Cheap Game Tuesday: ’80 Days’

Ah, the glory days of the iOS App store, where bedroom programmers and artists flocked to the new platform to build their careers on innovation and originality. Now it’s a mess of Candy Crush Saga, Smurf’s Village and Age of War clones. Getting originality out of the app store had become less likely than it giving you romantic candlelight dinner.

At least that’s what I thought. Turns out the occasional gem shines out amid the shit and one of those gems is 80 Days. A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style story game with simple RPG elements and set in a Steampunk variation on Jules Verne’s classic novel Around the World in 80 Days. You take on the role of Passepartout, valet to the British Gentleman Phineas Fogg who has taken on a wager to travel the world London to London in 80 days. It seems a simple enough task – and a single-minded player can complete it with weeks to spare – but the true adventure is in the journey.

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As Passepartout you have the options of planning the journey, managing funds, ensuring your master’s health and trading with the locals. Banks can be visited and money can be transferred at the cost of time but with enough savvy the trip can be funded by buying items common to one port and selling them where they are rare. Collecting up different sets of clothing and items can make particular aspects of the journey easier, such as the three items for the seafarer set making the boat journeys smoother. Some items can be used to bribe officials or loosen tongues, such as cigars or a deck of cards.

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Most of the game comes in the text sections that crop up in cities on long legs of travel. Exploring cities will give you little mini-adventures that you select responses to, determining your character, giving new information that may come in useful or opening up new routes. Every time you take a new path a different set of stories will open up to you. These range from solving murders on an airship to leading a mutiny on a steamer vessel to chasing smugglers through the Middle East.

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The Steampunk setting goes a long way to giving the game flavour. Rather than a visual quirk or a gimmick it’s a well thought out world. Beginning with automation horse and carriages who’ll encounter a range of airship designs, automations being given rights in Rome, submersible trains and even the Taj Mahal as a giant, walking city. There’s plenty of interesting backstory to discover and it’ll take a couple of laps of the globe if you want to see it all.

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As an app store purchase it’s on the higher end of the price scale at a couple of bucks but if you’re a reader and a gamer you’ll get more than your monies worth. If you know the original text they’ll even be a couple of sly in-jokes to enjoy, including a barb about crossing the International Date Line.