What is it?
80 Days…? 80 days of what? 80 days of rain? 80 days
of mystery? 80 days of chocolate? No, it's 80 days of running around
international cities, fetching and carrying, promoting the wearing of the
Scottish kilt and tracing Uncle Lavisheart’s patent claims!
Here we are again, reviewing a game based upon a
Jules Verne story. I don't know whether it's just coincidence, but it
seems to me that it's a real fad just now for people to make Verne's
stories into games. Still, they're works of great fiction (OK, my opinion
only, but this is my review, so it's my opinion that counts) and they make
for interesting games, even if they have to be twisted away from the
original plot to meet modern publishers' expectations.
80 Days is, at heart, an adventure game about an attempt to duplicate the
famous (some would say infamous) journey of one Phileas Fogg around the
globe in 80 days. However, the reality is much more complex.
Is there a plot?
that, in the past, most people would have written a game that attempted to
duplicate much more faithfully the original story. For a start, they would
have included the original protagonists, Fogg and Passepartout in
particular. Not to mention the other major plot elements such as the bank
robbery that inspires the detective Fix to chase Fogg throughout the
story, the rescue of Mrs Aouda, the arrest, trial and imprisonment of
Passepartout, the attack of the Indians upon the transcontinental train,
and the hot air balloon race to London at the end.
fashion for ‘translating’ or ‘retelling’ Verne’s stories has hit this plot
outline hard, however. So, instead of Fogg and Passepartout, we have
Oliver, the nephew of Matthew Lavisheart, who must traverse the globe in
the requisite 80 days, retrieving evidence of Lavisheart’s four greatest
So much for
the easy bit, now for the twist; a number of the other characters have
made it into the modern story. Though I’m not going to reveal their roles
any further, a new Fix, Aouda, and the Indians are still there,
furthermore Fogg, Passepartout and Detective Fix are mentioned, and of
course, there are many more characters who don’t come from the original
story. There’s more; in a particularly weird choice of plot elements,
Frogwares have asked Oliver to perform that seemingly impossible task of
persuading the men of the world that the Scottish kilt is the next big
fashion statement. Now, I’ve nothing at all against the kilt – I own and
wear my own at least two or three times a year – but putting this mission
into the confines of an adventure seems to me to be skirting (sic!) rather
close to the borders of insanity.
aside, however, the plot of 80 Days is full-some to say the least. There
are twists and turns all over the world, and the result is a plot that
keeps going and going without getting stale. I like Frogware’s version of
How do you play?
Let me be
clear right away; this game is about time, it is the
of the game, therefore the whole game is one gigantic timed sequence. If
you don’t like timed sequences, don’t bother with anything more than
Tourist mode. Mind you, even Tourist mode keeps up the comparison between
your progress and that of Fogg’s in the original story.
have an odd, twisted plot from minds that are clearly twisted too, so what
does this mean for the gameplay of this game? More oddities, that’s what.
Once you’ve decided upon the level of difficulty from Tourist (easy),
through Globe-Trotter, to Adventurer (difficult), and waited for the
loooong level loading screen to pass (I’ll come back to this later), we
begin with the inevitable exposition of the plot – Oliver is set his
mission: to save the old man’s credibility, house and fortune by
retrieving the patents for his four greatest inventions. Nothing out of
the ordinary there then.
I chose to
play on ‘Adventurer’ level, to get a full-blooded flavour of the pressures
of completing the game to the timetable and within the budget. Unlike
almost every computer software project I’ve ever seen. ;-)
into the game proper, we have a fully 3D environment, in the third person
view (over the shoulder of our hero, Oliver) where the movements of Oliver
are controlled from the keyboard (ASDW by default) with ‘inventory’,
‘timeline’, ‘run’, ‘crouch’, ‘jump’ and ‘action’ buttons in a reasonably
easy layout (of course, you can change these in the Options panel), and
the camera position is controlled from the mouse. Left click is also the
‘action’ button, and right click the ‘inventory’ button, with the scroll
wheel (if you have one) doing double duty as a simple zoom on the camera,
or next/previous inventory item control when the inventory is visible.
Verne-ian games by Kheops Studios (‘Return to Mysterious Island’ and
‘Voyage’), where the game is very static, though nicely animated, 80 Days
is much more dynamic. For example, your inventory can be accessed and
scrolled at almost any time with the mouse, whilst Oliver is running
around a location, whilst the camera is moving and plenty of other
characters and objects are moving in the environment too.
people will prefer the first person, pure point-and-click-ness of the
former games, but I am finding that, as I get older, I am enjoying these
faster-paced hybrid action adventures more and more. To get a little more
personal, I have recently damaged my right shoulder through bad-posture at
the computer and over-use/mis-use of the mouse (it’s OK, no need for
sympathy; it’s entirely self-induced), and so I’ve switched hands – left
hand mousing, right hand on the keys. Despite this, I found I could still
play 80 Days by simple control changes in the Options menu.
I was most
surprised that this game is so linear. The plot goes from one mini-task to
the next one; you’ve rarely got more than one or two objectives at any
given moment. And yet this doesn’t result in a forced plot, because you’re
always busy looking for the next objective. Perhaps this was connected
with playing to a tight time constraint on the Adventurer difficulty
like the environments in 80 Days. The colours and textures are vivid and
detailed; there are little jokes hidden in various pictures and billboards
around the cities. All the cities are large and complex, and what’s more,
you don’t explore every nook and cranny of each location. This leads to a
very good sense of a larger world context. This is also true of the
mega-vehicles that Oliver employs to travel between cities. There’s a
gargantuan steam train, an enormous airship (or rather, several airships)
and an extensive luxury cruise ship.
are there the mega-vehicles, but there are also vehicles for getting
around the cities. There are some that are common to all locations; the
monocycle seen on the 80 Days logo, a flying carpet (with patterns
appropriate to the specific cities), and a steam tricycle that I found
quite tricky to drive. The monocycle is a real vehicle, by the way -
Google it if you’re in doubt! Then there are the city-specific vehicles; a
camel for Cairo, an elephant in Bombay, and a racing car for San
Francisco. I must admit I used the racing car in San Francisco, but the
monocycle is my personal favourite overall.
80 Days has
one of the nicest user interfaces I’ve seen in a long time. Elegant
clockwork-themed controls overlay the screen in a discreet manner that
manages never to get in the way of the main screen. There’s a very useful
mini-map that guides you from objective to objective. If there’s no
objective showing, it’s usually because you haven’t fully completed a
character interaction at the end of the previous objective.
racing around the world, we have a clock in the interface. The rate of
progress of this multi-function timepiece is determined by your choice of
the level of difficulty. The harder the level, the faster the clock moves.
Since we have a clock to tell us what time it is, we also get puzzles that
require your attendance at a particular time of day – clothes shops in San
Francisco are only open (apparently) from 9AM to 5PM, whilst the harem in
Cairo is left unguarded during the hours of darkness! Not only that, but
we have weather effects (sun and rain mostly) and the visible passage of
night and day. Not entirely novel, but nicely done!
Adventurer level places you under considerable time pressures, and this
means that Oliver has to run and drive fast everywhere to keep up with
Fogg’s schedule (the benchmark against which you perform) and you rarely
have time to get things wrong. I often found myself doing a given section
of the game twice; once (or more, on several occasions) to explore and
figure out what to do, and then again to fit the challenge within a
sensible timeframe so as not to get behind Fogg’s schedule. A comparative
timeline is available to you at the touch of a button, though it’s no more
helpful than the red or green light next to the clock that indicates
‘late’ or ‘okay’ relative to Fogg.
Adventurer level also places limits upon the amount of money you have
available for your global circumnavigation, but I never found this aspect
to be at all limiting.
Now for the
music in the game. When I first heard the music playing over the loading
screen I thought, ‘this is going to get really annoying before too long.’
But, much to my ongoing amazement, the jazzy upbeat songs did quite the
opposite – they really grew on me. Now I’m not sure if this is an
indictment upon my taste in music… I think I’ll leave that one as an
exercise for the reader. Still, the references to the Bangles’ ‘Walk Like
An Egyptian’ certainly made me pay attention. Oh dear, I really haven’t
done anything positive for my credibility as a music lover!
This is a
game of oddities - so many have already been covered, but there’s more!
Unfortunately, these are the ones Frogwares should have left out.
There are a
lot of places in 80 Days where there are fussy hotspots. There are no
crosshairs, nor is there a mouse-pointer in the main game (there is in the
menu screens, but that’s not relevant here), so you have to get Oliver to
be looking in the right direction, sometimes very precisely, before
clicking the ‘action’ button (or left click). Whilst this is not quite
pixel hunting, it is but one step away from it.
automatically saves when Oliver completes a significant objective, and
sometimes when he has completed an insignificant one if the next one might
need several attempts. This save strategy is something for which I have a
deep and abiding hatred. There are times when I need to be able to stop
playing a game immediately. Not at some unknown point in the future –
now! And I don’t want to have to throw away any progress I might have
made to that point. What’s more, and beyond my personal control issues,
this feature makes the gameplay experience rather console-like. I find
this most odd where there’s no version available for PS2, Xbox, or
anything other than a Windows PC!
game takes an excessively loooong time to load each level. Now admittedly
my PC only has 512MB RAM (only?!), but that’s the only way in which
it is short of the published Recommended Requirements for this game. I
could literally walk away from the game and go and make a cup of coffee
(starting with a cold empty kettle) whilst the game loaded a level. Couple
this with checkpoint saving, and you have a recipe for player frustration.
So far I’ve
only covered the things that Frogwares deliberately put into the game; now
for the bugs.
I am sorry
to say that 80 Days contains serious bugs. There are frequent stop-start
moments when driving around the cities (particularly San Francisco), there
are graphical issues with disappearing objects – in one case my entire
cabin on the cruise ship vanished just when I needed to get in there. The
door was replaced by blue sky and animated fluffy clouds; a most
disconcerting view when you’re about 2 decks below the water line of a
the biggest repeated error I experienced was a crash-to-desktop when going
back to an earlier checkpoint within San Francisco when already playing in
to the 80 Days website, this game is based upon Verne’s most popular
novel. In my opinion (hey, it’s my review; so sue me!), it certainly has a
plot that is worthy of that ancestor, with technical innovations and
features to match, but it is very sadly let down by the bugs. In the end,
none of the bugs were actually complete show stoppers, as I was able to
complete the whole game, allowing me to witness the
where Lavisheart reveals the plot behind the plot (I’ll say no more!), but
they certainly made it difficult and frustrating to get there. But for
these not insignificant problems, I would have whole-heartedly awarded it
As I was
finishing the game, Frogwares released a patch that “improves game
stability and compatibility, fixes unspecified minor bugs, and adds a
tutorial guide.” I didn’t find that it fixed any of the issues I’ve
summary of 80 Days: hybrid action/adventure, good story, varied dynamic
environments, no sliders, mazes or sound puzzles, lots and lots of timed
sequences, fun music, big shame about the bugs.
What do you need to play it?
OS: Windows 98/Me/2000/XP (only)
Processor: Pentium 1GHz and AMD Athlon
Card: 64MB DirectX 9-compliant video card
Card: DirectX 9-compliant sound card (DirectX 9 is on the
CD-ROM: 8x CD-ROM
Space: 2GB free
Peripherals: Windows-compatible keyboard and mouse
Requirements (where different from the Recommended)
Processor: Pentium 2 GHz and AMD Athlon or higher
Card: 128MB DirectX 9-compliant 3D accelerated video card
CD-ROM: 24x CD-ROM
(I used Win
XP, AMD XP 2400+, 512 MB RAM, and ATI Radeon 9000 Pro 128 AGP)
design copyright ©