Around the World in 80 Days, the fanciful tale that combined a globe-spanning adventure with weighty sociopolitical commentary, was one of Jules Verne's finest novellas. Around the World in 80 Days, the feature film starring Jackie Chan as the indomitable Passepartout and featuring Steve Coogan as his eccentric inventor-boss Phileas Fogg, is due out this month, and it's getting the mobile game treatment. While commentary on the movie's quality will have to wait, the game--created by Thumbworks and Pick Up And Play--is a broadly flawed mobile title.
All the verve of the original source material (and the second-order film property) has been leeched out of this game and replaced with dreary gameplay, pedestrian graphics and sound, and buggy level design. The game may nominally follow the plot of the movie, but it's remarkably tough to derive two hours of entertainment here. 80 Days puts you in the shoes of Passepartout, a martial arts whiz and all-around action hero who must circumnavigate the globe in a little under three months. The mobile game abridges this trip to focus on four locations in particular: Paris, India, China, and New York. In-game time (and your score) is kept in days, which advance at the rate of about a tenth of a day per second, and if you beat the 80-day timer by a particularly wide margin over four levels, you can upload your high score to an all-time-best server and commence gloating.
To get that far, however, you must first confront 80 Days' many irritating gameplay issues. There's a whole lot of platforming to be done to progress through the four levels, but you have to run, jump, and climb ladders at what feels like half speed. Running is so slow, in fact, that you will likely end up jumping constantly just to advance through a level. You can pick up a "Power of the 10 Tigers" power-up that supposedly gives you superhuman speed and jumping ability for a limited time, but in reality, it just makes the game feel like it's playing at the correct pace. Plus, the ladder mechanics feel more than a little off. Climbing up and down ladders takes forever, and your enemies seem to eschew the use of them entirely. Most platformers allow you to hop on and off of ladders to expedite the climbing process, but this standard trick doesn't work here. You must carefully step onto and off of the game's ladders, and if you try to jump off of one and onto a roof, you'll fall all the way back down.
In addition to being unschooled in the use of ladders, the basic baddies you encounter do very little damage and are generally easy to disregard. You can defeat them with a few kung fu blows, but it's easier to run right past them or jump over them. The second and third levels add chain- and knife-wielding enemies that are more of a nuisance. They are impervious to your assaults, and although you can still block or duck their attacks, the game doubles and even triples their numbers for each subsequent level. However, Passepartout is rarely in danger of succumbing to excess damage. He is instead subject to a far more annoying limitation--he must carry a precious jade Buddha everywhere he goes until he can finally restore it to his native Chinese village at the end of the third level. This plot point is undoubtedly important to the film's narrative, but it puts a serious cramp on the mobile game's flow. You can't finish a level unless you have the Buddha in your possession, and the statuette flies out of your grasp at seemingly random intervals if you take a few hits. It's an enormous irritant to constantly backtrack for the Buddha, which will occasionally get stuck on a ladder or inside a wall. This aggravation hits the boiling point in the third level, where Passepartout's village is awash in enemies. As a result, it's extremely difficult to reach the end of the stage with the Buddha, because it gets knocked out of your grasp almost as fast as you can recover it.
Incomprehensible design choices, like the ladders and the Buddha, preclude any real enjoyment of Around the World in 80 Days. The Parisian level epitomizes the game's jumbled play. Basically, it's kind of fun to race through the stage dodging knives, clambering through windows, and dangling from a hot-air balloon--until you realize that the level won't end until you actually hang from the balloon's rope at the stage's finish line, even if you beat the slow-moving contraption there by a mile. 80 Days could have been an average platformer with a coherent presentation. However, since it lacks one, it's simply not worth the download.