Reviewed: March 11, 2006
Released: December 13, 2005
80 Days is an adventure game from Frogwares, who has a history of taking stories from popular novels and converting them into adventure games. They've done two games based on Sherlock Holmes, The Silver Earring, and The Mystery of the Mummy. They also did an adventure from another Jules Verne novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth. Those games all got fairly average reviews in most of the gaming press. Now 80 Days, based on the Jules Verne novel, Around the World in 80 Days, is their latest conversion from print to the PC screen.
Like their other games, 80 Days does not directly follow the plot of the book. Not really even remotely, actually. Instead, you play the role of Oliver, a young man who seeks a life of adventure and avoiding a life of marriage and settling down. When his uncle asks him to fulfill a bet that he can make it around the globe in 80 days, and by the way, collect a bunch of his uncle's inventions along the way, well young Oliver just can't hardly say no to that. And neither can you, the player.
Somehow the game jumps magically from London to Cairo, where the first real puzzle happens. You'll also visit Bombay, Yokohama, San Francisco, and back to London before the end of the game. The game is not really based on the real world, instead it has its own kind of Victorian era with high-tech setting feel to it.
The control scheme for 80 Days is fairly intuitive if you've ever played any action games like FPS or third-person action games. The view is third person, and you have free will to roam about the 3D world. You can also manipulate objects or you inventory. Unfortunately the controls aren't quite as tight as a good action game, which would be fine except that certain scenes have action game puzzles in them.
The puzzles can be a bit bland, and a bit easy in 80 Days. You'll find yourself merely being a gopher, fetching items, or solving simple codes, or manipulating some kind of machinery. There were a few real head-scratchers, as in, what in the world were the developers thinking, but most of them aren't. There is a lot of exploring, though, which is pretty entertaining, just wandering around the fairly interesting cities themselves was at least somewhat fun, except for the fact that you're on the clock, making careful explorations an impossibility.
Accompanying the puzzles are some action sequences that really fall down because the controls are not tight enough for action gaming. A couple of stealth missions were extremely frustrating, mostly due to awkward movement. Another problem with the game is that collision detection isn't very precise, so you will find yourself getting stuck on things that you shouldn't, and you'll also encounter many of the dreaded, immersion-breaking invisible walls. This gets especially noticeable and irritating when using vehicles.
In addition to managing your time, you also have to manage your funds, which you'll need for transport and lodging. Oh yes. You will get exhausted in your exploring, and you will need food and rest. This does add a nice element to the game, but it can be frustrating at times. One nice thing about the game is that it has three difficulty levels, in case you're finding your resources are being too stretched in a harder setting, try taking the notch down a level.
Another problem with trying to explore on your own in this game is the lack of a proper save system. The game auto-saves at certain checkpoints, but if you can't make it to the checkpoint before you have to leave the game to do something else, you will lose all your progress.
The NPC’s in the game are simply too cliché to be interesting. We're talking over-the-top stereotypes here, I suppose in an attempt at humor, with the actual funny carefully removed. There are some moments that give you a small chuckle, but most of the time you'll instead be groaning and shaking your head. The game in no way tries to take itself seriously, but it's also just not funny.
Fans of Around the World in 80 Days will no doubt recognize some of the locations, characters, and situations from the book. But this game really has little to do with the novel and in no way imitates its style or flavor, really, so fans of the book might be somewhat surprised, possibly even irritated.
Unfortunately 80 Days seems to have a few technical problems that mar and otherwise decent adventure game. There were many crashes and glitches in the game, and it just didn't feel rock solid. The developer has released some patches to help with this, however.
The graphics in 80 Days are probably one of its better features. The environments are very well done, the cities are full of life and motion, and the character models are nicely done. We're not talking A+ grade graphics here, but for a budget game title I was pretty moderately impressed with what 80 Days had to show.
Unfortunately, the graphics weren't always working correctly. Misplaced shadows, clipping issues, and somewhat jerky animation at times did conspire to ruining the overall effect from time to time. Also there are some problems with the graphics for the low setting that will actually prevent the player from being able to finish the game at all due to not being able to see the right things on the screen to solve certain puzzles. Unless you have a video card quite a bit above the minimum spec, you could be in for some problems if you have to run at the low graphics setting.
On top of this, there doesn't seem to be any definitive list of graphics cards that 80 Days will run on correctly. The box actually says to visit "http://support.X.com" for information, apparently a placeholder for a real URL that was never printed on the box itself. I visited the publisher and the developer's web sites and couldn't find a definitive list there either.
80 Days has an interesting but not altogether entertaining musical soundtrack, like something out of an 80's disco. This doesn't really fit the mood of the game very well, much less the setting itself. The voice acting, on the other hand, is also pretty average to bad. There were a few characters with something interesting to hear, but most of them just grate on your ears. Other sound effects in the game were somewhat sparse, but not bad.
80 Days has a retail price of around $20, which seems like a bargain. If it weren't for the technical glitches and poor action-controls, this game would probably be a decent game for the price, if you are an adventure gamer. The game can last you maybe 15-20 hours, so that's not a bad amount of time for the low price. Unfortunately without some additional patches, the stability and number of glitches in the game will bring down an otherwise solid value.
If you're a patient person and can forgive technical problems in your games, and you like adventures with a little freedom to roam about in a 3D world, you might get some enjoyment out of 80 Days. You're not going to be wowed by the game's story, and you probably won't laugh at its attempts to be funny, but you might at least have a fun experience. There are certainly better games on the market competing for your valuable game-time, however, so unless you've played out all the more worthy games, you might just give this one a miss.