Archive for the 'Adventure' Category

IFComp 2012: Murphy’s Law

Spoilers follow the break.

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Escape from Summerland

Spoilers follow the break.

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IFComp 2012: A Killer Headache

And here’s our first you-are-a-zombie game of the year. Will there be more, like in 2010? Spoilers follow the break.

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IFComp 2012: Fish Bowl

Spoilers follow the break.

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IFComp 2012

It’s that time of year again! In fact, it’s been that time of year for more than a week now, but now I’m ready for it. A manageable 28 games up for judging this year, and the few I’ve already tried have been quite short, so I encourage anyone reading this to give it a go themselves instead of just reading blogs about it. (If you can play four a day, you’ll be done in a week!)

Notably, seven of the entries — fully a quarter of the total — are HTML-based, and five of those are in a new CYOA system called “Twine”. Inform is still the most popular authoring system of the Comp, but Twine is more popular this year than all the other non-web-based systems combined. Whether this is the beginning of a trend or just a band enthusiasts agreeing to enter the Comp together, only the future will show.

The Blackwell Legacy

It seems like Wadjet Eye Games has been in the indie gaming news a lot lately, whether announcing new titles, or winning awards, or unexpectedly getting things onto Steam. And every time I read about what they’re doing lately, I think to myself that I really should try some of their stuff. I mean, I consider myself to be a fan of adventure games. I even already have some of their games, acquired via bundles and sadly neglected. Such is the Stack. So finally I’ve taken the plunge and played through the first of the flagship series by the company’s founder, the illustrious Dave Gilbert.

The Blackwell games are essentially supernatural detective stories. Like the kid in The Sixth Sense, Rosangela Blackwell sees dead people, and it’s her inherited responsibility to help them move on, with the help of her hard-boiled spirit guide, Joey Mallone. But she needs to know things about the deceased to help them, and their shades are too scatterbrained or hostile to provide the necessary information themselves, so that’s where the detectiving comes in. This is the sort of adventure game where dialogue is the dominant mode of interaction, and that uses a notebook of gathered conversation topics more than it uses its object inventory. It even lets you try to combine topics the way you combine inventory items, dragging them onto each other in an attempt to create new insights or to point out contradictions. The last time I saw this mechanic used was in Discworld Noir, which is apparently where Gilbert got the idea from. I honestly didn’t think it worked very well there: the necessary combinations were sometimes far from obvious (because they were puzzles), and the combinatorial explosion meant that you had to wade through a great many fruitless pairings to find them. The Blackwell Legacy solves this problem by aggressively pruning the topic list. Sure, a shorter list is an invitation to brute-forcing your way to plot-essential revelations, but when you’re dealing with topics rather than physical things, that’s actually kind of mimetic. Imagining Rosangela iterating over everything in her notes, racking her brains for possible connections, makes sense in a way that a typical adventure hero trying to combine everything in their inventory doesn’t.

The Blackwell Legacy also seems like something of a Sierra homage. The whole supernatural detective thing brings Gabriel Knight to mind, as does the loving depiction of real places in a real city (New York in this case), as does the division of the game content into “days” (there are only two, but the game is careful to point them out to us), as does the art style in some of the dialogue cameos (the close-ups of character faces superimposed on the screen while that character is speaking). For that matter, the fact that it uses dialogue cameos at all is something of a Gabriel-Knight-ism; the more-often-fondly-remembered games from Lucasarts never bothered with them. Part of the reason for them was to convey facial expressions, allowing a degree of emotional expression that would be difficult or impossible to pull off at the limited resolution of the in-scene figures without doing everything in broad, theatrical gestures. Now, Blackwell was made in 2006. There might still be readability concerns due to the fact that the characters’ faces simply occupy a small area on the screen, but the need to compensate for big blocky pixels is gone. Can you spot the two ghosts in this picture?Blackwell uses big blocky pixels anyway, which by this point in history has to be a deliberate artistic choice. The map screen — yes, of course there’s a map screen, that’s how detective games work — uses fuzzy antialiasing in a way that makes it clear that when the other screens use dithering for gradients or fill patterns, it’s not because they didn’t have a sufficient range of hues. It’s so you can admire the artistry of the dithering, like a cobblestone walk in a city of blacktop. And just look at the pixel-spray foliage in the screenshot. There’s a definite nostalgia element there. And today we have a fifth-anniversary special edition of the game, making even the nostalgia nostalgic in its own right.

There’s one other chief thing that The Blackwell Legacy is, and that’s an origin story. Apparently it was intended from the beginning to be the first of several episodes (currently four), and it shows. Much of the game is spent explaining the Blackwell family history, leading up to Rosangela meeting Joey for the first time, learning of her new abilities and obligations as a medium, and reluctantly coming to terms with the whole deal. After that, you get one typical “case” in which you get to use the abilities that have just been explained to you once or twice, and that’s it. It’s pretty short, all told. It’s essentially an introduction to being a Blackwell, practically a tutorial.

And yet, it took me four or five days to complete what should have been a one-sitting game. Why?

Mainly because I kept forgetting what my options were. This game provides just enough different forms of interaction, and spaces them out with enough dialogue (its dominant mode), that it’s easy to miss the one that you need to make the story progress at a given moment. For example, if you’ve forgotten that you can combine topics in your notebook, you’ll get stuck. At one point I even forgot about right-clicking. This game has a general scheme of left-click to perform actions, right-click to examine. So for a couple of sessions, I was left-clicking on things like posters on the walls expecting to read them, only to have Rosangela tell me that she didn’t want to take them, leaving me confusedly wondering what kind of game designer makes “take” be the only verb applicable to a poster. The visual resemblance to the classic Sierra games probably hurt me here, because the interface isn’t Sierra’s at all. (Heck, you can’t even use inventory items on the environment directly here, as in Sierra’s dominant mode; everything you pick up either gets applied automatically when appropriate or just adds an option to a conversation menu.) In the Sierra games, right-clicking was just a sort of UI shortcut, and never necessary, probably because they were designing with one-button mice in mind. So there’s an ingrained habit of mind there that I had to ditch hard.

The one major bit of non-UI-related stuckage I encountered was, however, very Sierra-ish. It had to do with a certain action only being available if you’ve talked to Joey about a certain thing while back in Rosangela’s apartment. Now, the author admits that this is a place where lots of people get stuck, because a lot of people haven’t bothered to talk to Joey about the necessary thing by that point, and there’s no obvious reason to go back to the apartment just then. But my experience was a little different from that, and I have to wonder how common my version is. I had in fact talked to Joey about the necessary thing, but then I quit without saving, because I didn’t think I had made any significant changes to the game state since my last save. So even though I, the player, had the necessary information, in my next session, Rosangela did not. To some extent, I blame the notebook, which lulled me into thinking that I could distinguish between significant conversations and insignificant ones.

Beyond that, my chief gripe is that despite its recent fifth-anniversary revamp, the game still has some major bugs — for example, I had to force-quit when I was unable to dismiss the menu after bringing it up in the endgame. But for all my plaint, I still think it was worth playing, mainly because the characters are engaging. Rosangela herself is socially awkward, practically a recluse (the very first obstacle in the game hinges on the fact that she doesn’t know anyone else in her building), but combatively defensive about it in a very New York way that I think a lot of introverted gamer geeks will find appealing. From that base, the story gives her a permanent unwanted companion (Joey) and a fate that forces her to get out and interact with people more than she’s comfortable with. The fact that some of those people are restless spirits just heightens the anxiety that’s already in the character — and the detail that several characters have been driven to suicide by a lost soul’s incessant pleas for help casts a spotlight on the downside of her unseverable relationship with Joey.

Plus, if you’re into developer commentary tracks (which you probably are, given that you read blogs like this one), the current version of the game contains not one but two: the commentary from the game’s original release, and additional notes for the fifth anniversary edition. It’s interesting to compare them, to see where Gilbert’s opinions have changed and where they haven’t. My chief takeaway here is that, like all artists, his esteem for his own earlier works has plummeted over time. He keeps on apologizing for things that didn’t even register as faults for me. The one criticism of his that I really agree with is that the noninteractive dialogue frequently runs overlong, a fairly common failing of new designers. Ironic that the only way to hear this confession is to turn on the commentary, which makes the game even more longwinded, and even specifically extends a few of the longer talky bits with complaints about their length.

Analogue: A Hate Story

Somehow I get the impression that there are 387.44 million miles of printed circuits in wafer-thin layers that fill her complex.Christine Love’s hate story is of course a follow-up to her BBS novella Digital: A Love Story, although set centuries later, in what is only minimally implied to be the same world. My first reaction to it is that it is Portal (Activision, 1986) done right. Seriously, the parallels between the two works run far, if not deep. Both are primarily text-based works with multi-leveled narratives concerning a mysteriously vanished population and the player character’s attempts to recover its history from computer records, aided by an AI guide who unearths more records in response to your reading what’s already been presented. And both are only hesitantly identified by their creators as games. As Love put it in a recent interview: “I always thought that I’d just end up being a novelist. Then everyone told me that Digital: A Love Story was a game, just because it had interactive elements…”

So, what does Analog get right that Portal didn’t? Nonlinearity, for one thing. Like the long novels of old, it contains digressions that illuminate the main plot, but aren’t essential to it, and thus can be encountered at whatever point in the storyline you become curious enough to pursue them, if at all. (Actually unlocking 100% of the text items in this game grants an Achievement on Steam, and it’s an Achievement I haven’t gotten yet despite reaching three different endings.) These take the form of diaries or letter exchanges between various long-dead persons that the AI thinks will interest you, or which will illustrate a point. Like Digital, this is mainly an epistolary novella, and that’s another point that’s an improvement over Portal. Instead of using the AI guide as an interpreter of data with a purportedly neutral point of view, you get the raw source material plus the AI’s interpretation, and get to decide for yourself how much you agree with it.

For your guide doesn’t just have a point of view, she has outright biases. Mind you, they’re biases that no reasonable modern person would disagree with. (You get opportunities to act as if you do, but that’s bound to be role-playing.) The basic idea — and I’m delving deep into spoilers here — is that society on the generation ship you’re investigating had regressed to a monstrously oppressive set of antiquated traditions, specifically those of Korea’s Joseon dynasty, in which women in particular are as a whole no better off than slaves, barely regarded as human and valued only as instruments for producing male heirs. The first AI you meet, *Hyun-ae 1As in Digital the asterisk indicates the name of an AI., is actually the digitized personality of a more modern person, a teenage girl brought out of cryo-stasis during this period, repeatedly punished for not being submissive enough, and expected to immediately marry against her will. When she pleaded for her independence, the whole notion was so alien to her family-cum-captors that they could only interpret it as a rebellious and unfilial declaration that she wanted to become a prostitute and bring shame on the family name.

Still, as much as you might feel sorry for Hyun-ae, it’s clear that *Hyun-ae 2The game generally treats Hyun-ae, the human, and *Hyun-ae, the AI, as a single character. Nonetheless, I’ll be leaving off the asterisk when referring to actions taken before her digitization. is providing you information selectively, even hiding things from you, in the hope of maintaining your goodwill. There’s a particular technique used in the dialogue 3Or rather monologue, since you can’t speak back except in response to certain yes/no questions: sometimes *Hyun-ae will start to say something and then instantly erase part of it. (You have to let the text scroll in, rather than click to make it appear all at once, to notice this.) Also, one of the first text items you uncover is a message from the ship’s previous controlling AI, named *Mute. If you show this to *Hyun-ae, she immediately deletes it. This is all to the good of the work. Secret agendas just make seemingly-friendly NPCs more interesting, as anyone who’s played Planescape: Torment can tell you. But it’s easy to excuse her, because it’s clear that her experiences have made her cagey. She doesn’t fully trust you, doesn’t know if you share the neo-Joseons’ world-view or not.

In the second act, you get to reactivate *Mute, who immediately presents the devil’s advocate position. *Mute is unapologetically in favor of the status quo, dismal subjugation of half the population and all, and furthermore is kind of catty and sleazy about it: when she shares her digressive epistolary tales of tragically unhappy marriages, it’s for the sake of the pleasure of being aghast at how scandalous they are. So you’ve basically got a good girl and a bad girl at this point, except that this is also the chapter where you learn that it was Hyun-ae who killed everyone on the ship.

And most of the rest of the work is spent exploring that in one way or another. You’ve presumably already come to sympathize with *Hyun-ae by this point, but does that extend to forgiving genocide? Admittedly, she was sorely provoked. But slaughtering oppressors and oppressed alike? Ah, but the story points out that the oppressed had internalized their oppression, and were just as culpable as anyone of perpetuating it. Perhaps when a dystopia gets bad enough, blowing the airlocks is the only way out. True, the historical precedent in the Joseon dynasty — which, according to the endnotes, was even worse than what’s seen in the story here — didn’t last forever. But it did last a long time, and Korea at least was part of a world that was generally advancing, while the generation ship is portrayed as stagnant and degenerating in knowledge.

But frankly, I don’t think such considerations are all that relevant to what decisions most players will make. The fact is, *Hyun-ae is a love interest — as the author puts it in the interview cited above, “Analogue is a game where a survivor of horrific trauma falls in love with the first person she meets”. This is very clear from her behavior, and becomes increasingly clear as the story goes on. In the majority of the occasions where she deletes what she’s said, it’s because she’s stated her feelings too directly. And everyone loves a love story, or at least cooperates with one. This is a lesson I think was most clearly taught by Andrew Plotkin’s So Far (which I will now spoil). So Far is a mysterious and surreal text adventure dominated by a repeated motif of things that have to be kept apart, because things will go disastrously wrong if they’re allowed contact. It ends with a question — “Can you forgive me?” — that, in context, signifies an opportunity to reconcile estranged lovers. Despite everything that the player has learned about how the game works, nearly everyone says “yes” to this the first time they encounter it. If we unthinkingly respond this way in a game that’s doing so much to allow us to realize that it’s the wrong choice, what are the odds we’ll choose any differently in one that’s trying to convince us that the computer has a crush on us?

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1. As in Digital the asterisk indicates the name of an AI.
2. The game generally treats Hyun-ae, the human, and *Hyun-ae, the AI, as a single character. Nonetheless, I’ll be leaving off the asterisk when referring to actions taken before her digitization.
3. Or rather monologue, since you can’t speak back except in response to certain yes/no questions

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.

80 Days: San Francisco

The 4th of July seemed like an auspicious date to begin the American leg of the journey. The only stop on the entire continent is San Francisco, which happens to be the city I’m in as I play the game. I can report that the simulacrum is a reasonably satisfying representation of the reality. Even though it’s supposed to be set in a different (if indefinite) era, the slope of what I assume to be Powell Street (because it’s right in front of your entry point and it has cable cars running on it) feels just right, and the facades of the houses could be any residential street today. Those streets, by the way, are quite wide and, as in the real city, mostly arranged in a grid, which means this is the best place in the entire game to drive around in a fast car. It even provides a new and faster-looking variety of fanciful car for you to try out. You’re in America now.

There are two spots in this chapter where I failed, in two different ways. The first was a rather Myst-like puzzle involving routing power through a set of electrical boxes with color-coded cables and no clear instructions about what the color-coding indicates, with lots of note-taking and running around to try switches located in different places. Now, I like this sort of puzzle, and I’m not bad at them, but I wasn’t able to solve it within the time allowed — partly because I broke off in the middle to drive back to Oliver’s hotel before he dropped from exhaustion. Now, what happens when you fail to solve a puzzle in this game varies with context. Sometimes your progress is simply blocked indefinitely; sometimes it’s game over; sometimes the punishment is simply the time you spent trying, and the game lets you continue without solving it after enough time has passed. This puzzle was one of the latter sort, and I decided to just keep on playing after I failed, being close to the end and having a considerable lead on Fogg’s time. But it turns out that the approach I was trying at the very end was in fact the thing that would have worked if I had been allowed to keep going, so I feel a little cheated there. Time limits are just bad for puzzles with a strong “Aha!” factor, and possibly for all puzzles of any sort.

The second place I got stuck was in trying to sneak into Fix’s local office to retrieve the last of Uncle Mathew’s patent documents, which Fix had stolen just to slow me down. I have to say that the Fix in the book is a much more sympathetic character. There, he’s sincerely trying to do the right thing, but under a misapprehension about Fogg. The game’s Fix, on the other hand, is just plain mean, a paranoid bully who stoops even to crime, which you’d think would shame his policeman forbear more than Oliver’s travels could. But at least he’s specifically stated to be a different character.

Anyway, I had to break into his office, which was guarded by a bunch of cowboys, and was told that I needed to disguise myself as a member of the cleaning staff. But I couldn’t find a cleaning staff outfit anywhere. After banging my head against that for a while, and taking multiple breaks, I finally resorted to a walkthrough. It turned out to be behind one of the other doors in the building — one undistinguished office door out of many, most of which I had tried, just not the right one.

This gets into one of the big problems with putting an adventure game into an environment like this one. It’s a big environment — not nearly as big as the real city, but big enough that you need some guidance about which of the thousands of environmental objects are interactive and which are backdrops. For most objects, it’s easy to tell: if you’re close to an interactive object and aiming the camera at it, it gets a bright green border around it. There are just three exceptions: people, vehicles, and doors. In the case of people and vehicles, no indicator is necessary, because you can interact with them all — just not necessarily in any useful way. Most NPCs respond with a randomly-chosen line of dialog that essentially boils down to “I’m just here to make the area look populated”. Doors, though, are generally assumed to be permanently locked and effectively just painted onto the wall unless there’s something setting them apart. It could just be that the door is better-lit than the ones around it, or that there’s a quest marker displayed right on the other side of it on the minimap, but there was always something, until the point when there wasn’t.

At any rate, I did ultimately get through the chapter and into the home stretch, the trip back to England, which I’ll talk about in my next post. The musical number at the end of San Francisco is a moment like the ending of Ultima 6, where you hear the Rule Britannia and the Gargoyle theme played together for the first time and realize that they harmonize perfectly (that is, that the reason that Gargoyle music sounds so weird is that it’s Earth music with the melody removed). There’s a particular bit of muzak-y disco that the game has been using as background music basically since the beginning, but only when I heard people singing over it was it clear that it was the instrumental track to “YMCA” by the Village People — and that the game content has already introduced character models for a cowboy, a policeman, and an Indian chief. There’s even a construction site — that’s where the electrical-box puzzle took place — which I speculate was originally planned to provide an excuse for including a construction worker model as well.

80 Days: Vehicles

Over the weekend, I got all the way through the Yokohama chapter and the boat ride that followed it. I probably could have finished the game then, but I turned away because I was finding the dialogue tiresome. It often runs unnecessarily long with attempts to create humor by pointing out the same character quirks over and over again: one man’s obsession with kilts, another’s seasickness, etc. It grows especially bothersome when the quirks it’s making fun of are ethnic.

Nonetheless, I felt Yokohama was an improvement over the previous two chapters, mainly because of the environment modeling. Cairo was all just flat and sand-colored, including the buildings. Bombay, apart from a bit of temple statuary, was more or less the same, only browner. In Japan, the architecture in general becomes more colorful and ornamental, the land hilly and criss-crossed by rivers. And I think it’s also just bigger, with the result that this was the first chapter where I found it practical to make use of vehicles.

There have been vehicles available for hire since the beginning, all fanciful. I mentioned the monowheel already. Camels were available in Cairo, and everyplace seems to have three-wheeled cars that remind me of my goblin turbo-trike, as well as flying carpets, which Oliver rides standing up, like it’s a surfboard. Yes, even Yokohama has flying carpets, patterned after the Japanese flag. I expect America will have flying Mohawk carpets or something.

I suppose that the designers imagined that the players would use vehicles a lot more than I’ve been doing. Going fast is a central idea to the story, GTA sequels were still topping the charts when the game came out. But GTA let you just take whatever car you fancied, while 80 Days expects you to pay for them with your limited in-game money, and that makes a big difference. (Part of the reason I gave them another chance in Yokohama is that, for the first time in the game, someone lends you the use of a carpet and a car for free.) Mind you, money isn’t all that limited, and I’ll probably end the game with a very large surplus (unlike Fogg), but I had no idea how that would turn out when I was just starting the game and making my first judgments about whether vehicles are worth it. And my initial conclusions were that they hardly even saved you time. On an unobstructed straightaway, they’d handily outdistance a pedestrian, but once I had to take a turn, or swerve to avoid a wandering cow, I’d overturn or underturn and get stuck on the side of a building until I edged back and forth enough to get free. Also, the animations of getting on and off the things take enough time to make it unsuitable for short hops.

One vehicle in particular deserves special mention: Kiouni the elephant. Kiouni is an unusual case in that he actually travels slower than you can go on foot. (This was definitely not the case in the novel — maybe he’s getting old?) But you need an elephant’s strength in a couple of puzzles, so it’s necessary to get Kiouni to the appropriate places. I had some problems with this, similar to when I got stuck rescuing the zeron on the airship: on a brief trip into the world’s smallest jungle, I needed to get Kiouni up a gentle slope that I could take on foot without problem, but which he seemed to slide down as fast as he could climb it. The alt-tab trick didn’t work here, but I found I could overcome the problem by staying on the very edge of the road and walking at a 45-degree angle to it.

Apart from the vehicles you can ride around within the cities, there are the larger vehicles joining them: the airship, the train, and the ocean liner, each modeled as an environment you walk around in, each extremely large for its type, and each suffering problems that slow it down unless you can solve them. You have to take each of these once, but you get a choice of which of these vehicles to ride at the end of each chapter, within certain limits of reason — that is, you can’t take a train from Yokohama to San Francisco, and consequently if (like me) you didn’t take the train on the first leg of the journey, you have to take it on the second. Notably, because you can vary when the vehicle sub-chapters occur, nothing in them can make any reference to where you’re coming from or going to.

Regarding that airship: Now that I’ve read the book, I find it a little strange how persistently adaptations of it put parts of the voyage in the air. The original has Fogg traveling by train, boat, elephant, and even, in the most fanciful moment, a wind-driven sled, but never by air. Which makes perfect historical sense: the only air transport available in 1873 would have been balloons, which are hardly what you’d use when you’re in a hurry. Not that this stopped the most famous film adaptation from famously using a balloon, of course. There just seems to be a strong appeal to the idea, as if someone circumnavigating the globe at great speed belongs in the air. Verne himself frequently uses imagery of flight, describing fast-moving vehicles as leaving the ground and comparing Fogg to a body in orbit.

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