First posted on 15 April 2008. Last updated on 17 July 2010.
80 Days is an adventure game loosely based on Jules Verne's famous fictional novel Around the World in 80 Days. At first glance, you may be enticed by the game's few original ideas, decent graphics, and colorful characters. Once you start playing the game, however, you will be overwhelmed quickly by its frustrating controls, inconsistent puzzles, awful music, and dreadful voice acting.
The game is set in London in 1899. You take on the role of Oliver Lavisheart, a young Englishman who has agreed to help his uncle Matthew to collect proof of the inventions that his uncle has made around the world. Not only has Oliver's uncle made a bet against his detractors about these inventions, he will also be sacked from his job if Oliver can not recover, within 80 days, 4 lost patents that will prove the authenticity of his uncle's inventions. For Oliver, the chance to travel around the world makes for a good excuse to escape from his arranged marriage back home. Oliver will need to follow the footsteps of Phileas Fogg (from Verne's novel) to Egypt, India, Japan, and finally America, where he must reclaim his uncle's inventions before time runs out. The journey will not be easy, though. This is because Oliver's nemesis (who happens to be Inspector Fix' son) will play some dirty tricks on Oliver to thwart his globetrotting plan, so to make him loose time and, consequently, his uncle's bet.
The graphics in 80 Days is probably the best part of this game. The characters are well drawn, and the environments are beautifully rendered. In fact, the different locations around the world which you will visit in the game have all been recreated with such great detail and atmosphere that they make you really feel like you are visiting these countries in person. Unfortunately, the game engine that renders these 3D graphics is seriously flawed. There are notable graphical glitches, in part because of the steep system requirements that are needed to run this game properly. In particular, certain objects in the game can disappear or fail to be rendered completely if the screen resolution is set too low. This is problematic since these glitches can make some puzzles (an example is the puzzle with the airship and the kilts) totally unplayable.
The audio in 80 Days is weak. The music is repetitive, labored, and adds little to the ambience. It is an odd mix of the '70s disco tunes that do not fit well to the time era when the game takes place. In fact, the music is so annoying that it even makes you want to play the game muted. The voice acting is awful too. Even if the roles are made to be overacted in order to give the characters a comedic touch, they are still badly acted. The dialogs are full of bad jokes that are not funny, written by someone who has a strange and an irritating sense of humor (Guild for the Promotion and Acceptance of the Kilt, anyone?).
The gameplay in 80 Days is arguably the weakest part of this game. The game is played from a third-person perspective using both a keyboard and a mouse. However, the controls are so clumsy and uncomfortable that maneuvering Oliver is an exercise in frustration. You will need a lot of patience to master even the most basic moves, such as running straight. You cannot make Oliver strife smoothly to the left or right; instead, he will only move in short, slow, little steps as if he has a pair of stiff wooden legs. To interact with an object, you must first physically move Oliver close to the object on screen (you cannot just point and click). A thin green border appears around any object that can be taken or manipulated. The hotspot can be difficult to see, however, so unless you are standing in the right place and looking from the right angle of view, it can be easily missed. Even if you can detect a hotspot, you will waste a lot of time maneuvering Oliver to the right place to be able to interact with it. Given that the game is a timed race, the poor controls can be stifling. Likewise, it is very difficult to maneuver Oliver past an area unnoticed. To go stealth, you first need to crouch down. Once down, however, Oliver moves slower than a slug and you cannot strife to move in parallel with the guards (to see their movements) from whom you are trying to hiding. This means that you are often resorted to just haphazardly stand up, run, and hope that the guards do not see you (you are unable to see the guards while you are sneaking behind them). The game automatically saves itself at each checkpoint, but because there is no option to manually save the game, you must replay parts of the game after each reload.
The inventory in 80 Days is merely a space to hold your money that you can use to bribe the guards, messages you have received from your uncle, and other small items you have collected in your journey. With rare exceptions, objects in the inventory cannot interact with each other to solve puzzles. The few puzzles that exist in this game, including logic based puzzles, are quite repetitive. The puzzles vary in the level of difficulty; some are easy, while others are challenging. Other puzzle types will bring some much needed variety to this game.
Character interactions in 80 Days are very monotonous. Oliver simply asks for the information and gets the answers automatically from the other characters. You cannot choose what to say during a conversation. Likewise, the tasks which you need to complete in each city are very repetitive. Each time you arrive at a new city, you have to collect information about your uncle's inventions. A group of kilt wearing Scotsmen will help you, but only if you can find all 3 of them inside the city. Each man will give you bits of information about another man from whom you can recover the invention. This same routine is repeated every time in every city. While there are additional sub quests to complete inside the cities, they are equally dull and repetitive.
Not all parts of this game are bad. The game also has some redeeming elements. An interesting feature is the Tiredness bar. It shows how tired Oliver is at any given time of the day and night. The bar decreases as time passes inside the game. It is replenished whenever Oliver eats or sleeps. If the bar reaches zero before Oliver arrives at his hotel, he will fall asleep in the streets and recover only half of the energy that he normally recovers at the hotel. A clock shows the current progress Oliver is making relative to Phileas Fogg's original journey around the world. If too much time is lost, you will find yourself falling days behind in your journey. The game offers 3 levels of difficulty: Tourist, Globe-trotter, and Adventurer. These modes differ in how fast time passes inside the game and how much money you have to spend in the game. The Tourist mode (easiest level) suspends the gradual passage of time inside the game so that only scripted events will move time forward. In both the Globe-trotter and Adventurer modes, time does not stand still.
80 Days is a sizable game. The game is released in both CD-ROM and DVD-ROM versions. The 4 cities (Cairo, Bombay, Yokohama, San Francisco) in Oliver's travel are quite big, so you will need time (time that you may not have) to explore around during your missions. A small map aids you in your travel inside the cities. An arrow on the map shows the direction you need to go. You can reduce your travel time within the cities by renting various peculiar means of transportation, such as a flying carpet, a tricycle, or even a big motorized wheel (though the common camel or elephant is also available). Sadly, all these different transports share the same clumsy and unresponsive controls as those for maneuvering Oliver on foot. Thankfully, the transports that are used to travel from city to city are more elaborate. You can choose to travel by land (in a train), by sea (in a ship), or by air (in a zeppelin). Regardless of which transport you choose, you will have to complete a series of puzzles or quests before arriving at the next city. All the transports have a Victorian look in their design and are quite beautifully rendered. Sadly, they are merely eye candy and do nothing to help the game otherwise.
Despite some good elements, 80 Days is marred by awkward gameplay and clumsy controls, leaving the player often frustrated and even angry in the end. To be fair, though, the premise of the game is interesting and the graphics offer a lot in its visual appeal. Unfortunately, there are just too many faults in this game for me to recommend it. 80 Days is a fair game, but too much is missing for it to be a great game.