Review: 80 Days: A Real World Adventure, Underbelly Festival

Since 2008 Fire Hazard Games has made a name for itself creating high-energy immersive games and its latest creation, 80 Days: A Real World Adventure, is certainly no different. Loosely based on Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, the game sees participants rush around London as they prepare for their trip to circumnavigate the globe.

The Semi-Reform Club, led by Baron Pendleton invites teams of up to five people to embark on a race against time. Armed with a map and a compass (well, Google maps), teams have 80 minutes to dash between the South Bank and Covent Garden area solving clues and riddles via their mobile phones to earn money to shop for their forthcoming expedition. It’s like Challenge Anneka, though sadly minus the helicopter and head mic. The aim is to collect essential supplies to successfully make it around the world without delay.

The team which makes it back in time to board the train and travel around the world in the least amount of time wins. While that may sound simple enough, items on the shopping list are guaranteed to sell out fast, so time is of the essence to grab the equipment you need, unless you’re prepared to end up in Bangkok with only gravy to help you (note, gravy sadly doesn’t help). Thankfully teams are given a little helping hand in the form of the Baron (Nicholas Anscombe), Nightingale the Navigator (Kelly Long) and Botanist Hawkins (Matt Vickery) who are staged around the course. They’re on hand to point people in the right direction, help out with any technical issues or even dish out some extra cash (a selfie with the Baron earned my team a much-needed hundred pounds).

80 Days: A Real World Encounter is a thoroughly enjoyable and clever game. The strict time limit adds an element of excitement, though sadly it means the game isn’t suitable for those with limited mobility. The website is simple to navigate and what makes the game so interesting is that it’s personal to each team – they make their own decisions about which clues to tackle and therefore what area to explore, shaping their overall experience. The many clues are reasonably difficult to solve, and for anyone thinking they can cheat it’s not as easy as it seems (so I’m told). As the game is played out primarily on mobile phones, it’s obviously dependent on the quality of players’ signals and their data packages, but teams are given a number to call in case they encounter any difficulties.

Though teams only encounter the patrons a few times during the 80 minutes, the cast certainly add to the game, as well as demonstrating considerable patience with any teams who are struggling. Nicholas Anscombe is perfect as the vain and eccentric Baron, leading the team well, while Kelly Long is kind and sympathetic as Nightingale. Matt Vickery is particularly memorable as the nerdy Hawkins, who when he’s not assisting teams spends most of his time getting up close to nature in Victoria Embankment Gardens.

80 Days: A Real World Adventure provides a fresh perspective on areas of London you may already be familiar with, and is perfect for those with a competitive streak – once you’ve played you’re guaranteed to want to go back and beat your time! If there’s one negative it’s that the ending feels a little anti-climactic, with the train journey carried out on mobile phones while standing in a bar at the Underbelly, however the ‘choose your own adventure’ element to this part does make it entertaining, especially when you witness how far gravy gets you (note, not far). Fun, energetic and wonderfully imaginative, 80 Days: A Real World Adventure is an entertaining workout not to be missed – just make sure your phones are fully charged and you have a generous data plan.

80 Days: A Real World Adventure is running at the Southbank’s Underbelly Festival until 29 September.

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Photo credit: Sofia Romualdo

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