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Review for 80 Days

Jules Verne was one of the early greats of science fiction. In a time when most people had never even seen running water, Verne was spinning tales of traveling underwater, fighting giant squid, and traveling to the center of the earth, encountering creatures from the past.

One of his greatest stories (and most adapted by Hollywood) is Around the World in 80 Days. In the story, wealthy eccentric Phileas Phogg accepts a twenty thousand pound wager to travel around the world in eighty days by any means necessary (a feat accomplished two years before the publication of the book), which of course leads to all sorts of adventures along the way.

Verne's sense of wonderment about the future and fascinating narratives have been the basis of quite a few adventure games over the years, through literal adaptations, pseudo-sequels, and even takeoffs on the original tales. From Return to Mysterious Island to Journey to the Center of the Earth, developers continue to go back to the author's tales for inspiration.

Adventure developer Frogwares has taken the sequel/homage route with their new game, 80 Days. Rather than a literal interpretation of the original story, they've moved the timeline to a few years past the end of Verne's story and envisioned a new cast of characters following Phogg's journey in a campy takeoff of the original challenge.

You play as Oliver Lavisheart, a young adventurous lad who wants to travel to America to meet up with his friends and start a new life. There are a few problems, however. His parents are petitioning his Uncle Matthew to convince him to come home so he can wed his arranged bride. But Matthew decides to help Oliver off on one last adventure. He has made a bet based on Phogg's trip, and now has to prove that it is possible to make it around the world in eighty days. And to heap trouble on top of trouble, Matthew is about to lose his inventor's license if he can't prove that he is the inventor of four marvelous contraptions that just happen to be scattered along the way of Oliver's trip.

Most game adaptations of literature and their offshoots are pretty by-the-books affairs (no pun intended), but Frogwares has really proven with 80 Days that they have a way with storytelling. I was really impressed with their ability to use the time constraints of the trip to add an element of drama and suspense while still managing a lighthearted sense of adventure. And while some of the humor falls flat due to ill-fitting pop culture references and corny jokes (like a Scotsman named Mac Haroney) that produce a few groans, for the most part the humor is a welcome addition to what otherwise could have been an incredibly tense game.

Graphically, 80 Days blew me away. The game is in full 3D, allowing you to roam freely around the incredible environments from a third-person perspective. The cities in 80 Days are by no means small, and it would have been very easy to start recycling pieces in order to make things simpler from both a graphical and a memory standpoint. But instead, Frogwares managed to pull off what appears to be living, breathing cities, teeming with people, and with a nice sense of geography that easily keeps you from getting lost on the way to your next objective. Main characters are beautifully detailed from head to toe, and touches like Oliver's orange scarf seem placed in the game just to show how much attention was being paid to detail.

With that being said, this is a game that is not going to play on an older system, plain and simple. While you do have the option to dial down your graphical settings in order to get the game to run, there have been several publicized technical issues with lowered settings affecting certain puzzles, making them problematic and even impossible to solve. I'm not the biggest proponent of staying up to date with the latest hardware (especially being an adventure gamer), but even on a relatively high-end system, I was still encountering slowdowns on a fairly frequent basis. Add to that a series of graphical glitches, like a woman who walked across a body of water in order to talk to me while I was boating, and frequent instances where walls would disappear or Oliver would jump through geometry and lock up the game, and those beautiful graphics quickly become a source of frustration. A recently released patch promises to fix some of the more annoying glitches, though reportedly not all.

When I first booted up the game and was greeted by the sound of disco coming out of my speakers, I was initially concerned about music in the game. But once I got behind the deliberately campy nature of Frogwares' take on the story, I was hooked. The soundtrack for 80 Days not only fits all of the environments wonderfully, but also manages to mimic some hits that you'll definitely find familiar (for instance, Walk Like an Egyptian while Oliver is in the Cairo level). The sound effects and ambient noise are well integrated, blending nicely into the background exactly where they belong.

Voices, on the other hand, are a little on the up and down side. Some of the actors, like Uncle Matthew, are very well done, while others are of the cartoony, stereotyped variety that I keep hoping we'll at some point get past in the adventure genre. And of course the most important voice would be Oliver's, since you will be spending so much time with him. Unfortunately, the actor playing him sounds like he was attempting to speed read the script, and comes across sounding very rushed for a good portion of the game time.

But as most gamers know, any game is going to live and die by its gameplay, not by its graphics, music, and voice cast. And 80 Days definitely doesn't disappoint.

I was skeptical at first when I heard that the game would use a format more common to action-adventures, because previous games have leaned more to the action side than the adventure side. But Frogwares has erred on the side of caution and come out with a game that can be enjoyed by both action gamers and traditional point & click enthusiasts like myself.

In order to accommodate the differing game styles, 80 Days allows for three different difficulty levels. First up was my preferred style of play, the Tourist. When playing at this level, days only pass when certain objectives are met, giving you the option to leisurely look around and take your time with objectives, more in line with a traditional adventure game. Oliver will also have more money to spend, and won't lose days when fainting or being caught by guards.

For greater challenge, you also have the option to play at the Globetrotter and Adventurer level. These are more suited to action gamers, as the money is tighter, and time never stands still. Of course, this also means that one too many mistakes could cost you the game.

This wouldn't normally be a problem if the save scheme was along the lines of a standard "save anywhere" PC game. However, Frogwares has opted for a console save system instead, and this is one issue that in a lesser game would have resulted in a CD coaster instead of an enjoyable gaming experience. The game will only save after specific challenges are completed. The problem is that this sometimes means a save after ten minutes of gameplay, and sometimes after thirty minutes of puzzle solving. This can be a real issue for those of us with limited time to play at any one sitting. I ended up replaying one long segment over and over just due to the fact that I didn't have the time to work my way through it all the way without being interrupted.

Navigation is fairly standard for third-person 3D games, using a combination of keyboard and mouse. Even with me not being an action gamer, it became intuitive very quickly, and I had no problem adjusting to the movement and keys. One notable omission was an "always run" option, which is something that is found in most action games today, and with environments this large, this feature would have been a welcome addition here.

The use of keyboard control rather than the traditional point & click route does lead to an issue more associated with adventure games than action games. Items that can be picked up or interacted with will outline in green for Oliver to see. But because you use the mouse for navigation and inventory rather than searching, at times items don't highlight because Oliver is not directly facing them or is not close enough to them.

Fortunately, the interface is a thing of beauty. On the top left side of the screen is an easily readable mini-map. This is a useful guide for the large environments that Oliver will be navigating, although it does lead to some rather easily solved puzzles when he is searching for someone. In the right hand corner is a constantly running clock with your current day next to it, which not only adds a great sense of tension on the harder difficulty levels, but is also necessary for some of the time-based puzzles that you'll face occasionally. You also have an option to track your progress against Phileas Phogg's original excursion, which is a nice touch.

Rather than a dedicated inventory window, all items are handled through a small window in the bottom middle of the screen, with items rotated by the mouse wheel, meaning that it can be accessed easily at any time, even while on the move. This also makes it easy to see at a glance how much money Oliver is carrying, or how many of a required item he's holding, without having to navigate a static inventory screen.

And finally, on the bottom left is Oliver's fatigue bar. Even on the easiest level, Oliver will need to eat and rest so that he doesn't faint during a challenge and have to start over from the beginning of a puzzle. This is not as much of an issue on the easy level where days don't pass automatically, but on the harder levels fainting could cost you precious time.

As I mentioned earlier, the cities in 80 Days are huge, and you'll never manage to make it through the game by walking it. One of the other great things Frogwares implemented was the use of vehicles. This in and of itself would have been great, but Oliver will find different vehicles in different locations, from camels and flying carpets (my personal favorite) to elephants and racecars. These are great for navigating around cities in Tourist mode, just seeing the sites, but are almost a necessity in the harder levels where every second and every bit of stamina count.

Puzzles move back and forth from logic to fetch quests, from finding specific people to light action sequences, and even some stealth gaming. But there's no need to worry that you're going to be playing an adventure game version of Splinter Cell. In Tourist mode, getting caught during stealth sequences just means bribing an officer or spending some time behind bars, but with the money you're given to play with, and the fact that days don't pass in real time this mode, it's not a big deal just to work around. And if you're playing on the other two difficulty levels, then you're probably used to that type of gameplay anyway.

With the steep system requirements, technical issues, and horrid save game scheme, 80 Days is not a game that I can recommend without reservation to all gamers. But in the end, its incredible graphics, wonderfully campy atmosphere, and gameplay that is easily adaptable to many different play styles, make this a flawed but ambitious, enjoyable game that's definitely worth looking into for players of all genres.


80 Days is available at:

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Our Verdict:

If you've got the machine to run it, and the patience to endure some of its quirks, then this is definitely a game to check out.

GAME INFO 80 Days is an adventure game by Frogwares released in 2005 for PC. It has a Illustrated realism style and is played in a Third-Person perspective.

The Good:

  • A gorgeous game that can be adapted to any play style
  • From leisurely stroll to nerve wracking
  • Fast paced
  • Adventure game

The Bad:

  • Technical glitches and a horrible save game system mar what would otherwise have been a truly excellent game

The Good:

  • A gorgeous game that can be adapted to any play style
  • From leisurely stroll to nerve wracking
  • Fast paced
  • Adventure game

The Bad:

  • Technical glitches and a horrible save game system mar what would otherwise have been a truly excellent game
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