When I came back to Paraguay after living 12 years in Canada, everything seemed new: bigger streets, more shops, industry seemed on the rise. I’d grown older, and little remained the same. However, when I saw my two best friends later on the second day after my arrival, it was as if I’d never left: the laughter, the jokes that clicked even before they were completely spoken, the warmth of good company. That’s the way I felt, instantly, upon revisiting 80 DAYS in order to review it on the Nintendo Switch: familiarity would not, in the end, dampen the full impact of a masterfully executed relationship.
Let me, however, back up a bit for the benefit of those not familiar with 80 DAYS: released by Inkle Studios back in 2014, it instantly became a hit. Revitalizing the text adventure genre in a way that had not been done for decades, 80 DAYS went on to win multiple awards and sell many, many copies. My then-girlfriend-now-wife and I were two of the people who played this game when it launched, all those years ago, on Android. We’d been doing the long-distance thing for three years by then, and we relished every opportunity to share new experiences together. So, I got us each a copy of the game, and off we went. She became good at it instantly, while my poor master (more on that later) died rather quickly after making him drink dirty water. Regardless of the outcome, however, we were both instantly impressed by the storytelling, by the dynamism injected into Jules Verne’s original story (who’d have thought it lacked it?) and the easy-to-learn, hard-to-master bartering, relationship and dialog mechanics. All these years later, none of the charm has gone; indeed, 80 DAYS has aged like the proverbial wine, becoming better rather than turning into vinegar.
You play as Passepartout, the French vallet to Phileas Fogg, a British adventurer set on circumnavigating the globe in 80 days. The year is 1872, but the world isn’t fully as you know it: steampunk adds hints of a robot rebellion and a barrage of new modes of transport, mixing the familiarity of XIX Century politics with lighthearted machinations (pun very much intended). It is up to you to find the best (and cheapest) mode of transport to the next destination, revealing new routes, and hopefully, reaching your goal within the set timeframe. Relationships and exploration make a huge chunk of what will allow you to eventually reach the end of a particular journey, and thankfully, the text-form delivery is exquisitely written. You’ll discover new routes by talking to interesting characters, each revealing something about themselves, and the world they’re living in. There are many mysteries to uncover and many sub-plots to your world, so pay attention as you play. Information is key.
Phileas Fogg, the good chap, has funds, but they are not unlimited, so you’ll do well to buy and sell items as you travel, maximizing profit and ensuring you have enough to continue moving forward. Not everyone, after all, can afford to pay 2900 of their finest British pounds just to get to Calcuta. Buying timetables is a great idea, as it’ll reveal tons of possibilities for traveling on. I won’t spoil much more, as discovering the best strategy is a huge part of what makes 80 DAYS so fun, for so long.
And the replayability: oh, dear! Inkle says that, if you successfully complete a circumnavigation, you’ll have only seen about 3% of the 750.000 words the game has to offer. Just to give you an idea: I worked on localizing an RPG, and the 250.000 words turned into over 100 hours of gameplay. Sure, this game is more text-driven than an RPG, but golly, 750.000 words is a lot of content. And all of it is so, so good.
The Switch port adds, well, not much, other than the ability to play on another platform. In terms of presentation, 80 DAYS’ minimalist style works well, even all these years later, and the Switch port runs perfectly. My only gripe is the same as it was with the original: I wish there was more variety in the music and sound effects. You spend a lot of time reading, so it makes sense to have music as a secondary or tertiary character, but I wish there was more than a couple of tunes on offer.
Aside from that, 80 DAYS continues to be the storytelling masterpiece it’s always been. Travelling its world is as rich as it is fulfilling, and you’re constantly reminded that your choices have a heavy impact on the way the story unfolds. The characters are relatable, personable, and well crafted. 80 DAYS has long since been one of my favorite text adventures, and when I saw it was coming to the Switch, I could not get typing my review code request fast enough. Revisiting this world is, at the very least, a joyous and fulfilling experience. But it is mostly sheer brilliance. If you have not yet played this fantastic reimagining of Verne’s classic, you owe it to yourself to do so (as long as you’re OK with reading… and reading really, really good stuff).