80 Days: The End

I’ve been pretty free with spoilers for this game, on the grounds that no one who hasn’t played it yet is ever going to. But in this post, I’m going to be spoiling the ending to the book as well. I realize that there’s a very good chance that you already know how the book ends even if you haven’t read it — I certainly did — but I still remember having the ending to A Tale of Two Cities spoiled for me by someone who assumed that everyone knew it already, so.

I had been wondering how this game would handle the final leg of the trip, from San Francisco back to England. It conspicuously offered exactly three forms of transport between its cities — rail, ship, and dirigible — and I had already used all three. It turns out to use all three again in a single composite chapter, through a series of misadventures and mishaps that sends you fleeing from one to the next, re-meeting various NPCs along the way. In the end, you wind up stealing a small steamboat and doing one of the few things in the game that’s at all faithful to the book: pulling up the planking of the deck to feed the fires when the coal gives out.

In fact, the designers chose this moment to suddenly start sticking close to the book in general, perhaps realizing that they couldn’t improve on its ending — or, given that everything after the steamboat happens in a noninteractive cutscene, perhaps it was more a matter of obligation, that the story has to end like this because everyone knows that this is how the story ends. Like Fogg, Oliver gets thrown into jail for a day on false charges brought by his nemesis Fix, and believes all to be lost until he’s reminded that he’s gained a day by circling eastward. It’s a little incredible that he would make this mistake, given all the reminders of Fogg’s voyage he’s encountered along the way, but there it is. Also, now that I’ve read the book, I can say that Verne leads up to the revelation very well. First, he makes a point early on of Passepartout getting confused about time differences, and obstinately keeping his watch on London time, insisting that the watch is right and the sun is wrong. Then he brings it up again when he crosses the 180th meridian, where his watch is exactly 12 hours off and therefore displays the correct time once more. So if you’ve forgotten about the time changes, you have a reminder halfway through the book. Thus, the revelation that Fogg had a subjective 81 days all along doesn’t come out of nowhere. In the game, it does.

Now, as I mentioned, the game lets you compare your time to Fogg’s, and I had a comfortable lead over him leaving San Francisco. To make me reach England just in time to be apparently late, the game had to cheat a bit. Actually, whenever you switch settings, it advances the time ahead several days, so it could have been cheating all the time. But it was definitely doing so at the end, putting me onto the ocean liner at exactly 75 days and the steamboat at 80. Suddenly I was behind Fogg — if, as I put it before, I was hoarding time the way you hoard ammo in other games, this was like one of those moments when a game takes all your weapons away. The result is that the time limit is very tight for the final interactive bit, and I failed a few times before I succeeded. Thus, I got to see what happens if you exceed 80 days before the final cutscene, where you’re supposed to. An alarm sounds as the final seconds tick away, and then you get a simple dialog box telling you that your efforts have failed and accusing you of being a bad nephew, which seems a little harsh given the heroic effort that was asked.

All in all, as you’ve probably gathered, this is a very goofy game. Goofiness is something that can be enjoyed if you’re willing to roll with it, but honestly, I found this hard to do. It’s kind of interesting as an experiment in form — adventure game in a GTA-like environment — and I feel like its failures aren’t mainly due to that experiment. Perhaps someone will return to it and create a better game in that format in the future. Perhaps someone has already done so and I just don’t know about it.

2 Comments so far

  1. Sean B on 8 Jul 2012

    If he *doesn’t* change his watch, then 80 days will elapse when his watch has ticked off 80 days. Thus if he counted days *by his watch*, his count would have been correct.

    So I am to take it he refuses to adjust his watch, but then *ignores* it?

  2. Carl Muckenhoupt on 9 Jul 2012

    Well, it’s not like his watch shows the date. In fact, Verne specifically mentions this: “And Passepartout’s famous family watch, which had always kept London time, would have betrayed this fact, if it had marked the days as well as the hours and the minutes!”

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