Jules Verne Meets Steampunk in 80 Days App

Image: Inkle
Image: Inkle

London 1872.

You are the valet to Monsieur Phileas Fogg who has just taken on a wager that he can travel around the world in 80 days. You don’t have much choice in the matter. You are to leave with him directly.

Though Fogg is the one who took on this wager, you, Passepartout, must make all the decisions of what route to take, what to buy and sell, and what to say to the locals. Can you make it around the world in time?

Based on the novel by Jules Verne, 80 Days is both very simple in concept and elaborate in execution. With fairly basic graphics and maps, the game is more story driven and word based (the website calls it “text-based interactive fiction”).

Plan your route by looking at the globe. Image: Inkle
Plan your route by looking at the globe. Image: Inkle

The story begins in London with Monsieur Phileas Fogg in a steam-carriage, talking to you, Passepartout the valet, and declaring that you both would be going on a trip around the world. You chose which text to tap in reply, so it’s a bit like a Choose Your Own Adventure story. The game gives you £4000 to begin, and your Day 1 starts at 7pm on a Tuesday. Fogg’s comfort is measured in hearts, and you start with 100 of them. You also begin with a suitcase with two wool shirts and one wool trousers. You can purchase some additional items to take with you on the trip, but don’t take too much. Some modes of transportation only allow for a certain number of suitcases. Each item you can buy gives a description including where/how it will be helpful. I chose to start off with the rifle and the train timetable. Any time you buy a timetable, new routes are discovered on the map. (Other ways of discovering new routes are to explore cities and talk to people.)

Your journey begins with a leg to Paris. You start off easy, being allowed to take your one suitcase, and the journey is smooth, “costing” zero hearts. On arduous routes, the hearts will deplete, but eventually regenerate with rest and comfort. Also, carrying certain items, such as the Englishman’s Wardrobe, moderate the loss in hearts.

A ferry is one way to travel. Image: Inkle
A ferry is one way to travel. Image: Inkle

You flit from city to city, being pulled into adventures in some places, avoiding trouble in others. Every once in a while, the game gives you feedback about how your relationship with Fogg is doing, and how presentable you are. At one point I was even suave!

While traveling, you can have conversations with fellow passengers or the crew, you can tend to Fogg’s needs (increasing the hearts), or you can just read the newspaper. You travel on any number of conveyances, such as train, ferry, airship, car, submersible, and carriage. In each city, time actually passes while you try to make decisions, such as going to the market, the bank, the hotel, or planning the next leg in your trip. This may be nerve wracking at first, but once you figure out what you’re supposed to do, you realize that the game gives you plenty of time.

Much of the game is spent reading stories and making choices. Image: Inkle
Much of the game is spent reading stories and making choices. Image: Inkle

While you start out with £4000, you do have to pay for your voyages. There are a couple of ways to get more money. You can visit the bank and borrow money, or you can buy and sell items that are cheap in one place but more valuable in others. I chose the latter route, occasionally altering my physical route to visit places where certain items were in demand.

As you travel, you control the storyline somewhat, making choices that affect your materials and supplies, and direction/mode of travel. But the general push toward circumnavigating the globe is the same. You can sometimes pay extra to carry more luggage or to leave a day or two earlier than scheduled, but these options aren’t always available. Plan accordingly.

It doesn’t take long to get the hang of what you’re doing, but at first it might take some trial and error. There aren’t any help menus, but after some tapping here and there, you get the idea. For example, if you find a route to a place but can’t travel there, that’s because the train may not be leaving until the next day, and the game kind of forces you to stay in a hotel for the night.

One bit of strategy is to take notes as you play, noting advice that people give you for where to travel, what to buy and sell, and what cities connect to each other. Talking with others is a big part of the game. Many stories are shared with you on your journey. You encounter a surprising number of women for it being the late 1800s as well, and in positions of great responsibility, such as airship captain. This was a pleasant surprise.

In addition to being able to see where you are on the globe, you are also racing other actual people, and it shows their locations on your globe, along with what day of the journey they are on.

You have 80 days to make your way around the world, and it isn’t actually all that difficult. But it’s a thrilling and exciting game for those of us who love travel and history (and steampunk fans will enjoy that aspect quite a bit). Once you finally make it back to London, there is a crowd welcoming you. I made it in 61 days on my first try without too much effort. I just didn’t go looking for trouble, so trouble often avoided me.

Once the game is complete, you have the option to share your results. If you do, it will email a URL whose webpage details your journey. If you open the webpage on your device, you can even view the journey in-game, and race against it to improve your score!

Since there are a few parts of the game where it takes a darker turn, such as people being converted into partial machines, war, and political strife, I feel that it’s generally a game for adults and older teens.

80 Days costs $4.99 and is a universal app available for iPhone and iPad. I was hoping that it would be more historically based and less fantasy/steampunk, but it was still great fun and a wonderful premise.

Note: I received this app for review purposes.

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