Those of you who participated in last year’s Halloween giveaway may recall that inkle kindly gave me some promo codes for their app, Sorcery! I’d actually approached them on the off chance they had copies of their gorgeous digital rendering of Frankenstein available but having discovered Sorcery!, I was both intrigued and impressed. As with Frankenstein, the developers have teamed up with Profile Books for their latest release. The 80 Days by inkle app is listed in the App Store as a Game, which makes sense from a marketing perspective but for me it’s an interactive book, or graphic novel if you prefer. Not just from a practical perspective – you can’t play the game if you can’t read – but because the core strength of this steampunk re-imagining of the classic Jules Verne adventure is the stories woven into its massive and ever-changing narrative.
Summary – is 80 Days by inkle worth buying?
If you fall into any of the following categories then most definitely, yes:
- Children aged 12 and over, teens and adults (who can read – more on that later).
- Parents, educators and home schoolers who are working with reluctant readers or looking for imaginative ways to spark an interest in subjects as diverse as: the history of the Victorian era, colonialism, social studies, geography and geopolitics.
At $4.99 this app offers a huge amount of quality content (at over 500,000 words that’s more than the Lord of the Rings trilogy) as well as exceptional replay value.
How does it work?
You progress through the adventure as Passepartout, the newly-hired valet of Phileas Fogg. Fogg has made a wager that he can travel around the world in 80 days and exhorts Passepartout to make haste and pack a bag for your travels.
You quickly discover that you are responsible for all transport arrangements, luggage, finances and Fogg’s health.
As you read through the narrative you are presented with options, which ones you choose will have a big impact on how your journey unfolds and, according to the developer, there are 10,000 different choices within this story.
As you can see from the above image, there are five main things always in sight on-screen:
- Fogg’s health is shown at the bottom right
- Tap the suitcase on the bottom left to see what items you currently have in your luggage
- The cog at the top right of the screen allows you to restart the game
- In the middle of the screen at the top you can easily see how much money you have, how many days have elapsed on your journey and the current time.
- The button on the top left allows you to share your progress with others via social media. For example, here’s the second time I made it to London a day late:
— Deanne Shoyer (@OMum22) August 4, 2014
As you travel, in addition to reading through the narrative you will typically be shown between one and three options – Wait, Converse and Fogg:
From a tactical perspective, I found having conversations to be one of the most fun aspects of the app. Items you purchase or pick up on your travels enable you to prolong certain conversations – and the longer you keep them talking, the more information you can winkle out of them.
When you arrive at a destination you face further choices depending on the day and time of your arrival. The only cost incurred by exploring and going to the Bank is that these activities eat up time – but time is a precious and finite commodity!
The Market is somewhere you will likely visit everywhere you go (although forewarned, Markets and Banks don’t exist in all locations). At Markets you can sell and buy items that are either useful on your journey or that can be sold at future destinations for large sums.
What do I like about the app?
- Meg Jayanth has put together an amazing adaptation of the source material. She has somehow managed to faithfully reproduce the people, characteristics and language of the original but re-imagined it in a way that engages (and doesn’t offend) a modern readership.
- The original story involves two white, Victorian, European men racing through the colonies with all the metaphorical baggage that implies. But in Jayanth’s rendering, Passepartout in particular is no two-dimensional stereotype and women and people of colour are just as likely as white men to be engineers, people of power and captains of vessels.
- The 1860s and 70s were a period of enormous geopolitical change and this is reflected in the story – the Franco-Prussian wars, German and Italian re-unification, the American Civil War, the building of the Suez and Panama Canals – all of these and more are referenced. But in the alternate universe of this story the British Empire is already in decline, the Zulu nation has prevented much of Africa being colonized and Haiti is a power to be reckoned with in both the Caribbean and the Americas.
- The story is riveting, funny and surprising. During my adventures I was accused of murder, I freed prisoners and assisted with the birth of a baby, I was imprisoned and destitute as well as kidnapped by pirates and submariners, I talked with both slavers and the freed and flirted with women and men alike.
- The graphics are gorgeous and the steampunk aspect of the story leads to the most fantastical and improbable methods of transportation:
All in all it’s a gorgeous, imaginative and addictive story. I have now managed to complete a journey around the world within 80 days (three times!) but I find myself starting the journey anew, wanting to visit the places I haven’t seen as well as encounter characters I haven’t yet met and hear their stories.
Recommendations for developer to consider
- Accessibility. As I mentioned previously, this is a perfect app for reluctant readers, not just because it’s a great story but because the text is broken down into chunks and interspersed with lots of interactive elements. However, if a reluctant reader has difficulties reading or for any and all buyers who need accessibility support, the app falls short. I did tweet the developer to ask if the app would work with Speak Screen (one of the new features coming with iOS 8). It doesn’t look good, which is disappointing but they are looking into whether it’s technically feasible.
- I’m sure the story is what it is at this point but I confess to being disappointed that there were no Canadian destinations at all. Especially given the fact that Confederation occurred in 1867, the Riel Rebellion was in 1869 and Alexander Graham Bell was poised to invent the telephone.
- I did see a couple of typos (not surprising given the sheer volume of text involved, so this is a minor quibble)
I’ve got two promo codes to giveaway so if you want to try your luck, enter here: