It’s the Journey, Not the Destination
80 days is inspired by the Jules Verne novel Around the World in Eighty Days. Wanderlust has struck your employer Phileas Fogg, and as his valet Jean Passepartout you’ve been tasked with accompanying and assisting him in achieving his goal of crossing the globe in 80 days, spanning several cities and continents via airships, trains, and other modes of transport. Now this adventure has travelled to the Switch after having made its first stops on iOS devices and PC, which turns out to be a well-suited new home for the experience.
While spanning the globe is the primary objective, resource management and travel planning is key. Phileas Fogg is a seemingly wealthy man making finances a non-issue but withdrawing funds from banks take several days to be wired - up to seven depending on how much is being requested. He is also an older gentleman whose health deteriorates the more you press on without rest. Push him too hard and the trek will be sidelined until proper time has been given to recover. In his spare time, Jean can explore the town to get a sense of the area, encounter locals, and sniff out the next potential waypoints to reach, but it’ll cost you half a day. All these measures burn days from your clock – time is your most precious commodity.
Before departing, you can purchase items from the market and store several in briefcases to bring along. Some will have distinct properties, such as the gentleman's suit which makes colder travel less detrimental to Phileas’ health, maps which uncover potential travel options for a region, or even something as simple as a deck of cards which could open extra dialogue options if presented with the right moment. Many of the items’ real value is in holding onto them until you reach locales which they fetch a hefty selling price. This added an extra wrinkle to gameplay, but generally felt functionally superfluous or secondary.
Outside of gameplay implications, this is an interactive storybook with Jean as the narrator. Whether embarking to the next city, exploring the arrival location, choosing to rest, or shopping, he doesn’t miss the opportunity to paint a detailed picture of his surrounding or provide an inner monologue in his words. You help choose those words and develop his personality, varying somewhere between a meek or skittish servant to an excited traveling partner who gets caught up in his master’s thirst for adventure.
And all these decisions add little interpersonal touches to your story. I pre-booked a transatlantic boat ride from Hong Kong to Los Angeles for a surcharge of eight hundred pounds, which brought me down to thirty-seven hundred pounds on-hand. I didn’t account for the four thousand total ticket cost, an unforced error which accounted for an additional lost day, another trip to the bank which Phileas scolded me for as the teller noted his surprise that we had returned. Phileas retired early one evening and in a lapse of judgement I strolled outside in the evening, resulting in being pick-pocketed and losing 400 pounds. After taking my lumps, I lied to the next unscrupulous character who offered a shortcut to the next city by saying we were planning on leaving that day. That townie found us the following day, probing why we were still there, Jean embarrassingly explaining away that the train had an unexpected delay, being caught in the lie.
Phileas’ interactions with Jean range from bemusement like when I showed excitement at the thought of flying for the first time, to mild annoyance after I displayed naivete about the history of a war-torn area, to gratitude when I tended to his needs during an excruciatingly long train ride while he was in poor health. Characters outside that inner circle are diverse in personality, sometimes unpredictable, and well developed for the limited interactions you have with them. A Chinese train operator looked down on me after having to summon a translator, but I eventually won over a passive respect after asking questions that revealed I wasn’t as aloof or ignorant as she suspected. It is a masterful work of literature that makes the story your own through small dialogue choices that shape Jean Passepartout’s true nature and develop the characters that he interacts with.
I concluded 80 days feeling the same satisfaction as when finishing a good book, with the added joy of having helped shape the character. Jean and Phileas’ trek is broad, but their stories are wonderfully personal in contrast which isn’t always translated to video games that well. This retelling of a classic novel conveys the spirit of the book while adding the perfect amount of interactivity to make the story of your own. Though I’ve completed one round trip, I’ll be taking a second spin to see how charting a different path changes my next story.