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Ever wanted to go back to the days when travelling the world was all about the spirit of adventure and the romance of the unknown? A time before gap-year students reduced the concept of broadening your horizons to a mere personality substitute? Well, I can't offer you a time machine, but I can tell you about the next best thing.
80 Days is an interactive fiction title that originally came out back in 2014 on iOS, before coming to Android, Windows and OS X by the following year. It was named Time's game of the year in 2014 and has earned further awards and nomiations aplenty in the years since. Now it's finally available on Nintendo Switch, and it's well worth picking up if you're a fan of sci-fi and 'choose your own adventure' stories.
Based on Jules Verne's iconic novel Around the World in Eighty Days, you play as Passepartout, Phileas Fogg's manservant, as you attempt to circumnavigate the globe in no more than - you guessed it - 80 days. How you do that is your choice, with multiple means of transport available, from the Orient Express to steampunk-inspired aircraft, mechanical horses and colossal ice walkers. It's also up to you where to make your stops. You could swing by Vienna, set sail to Singapore, or get mugged in New York City; there's no shortage of places to go, connected by some truly fantastical sets of wheels.
If you've read the source material, you'll know Passepartout as a fastidious valet who is totally devoted to Monsieur Fogg and his cause, but 80 Days gives you a lot more freedom in how you play. In addition to choosing your route around the world, you also control how you interact with new locations, from the characters you meet to what to buy and sell at local markets.
Being a traditionalist, I played the part as an attentive, goal-oriented assistant, but there are plenty of opportunities to disagree with Fogg throughout your journey. You can even break away from his company and take in the sights of your new surroundings without him, venturing out into the nightlife of exotic cities, which doesn't always go down well.
How you choose to act, and where you travel to, all affects the in-game text - and with over 170 locations to call at, no two journeys are ever identical. For this reason alone, 80 Days is a game worth replaying, and it's also one of the most charming and magical experiences I've had on the Nintendo Switch all year. The Verne-inspired dialogue is immaculately done, and the simple yet classy art style is a treat for the eyes.
The game also has a trading mechanic, which is where those markets come into play, with the aim being to strengthen your finances to offset the cost of all your travelling. Each item you acquire has a varying value depending on location. For instance, a bottle of red wine from Paris will sell for a much higher price in Berlin, while a sketch of Yokohama goes for less in San Francisco than it would in Salt Lake City. Working out when's best to part with a commodity is a fun aspect of gameplay, but it's not vital as you can just withdraw more funds from the bank. However, this process is time-consuming which is hardly ideal when you're on a deadline.
As previously mentioned, the cost of travel is something you'll have to pay special attention to. A journey from Moscow to Irkutsk may cost less if you travel a day later, but then you have to decide if it's worth losing a day. Honestly, for a time-management game, 80 Days is oddly therapeutic.
Depending on how your journey pans out, there's no shortage of places to enjoy and people to talk to, new routes to discover and characters to spend some illuminating time with. 80 Days is so lovingly put together that you'd almost believe the legendary Jules Verne made it himself; and its arrival on Switch, while definitely not so punctual as to impress any at the Reform Club, is most welcome indeed.
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