80 Days Review: 5-Stars! A Big Step Forward in iOS Interactive Fiction
If you’re not one for reading books or getting sucked into a great fictional story, then don’t read the App Store description of developer inkle’s 80 Days too closely. If you did take a look at the praise being heaped on this game, chances are you’d come to know it’s based on an old novel written by Jules Verne and published way back in 1873. But see, fan of literature or not, it would be such a shame if you let that fact stop you from experiencing what will undoubtedly go down as a classic in iOS interactive fiction.
The genre itself (“interactive fiction”) is still being defined on the iOS platform, but with any luck, inkle’s 80 Days will act as a guiding light for developers who may come after… In case you’re unaware of the Verne novel, then suffice it to say that 80 Days is set in 1872, and relates the story of a man named Phileas Fogg who sets out to circumnavigate the world in—you guessed it—just 80 days. Fogg isn’t by himself though. His companion and valet Passepartout are along for the ride, which will take place on airships, submarines, mechanical camels, stream-trains, and plenty of other imaginative means.
So, how does all of that get packed into one 5-dollar smartphone app? We could just say “magically,” and leave it at that, but I guess we owe you more… The team at inkle has found an incredible way to impart the full scope of adventure written into 80 Days, and make it accessible from any number of angles.
The gameplay found in 80 Days might be described as a mix of strategy and role-playing. One thing is for sure, always expect a decision to be right around the corner. After the story gets underway and the major players are introduced, it’s up to you as Passepartout to start deciding what should be packed and what routes will be taken. Based on your decisions (which unfold as text-based selections amongst multiple options), your relation with Fogg will change, as will the amount of time it takes you to get from one place to the next.
It might not sound like a “game” in the sense you’ve come to expect from the App Store, but there’s no doubt that 80 Days packs wonderment unlike most other titles currently available. As your own journey unfolds, you’ll never be far from a view of your progress on the globe, as well as the positions of everyone else playing the game thanks to the app’s network connectivity. Seeing the routes of others not only makes you feel like playing game is a part of something bigger, but also provides a measuring stick and competition of sorts.
There’s no question that the developers of 80 Days benefitted majorly from the inklewriter engine (which powers the game Sorcery!). The interface through which you’ll be reading a lot of text and viewing maps is snappy and vividly drawn. All frustrations of load times or lagging are completely avoided, and you get the sense that this game was built on a framework that can not only handle the game at hand, but might also produce a lot more great titles in the future.
Also lending originality and memorable moments to 80 Days are an original score from Laurence Chapman, a script by Meg Jayanth (said to total a half-million words!), and art by Jaume Illustration. We’re not expecting you to know these names, but take it as indication that no corners have been cut in inkle’s great effort to pay homage to Verne’s steampunk tale, while offering a myriad of unique twists at the same time.
The only word of caution to be said in regards to 80 Days is the same as the one that comes along with many other great iOS games that don’t fit neatly in any one category. While there’s an experience unlike any other to be had here, some might disagree about whether it’s best defined as an actual game or a different way to read and participate in one of the great literary works of a century gone by. Regardless of which side of that argument you side with, it’s safe to say that 80 Days is an app of such quality that it’ll leave yo satisfied at the end, and maybe even ready to go on the journey for a second time. At $4.99, this is one of those apps that should be given the label of too good to be true.
Our Score: 5 out of 5 Stars