80 Days review

Inkle Studios imagines a next-gen Choose Your Own Adventure in 80 Days, a hypertext riff on the novel Around the World in 80 Days.
Inkle Studios imagines a next-gen Choose Your Own Adventure in 80 Days, a hypertext riff on the novel Around the World in 80 Days.
Inkle Studios imagines a next-gen Choose Your Own Adventure in 80 Days, a hypertext riff on the novel Around the World in 80 Days.

Highs

  • Ever-changing narrative offers lots of replay value
  • A game that makes perfect use of the platform is was made for

Lows

  • No in-game method for keeping track of travel advice
  • New routes seem bafflingly buried at times

DT Editors' Rating

Who’d have thought that contracting cholera could equate to satisfying tension? In fairness, it was my traveling companion and employer Phileas Fogg who was struck ill after spending too much time in Manila. We were both stuck in Honolulu for a full week though, and that’s a long time to idle in a tropical paradise when you’re trying to circumnavigate the globe in no more than 80 days.

Inkle Studios’ iOS game 80 Days plays like a loving tribute to the classic Choose Your Own Adventure novels of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Based on Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, players take the role of Jean Passepartout, the valet that accompanied Fogg on his globe-trotting journey.

Inkle Studios’ iOS game 80 Days plays like a loving tribute to the classic Choose Your Own Adventure novels.

The key achievement here is in the writing. 80 Days is an expertly crafted interactive text adventure in which players tap to select the next line in a novel that seems to write itself as you go. Sometimes you’re selecting from a set of direct actions, but others you’re just picking which flavor text suits you. It’s story development by way of hypertext.

Each new city you visit turns the journey in different directions. It’s not strictly randomized; there are fixed events in each location that may or may not occur. You’re only going to catch cholera from visiting Manila and you’re only going to (possibly) be teleported halfway around the world if you embark on a desert expedition. Characters from the novel such as Mr. Fix pop up, but the unfolding of each event is always dictated in part by the choices you make.

Alongside the text adventure is a light exploration and resource management game that consists of sleuthing out as many travel routes as you can and buying/selling goods – or taking out bank loans – to pay for each new voyage. Amidst this is Fogg’s ever-diminishing health, which you manage by seeing to his needs.

The cycle of play thus becomes a juggling act as you attend to Fogg, seek out new destinations, and manage your ever-diminishing funds with each new city you visit. All while you remain alert for the odd occurrences that can pop up when two individuals travel to parts unknown.

All of the text is complemented by eye-catching illustrations that further color every step of the journey. 80 Days isn’t a graphical adventure game in the sense that you’re observing your environment in search of meaningful details. The images that lie beneath the words contribute to the sense of place in the same way that an ambient score would. The game could exist without the graphics, but it’s better off with them.

There’s very little to knock about Inkle’s inventive approach, an evolution of its earlier iOS game, Sorcery. It’s sometimes maddeningly difficult to tease out a seemingly obvious route from one city to another. You’d think that a direct travel option would be able to take you from Burlington to New York, but we were forced to head south to New Orleans before circling back up through Washington, D.C. to get to the Big Apple. It’s possible to fill out your route map by conversing with fellow travelers, but the game never goes out of its way to explain how this system actually works.

It’s story development by way of hypertext.

Each trip around the world is also long enough that the lack of a journal chronicling your interactions becomes a notable absence. Passepartout picks up lots of information along the way about the different places he and Fogg may visit, and there’s no easy way to refer back to those details unless you’re taking notes independently. Which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s also not something that’s telegraphed very clearly.

80 Days is one of the more inventive games in the iOS App Store, a Choose Your Own Adventure complemented by familiar play mechanics. In grounding its ever-changing tale in a familiar work of fiction, Inkle has created an accessible work of narrative hypertext that is perfectly designed for mobile platforms. It’s rare to find a story-driven game that lends itself well to multiple playthroughs, but 80 Days is just such a rarity.

This game was reviewed on an iPhone 5S using a copy purchased by the author.

Highs

  • Ever-changing narrative offers lots of replay value
  • A game that makes perfect use of the platform is was made for

Lows

  • No in-game method for keeping track of travel advice
  • New routes seem bafflingly buried at times
Product Review

Brutal and emotional, 'God of War' is everything a blockbuster game should be

In a new land, on a new journey, God of War evolves beyond the button-mashing action of its youth into an action game with engaging combat and an engrossing story.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this summer with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Castle Rock'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we've put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

Amazon Prime brings more perks than just free two-day shipping. Subscribers get access to a huge library of TV shows to stream at no extra cost. Here are our favorite TV shows currently available on Amazon Prime.
Gaming

The best PS1 games of all time

Take a stroll down memory lane with the 50 best games ever released for the original PlayStation.
Gaming

The ‘Fortnite’ sky rift is closing and rumored to disappear next week

Fortnite's giant sky rift that has lit up the sky for the entirety of season 5 is slowly closing and is rumored to completely disappear next week. Find out what's happening and why it is here.
Gaming

‘Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’ gets battle royale ‘Blackout’ beta September 10

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will hold a beta for its battle royale Blackout mode in September, and it will be available first to those who pre-ordered the game on PlayStation 4. The game releases October 12.
Product Review

'NBA 2K19' will dunk on you, but don’t worry. You’re going to like it.

NBA 2K19 makes smart changes that force you to dig deep into your bag of tricks to succeed. This might be the most accurate virtual version of NBA basketball yet.
Computing

Steam survey shows PC gamers are still mostly playing in 1080p and lower

Valve Software’s latest hardware and software survey for July 2reveals that 63.72 percent of Steam’s registered members still play games with a 1080p resolution. Even more, only 1.14 percent are playing at a 4K resolution.
Mobile

Here’s how to safely download ‘Fortnite: Battle Royale’ on an Android device

'Fortnite: Battle Royale' is one of the biggest games in the world right now, and it's finally on Android, even if getting set up is a bit long-winded. Here's how to play 'Fortnite: Battle Royale' on an Android device.
Gaming

Storytelling masterpiece ‘Gone Home’ is headed to the Nintendo Switch

Fullbright's acclaimed first-person adventure game Gone Home will arrive to Nintendo Switch later this month. The game is available now on PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Gaming

‘Battlefield V’ pre-order numbers have been underwhelming, analysts say

Market analysts at Cowen have said that the early pre-order numbers for Electronic Arts' upcoming shooter Battlefield V have been disappointing. The game is scheduled to arrive this October.
Computing

Gaming on a laptop has never been better. These are your best options

Gaming desktops are powerful, but they tie you down to your desk. For those of us who prefer a more mobile experience, here are the best gaming laptops on the market, ranging from budget machines to maxed-out, wallet-emptying PCs.
Computing

Asus claims ‘world’s thinnest’ title with its new Zephyrus S gaming laptop

The Republic of Gamers arm at Asus is claiming “world’s thinnest” with the introduction of its new Zephyrus S gaming laptop measuring just 0.58 inches at its thinnest point. The company also revealed the Strix SCAR II.
Gaming

How to connect a Nintendo Switch controller to your PC

Nintendo's Switch controllers, including the Joy-Cons and the aptly titled Pro Controller, use Bluetooth, which makes them compatible with your PC. Here's how to start using them for PC gaming.