80 Days

80 Days (Frogwares, 2005) is of course based on the novel Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne. As with the Verne adaptations Return to Mysterious Island and The Mystery of the Nautilus, it’s a sequel rather than a retelling, with a new protagonist, which gives the designers the freedom to make whatever additions they like. In the case of 80 Days, that mostly means silliness. The player character, Oliver Lavisheart, isn’t just retracing Phileas Fogg’s famous voyage, he’s hunting for documents lost by his uncle, an eccentric inventor, which provides the designers an excuse to fill the game with wacky steampunk contraptions. For example, you can go about your daily business riding in a monowheel if you like, although I can’t honestly recommend it.

In form, the game is more or less a puzzle-light adventure game in a GTA-ish free-roaming third-person 3D engine, complete with quest arrows on the minimap. What I’ve seen of the gameplay isn’t very open-world, though. Rather, it’s a linear series of missions that remind me a lot of the non-combat quests in World of Warcraft. “Find four men wearing kilts”, you’re told, or “Sneak to your hotel, avoiding customs officials”. In other words, it’s the kind of stuff that gets put into games to keep the shooting or platforming or whatever from becoming too monotonous and one-dimensional, except that here, it’s all there is.

And that’s probably a big part of why the overall feel of the game is so clunky. The translation job also contributes to this, especially when it’s trying to be funny. (Yes, of course the game was originally in French. Who else but the French makes games of Verne?) And this clunkiness is ultimately why I stopped playing back in 2006 without having even got through Cairo, the first chapter. I’ve gotten a little bit past that point already, and will go into more detail in my next post.

For now, I have just a couple of quick installation notes. I was alarmed to find on first launching the game that the opening logo movies got stuck on single frames of animation, and no amount of tweaking of settings seemed to fix this. This is not the sort of problem I expect from a game released in the mid-2000’s! Fortunately, it turns out to only affect the opening logos; all cutscenes within the game are handled in-engine, not as FMV. Other than that, I had some slight problems with lines of dialog getting truncated (at the beginning, oddly enough), but the standard solution of turning off hardware acceleration in dxdiag fixed that.

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