have all the time in the world...
80 Days plays out like a choose-your-own-adventure style story simulation, with you as Passepartout making literally every decision for Phileas, from what to pack, to where to go, which sort of begs the question as to why he's even there to begin with. The two biggest things to contend with are, of course, time and money. Not only does time pass (unless you're in conversation or reading a scene) as you travel, but while you're exploring towns as well, so it's important to choose the best routes possible and make sure you don't waste precious hours (or days!) fiddling around cities, as you can miss trains and other modes of transportation depending on the time of day. Your inventory initially consists of a single suitcase, and since Passepartout subscribes to the Resident Evil 4 means of inventory management, space is limited to what you can literally fit within the confines of your luggage. You can purchase (or rather, rent) more suitcases, of course, but not only does that cost money, many means of transportation come with luggage limits, so you'll have to purchase, for instance, another car for your travels if you're packing heavy. As a result, you need to think carefully about what you're buying in the markets you'll encounter. A rare wine may fetch a high price later in Berlin, for instance, but is it worth the space it'll take up in your suitcase, and will it pay for itself if you have to buy more luggage?
The other important factor to consider is Phileas' health, which can increase or decrease depending on the things you do. A car ride to the next town might be cheap, but it could be dangerous and hard compared to the comfort and safety of a train. Fortunately, the items you can purchase can help with this. While a long train ride through Russia may be cold, for instance, a warm Russian wardrobe can improve Phileas' health, as well as get you discounts or faster travel times if you have all the items that make up a set. You'll encounter lots of different events as you travel, and as Passepartout, it's up to you to figure out how to handle them. Do you ignore the desperate shady tourist who is trying to keep his bag from being searched or vouch for him? Do you encourage a mech-riding policewoman to turn against her fellow officers and join the disgruntled peasantry? Though in the beginning, you won't have many paths open for you, as you speak to people and explore you'll learn of all the routes available to you all over the world. Manage your time carefully, however, because unlike your finances, you can't get time back again.
Who would have thought a game about planning and packing suitcases would be so entertaining? With its ticking clock 80 Days is always just a little bit stressful, but it also manages to capture a sense of adventure and discovery the way few other games do. Initially, despite how simple its mechanics are to pick up, 80 Days feels a little overwhelming because you'll have no idea what to prepare for. Since routes only become available when you discover them by exploring or chatting up strangers during travel, it's easy to make mistakes on your first playthrough. You'll buy up a bunch of expensive merchandise because the game tells you it's valuable in certain cities, for example, only to discover later on that your journey is going to take you nowhere near those places. It's a game you'll need to play more than once to really begin to succeed at, and fortunately the enormous amount of replay value you'll find here takes a lot of the sting out of it, despite the lack of a manual save feature. The narrative is sparse, often just a few lines of dialogue and short paragraphs for each location, yet evocative in a way that paints this strange alternative history 1872 with its steam machines and wars vividly, and encourages you to explore every opportunity no matter what the consequences.
In a way, the lack of any real direction as to how best to go about your objective to circle the globe actually works in the game's favour. You feel how big and complex the world is, with the intricate politics and social nuances in every country, and intrigue lurks around every corner. It's fun to see what you can get away with as Passepartout, shaping his character through your decisions and discovering how Phileas reacts to them, and after a while you'll probably get distracted from the time limit and just want to explore. It sort of makes you wish the game had a free roam mode, or just the ability to save manually so you could return to a location and explore another option later on instead of having to start over. It's a game about the great unknown, and with its stylish, sleek presentation and massive amount of secrets, events, and cities, also a game that's easy to loose a lot of hours to.
NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the iPad Air. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.