80 Days

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Focus / Trisyngergy
Developer: Frogwares


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PC Preview - '80 Days'

by David Wanaselja on Sept. 28, 2005 @ 12:39 a.m. PDT

In 1899, Oliver Lavisheart, young adventurous Englishman, accepts to help his uncle Mathew to win a bet: going around the world in 80 days or less and collect proves that the latter has made 4 major inventions in 4 different cities all around the world. Oliver follows Phileas Fogg's tracks in Egypt, India, Japan, and finally to America, he has only 80 days, or his uncle will lose his bet and is ruined.

Genre: Adventure
Developer: Frogwares
Publisher: Tri Synergy/dtp
Release Date: October 18, 2005

Around the World in 80 Days, Jules Verne's classic novel of adventure, has been a favorite of mine for a long time. It's a humorous, exciting story, taking the reader around the globe and through many different exciting and suspenseful moments. While many today might associate the book with the movie of the same name (starring the ever-upbeat Jackie Chan), Frogwares is hoping that their game, 80 Days, will give gamers the same senses of excitement and adventure as the book.

Based loosely upon the novel, 80 Days has you playing as Oliver Lavisheart, a man who volunteers to help his uncle prove that he has created four inventions in four cities around the world in 1899. While billed as an adventure game, 80 Days retains elements from other genres as well. The most striking difference between 80 Days and your typical adventure game is the third-person point of view and the way that the main character moves. Using the mouse to look around, and the typical WASD keyboard controls to maneuver Oliver from place to place, it almost feels a bit like Max Payne. The spacebar causes you to jump, and holding shift will set you running. All of this runs quite contrary to the usual "point and click” movement schemes found in most adventure games. For the most part, it works quite well, but there were times when I wished I could've switched to a first-person view or panned the camera around to view more of the scenery.

The preview build has you wandering around Bombay, India, in search of one of the inventions that your uncle has created. The interface is very simple to use, and it goes to considerable lengths to help you know just where you need to go next. The first objective is to make your way to the hotel; pressing the Tab key brings up a list of your objectives at any time. Just as conveniently, there is a tiny map in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that displays an icon to help guide you to your objectives, and as your objectives increase, so do the icons on the map. As you move, the icons stay in the same position, so you always know where the objectives are in relation to Oliver. It works well and is certainly much preferred to "pixel-hunting” or wandering around aimlessly, two genre standards to which far too many games succumb.

As you make your way towards the hotel, you'll be struck by the graphics and the atmosphere of 80 Days. Bombay really looks, sounds, and feels like an Indian city in 1899 should. There are some anachronisms, of course, but they only serve to heighten the feeling that you are participating in a Jules Verne novel. The characters are modeled well, and you'll spot many of them wandering around the city at the same time; consequently, the city never feels barren or empty. Oliver's model is well done, and he looks to be quite the swashbuckling type who fits right in as a main character. There are many buildings, animals, plants, and other items to look at, such as humorous billboards advertising "Bollywood” movies. The texture work is nice as well, creating a sharp looking game that goes above what your typical adventure game offers.

Once you find your way to the hotel, you'll spot some other Englishmen such as yourself gathered outside and chatting. It seems that a cow is blocking the entrance to the hotel, and there's no way to get in. Through the course of the conversation, you'll discover that cows apparently hate snakes, and that there is a snake temple nearby that might provide a serpent for the purpose of getting the "sacred lady” to move out of the way. Since cows are considered to be holy in India, you have no other option. The dialog between characters is spoken as well as displayed textually at the bottom of the screen. It's well written and also quite humorous, and the voice actors do a superb job, lending yet more realism to the game. This is also the source of your first puzzle so an objective gets added to your list, and the snake temple will show up as an icon on your map.

You'll notice some vehicles outside of the hotel while you're standing about, and these can be entered and ridden around to get you quickly from one place to another. There is what can only be described as a giant tire that you sit inside and drive around in, a miniature car-type vehicle, and a magic carpet. Each has its own physics, and each feels and drives differently. It's quite fun and easy to drive them all, but you'll no doubt pick a favorite after trying them out. There's even a point where you can ride an elephant around. Upon reaching the snake temple, you'll find that you need to make an offering to get a snake, so another icon and another objective get added. You'll pick up the necessary ingredients, and come back to the temple to handle the puzzle, which isn't too difficult, but is a bit tedious to complete.

80 Days certainly has a lot going for it at the moment, but there are also some minor issues that need to be resolved. For instance, there are tons of people walking around, but each of them spouts the same one or two lines of dialog. The people also tend to blend together a bit, making it hard to distinguish whom you need to talk to, and who is just going to blow you off as a foreigner. I had some issues with the sound effects from the vehicles as well; the giant tire-like vehicle continued to emit roaring engine and tire-squealing noises even after it had come to a complete stop and I had exited it. Secondary objectives on the map use the same colored icon, which can lead to confusion if you aren't sure which one you're headed to. I'm sure these are just products of a preview build, and should certainly be completely ironed out before the game is ready for production.

80 Days is certainly looking to be an exciting and fun adventure game that strays from the established norm. It's a refreshing look at the genre that injects some much-needed fun and new gameplay mechanics alongside the same familiar puzzle-solving that adventure game fans are familiar with. Overall, it's working out extremely well, and I'm sure adventure game fans will find much to love when 80 Days releases.

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