Around the World in 80 days

I just purchased the game today (80 days by Inkle and Meg Jayanth). I arrived in NYC with almost a week to spare, but also no money and nothing to sell. Spent half a week waiting for a bank loan so I could pay for passage to London via Reykjavik, but alas I didn’t arrive until day 83, which even with the international date line and all that was too late to win the bet.

So far a thoroughly entertaining game, and I will likely use this space to post some further accounts of my adventures


When I first saw this, I thought it was going to be a review of the classic text adventure written by Peter Kirsch for the SoftSide ‘Adventure of the Month’ series way back in 1981. I loved that series. I suppose it’s inevitable that someone else would have based a game on the same Jules Verne novel.

A search on CASA and IFDB revealed an AGT game of this name by Lloyd Holliday. Is that the game you’re talking about here?

I assumed the post was about the inkle game 80 Days, but now you have me wondering. @Doug_Egan , is it?

80 Days (2014 video game) - Wikipedia

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You could be right, as the post starts out with:

You certainly wouldn’t be purchasing an old BASIC game from a defunct magazine publisher or from an authoring system that is no longer supported.

OK, I’ve edited my earlier post with appropriate IFDB link, attributions, and (Jeez I’m an idiot) correct game title. The only thing I got right was my claim that this is a fun and impressive game.

Join me next week when I review “Never Gives Up Her Dead by Mathbrush” but inadvertently refer to it as “Space Invaders”


When I made a twitter post announcing my game, I accidentally called it “Never Gives Up On Her Dead”. So if I can mess up my own games name I’m sure you’re fine with 80 days lol


Look, they’re going to be coming around for lunch any minute.


Just in time for the deadline

I’ll see myself out.


Second time around in 75 days, winning the bet in spite of being kidnapped from Hong Kong opium den, and later orchestrating a successful mutiny during my trans-Pacific voyage.

In the last leg I deviated from Jules Vernes version, avoiding NYC altogether, and crossing instead from Washington DC via the Azores. I’ve actually been to the Azores a couple of times, so that was a fun trip to imagine.

This game is so huge, I can imagine it being replayed many times and never repeating a story.


I can imagine it will take a while… In one of his presentations Jon Ingold mentioned 80 days had about 16000 sections and 11000 choices … :smiley:


Man, I must have gotten wildly lucky back when I tried it: IIRC my first run was 62 days, my second was 73, and for my third and final run I was like “ok, I have a ridiculous amount of time to play around, huh?” and still came in just under the wire.


It’s an amazing example of “Fires in the Desert” design where a huge number of random encounters coalesce into your own version of the story. I believe different events can happen in the same cities and it’s either random or maybe clock/calendar based. It’s very conducive to water-cooler discussion “Oh that time I was torn between pursuing romance in the Arctic Circle or sticking to schedule and departing as planned…le sigh…

I assume if you’re really good at geography and navigation and not easily-distracted the game is very fair and easily winnable but also a game you can try to speed run and beat your previous times. The real-time clock means you can watch trains depart without you even if you’ve paid for them if you spend too much time exploring the city or hesitate before making a decision. I remember experiencing natural (competitive) anxiety watching the trains and boats and vehicles all speeding away from where I was in real time!


There’s a certain amount of chance involved, and if you don’t choose to follow many of the complications and adventure hooks certain pathways are very efficient. Others have mandatory complications that occur whenever that path is chosen.

If you focus solely on winning the bet as efficiently as possible, collecting valuables only for the purpose of funding the next leg of the trip, and happen to choose pathways that have few mandatory complications, it’s possible to complete the journey very swiftly.

But beware: there are a number of ‘starting configurations’ which change which complications exist, what their likely outcomes are, and what pathways are available. If you don’t pay attention to which configuration you’re playing in, you could try to repeat the exact same sequence of decisions and get a very different story.


I would recommend finding which configuration you are playing in any case - if only because the seed titles as presented by 80 Days are amusing and on-theme.

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How do you find that out? edit: oh, I see. I guess I knew those were just chapter titles from the original novel so I just tuned them out. Interesting that they have significance.

I tried this years ago and got really bored really fast. Maybe it was just the wrong time for it in my life, but I had trouble figuring out how to play and I didn’t like the options it gave me and I quit after only a few hours. I did pay for it, so perhaps I should try it again.


There are individual encounters that run overlong, and I tend to skim. The game itself takes about two hours (just to complete one transit). But then other scenes were absolutely gripping. My favorite so far was a scene where I had hired a ship (forget if it was water or air) to take me directly from Japan to San Francisco, and mid route it was diverted to Hawaii. I orchestrated a hostile mutiny to continue my voyage on to San Francisco, securing the loyalty of various factions on board the ship toward my cause. In that scene I realized just how many state variables were being tracked, and the pacing was absolutely riveting for me.

One reason I waited so long to try this thing (despite its good reviews) was a concern that the “steam punk” element would be overbearing. In fact it wasn’t, and in the adventures I’ve played so far, it could almost be ignored. What the steam punk achieves, however, is to exagerate the novelty of transportation technology at the time of Jules Verne. The very notion that a steam locomotive and canal system criss crossing the globe had been construced in a mere fifty years, and that the British empire could exist at all (for better or worse) was a marvel of technology.


So… I’ve been avoiding going on a rant here, but I actually didn’t like it much either. I managed to play three runs (about 10 hours worth) because I was enjoying the stories. But I felt like the gameplay and mechanics were very poorly done, and since I tend to give the message of game mechanics more weight than what the prose is saying, eventually I couldn’t take it any more.

So maybe you should try it again, but it’s not just you. I particularly thought that the small-scale choice design was… not great.

long rant
  • A lot of the choices felt to me like "do you want a story (that will be hilarious but probably slow you down), or do you want to make Fogg mad at you for calling on him to stop it, or you can try to avoid the story yourself and bet double-or-nothing on Fogg being mad at you? And… “do you want a story or a punishment” isn’t an interesting choice to me. At all. And some of this was appropriate to the anti-colonial message: this isn’t your world; these aren’t your stories, but it was just so flat and caricatured. There weren’t any other options or nuance: it was “barge in like a bull in a china shop” or “let someone pitchfork you into trouble” or “get Fogg to crush them with his bank account: bad Passepartout; no story for you.”
  • The dialogue with fellow-travellers in transit was painfully obviously random: you’d ask “do you know about [city ahead of here]?” and they’d start talking about some city hundreds of miles behind you with no transition whatsoever. So it didn’t feel like a conversation at all. But every once in a while you’d get something really useful out of it, so it felt like I was being strongly encouraged to play this boring slot machine.
  • And the choices and personalities were so random and inconsistent that it never felt like I knew how any given choice was going to turn out so I didn’t have any reason to choose one option over another and I mostly just picked randomly. For example:
    • Fogg is usually pretty condescending and everything that goes wrong is your fault (whether or not it actually is) but then the game completely railroaded me into a fist-fight with a giant steam-ship captain who kept his rough-and-tumble crew in line because he could trounce any of them. And out of absolutely nowhere Fogg is not annoyed at all: he’s all, “oh sure, I used to box at Oxford; I’ll teach you before we go to bed tonight” and then I beat the captain pretty handily and… what?!
    • But on the other hand, one time we were… was it the Trans-Siberian Railway? Way up north in the freezing cold on this luxury train with red carpets and armies of staff to keep the place spotless, and I go, oh, Fogg is kinda miserable, I’ll get him a cup of hot tea to make him feel better and the game’s like… nah, you slip on a banana peel and spill scalding hot tea all over him and make things worse. Cool cool.
  • The way the game handled time sucked: often it flows by continuously and there’s no way to stop it, so you want to look at the map or strategize about items to buy and sell, and two days go by and you miss your train for something that really should only have taken maybe half an hour of game-world time. And other times in the storytelling part it just takes a static chunk of three or four hours and you can take as much time as you want over the stories. Or you’re travelling and time is flowing continuously but so slooowly and you’re just sitting there twiddling your thumbs waiting to get to the next stop. Dunno. Time was passing at the wrong speed for me for about three-quarters of my play.
  • Plus, being the oldest of five boys, and each of us going through a historical transportation phase at various times, the game was consistently extremely bad at representing the details and feel of the various means of transportation. And sure, it’s steampunk, but… it kept jolting me out of the story with “wow, you have no idea how this works, do you?” kind of stuff. I think the worst one was when I had no routes forward and I spent three days asking everyone I could find and everybody’s like “nope, can’t get there from here” and then I finally found someone who said, “oh sure, there’s a train that’ll be coming in two days, the station is that big stone building over there, you can’t miss it” and… I just… building a rail line through this kind of terrain is a multi-year if not multi-decade project, you can’t put a train station in the middle of a city without massive property reconstruction, there’s NO WAY you could have that here without every. single. person. in the city knowing about it. And ok, that one was a mechanical thing that would have been hard to change. (well, no, you could have framed it as “yeah, everyone else is stonewalling you because you’re an outsider” – it would only have taken a single line dialogue change.) But there was constant smaller stuff sprinkled through all the dialogue too.

Dunno. I also don’t click with Jon Ingold’s designs (I’ve mostly only played his IF): he has this really “look, I’m gonna tell you a really cool story and you just have to go along with whatever I want you to do… or you can just quit, I don’t care” kind of style. And I feel like 80 Days has this in spades. If you’re willing to be a chaos monkey and go along with the thing that’s obviously a really bad idea because “hey, I bet I’ll get a cool story!” then you’ll have a lot of fun but if you want to push back against where the game is trying to funnel you then you’ll be constantly reminded of just how narrow and “there’s no real choice here” most of the decisions actually are…


The game is mostly about the text and the story it tells. If you’re not interested in that aspect of the experience I’d think the game as a whole would offer you very little.


In total agreement. There is so much content you would miss if the player is only treating this as an optimization challenge.