80 Days has been one of my favourite games of the year. If you told me that a text-heavy iOS game would end up being a personal contender for Game of the Year back in January, I would have probably laughed in your face. The idea of a mobile game providing a deep, narrative-driven experience is frankly laughable to me, particular one so heavily rooted in reading lots of text. But 80 Days made a mockery of my scepticism, somehow managing to be perfectly suited to little bursts of play-up-and-play action yet still offering an engrossing long-term narrative steered in large part by the player.
An adaptation of Jules Verne's classic, which updates some of the more archaic sensibilities of the original while retaining the style and politics of our planet in the late Nineties, 80 Days is a bold, refreshing game that puts players in the immaculate shoes of Passepartout, juggling valet duties to his adventuring master, planning the route across the globe, dealing with the various moral dilemmas and dynamic events that crop up and block the way from time to time, balancing speed against funds and health, all the while marking the calendar and the time left.
It works magnificently on smart devices, so much so that something would undoubtedly be lost on console or PC, such is a tactile way that you draw out the narrative, poking and prodding the screen to gently unfurl the next segment of story or attempt to wheedle more information out of the people that meet, making choices that will affect you master and those around you, and tracing your way across continents with your fingers.
I've played through it at least seven times now.
But I wanted to find out more about how the game came into being and the thought processes behind some of the design choices, not to mention how Inkle went about adapting the original novel and optimised it for a platform not normally associated with gripping, replayable interactive fictions. Which brings me to part one of our rather lengthy chat...