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Video Games To Keep Your Mind Travelling

Nick Nomi

Senior Contributor

When a travel writer is asked to pitch articles about self-isolation, ideas revolve around finding solace and indulging our passions and hobbies. Playing the guitar, writing a story and entertaining with witty repartee on Twitter are ok, but what if you want to escape reality completely? These colourful, destination-rich, travel-focused video games — that for the most part can be played casually across devices — may well be the salvation one needs to keep the mind travelling and the eyes entertained while in isolation.

Over The Alps

Over The Alps is one of those rare games that manages to evoke a sense of relaxation, while telling an action-packed, emotional story that impacts in much the same way as a good book. The gameplay is simple and choice-driven in the traditional “choose your own adventure” format, making it a good choice for the game-shy and those who just want a good, light-hearted adventure to get lost in. The narrative is told through various, consequence-driven interactions with a colourful cast of characters and romantic sceneries from inns, hotels and villages to towns and cities across the Alps.

But where Over the Alps shines is in its charming aesthetic. The story unfolds as a series of beautifully rendered turn of the century travel posters and postcards — evoking the most poignantly picturesque scenes from 1930’s Switzerland. It’s a pleasure to simply flick through each one of these scenes as though rummaging through a box of old postcards at a local market, uncovering long forgetting tales and interacting with a diverse cast of well-written characters that feel plucked directly from an old spy novel.

While the story is full of intrigue and mystery, the atmosphere tinged with British wit and elegant travel-inspired writing that’s not often found in video games, the overall game feels low impact and without obligation — not at all dissimilar to a book. Easy to pick up and delve into whenever one’s mind needs the escape. Furthermore, players can inherit traits such as honourable, dramatic and fearless, which helps to mix up character interactions, and the music is thematic, reacting to each scene, making Over the Alps a highly immersive and uncommonly rewarding escape.

Over The Alps is currently available on the Apple Arcade (across all Apple devices), and is releasing to other platforms over the coming months. 

Broken Sword

The first of the Broken Sword games began with a beautiful, highly romanticised and hand-drawn depiction of a Parisian coffee shop sat in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, and the narrator setting the scene with an evocative introduction: “Paris in the fall, the last months of the year, at the end of the millennium, The city holds many memories for me….”, and from there the series spans the geography of the world, following protagonist George Stobart on numerous adventures, uncovering far-reaching mysteries through point and click gameplay that is more about progressing the story through conversations, occasional code-breaking and puzzles, than through action.

The result is endearing and highly immersive, witty and mysterious, and an endearing work of art — both in terms of the wit-laden writing and the cheer-inducing visuals. The latest addition, Broken Sword 5, is perhaps one of the better instalments, with beautiful hand-drawn scenes colouring Paris, London, Eden and Catalonia with a distracting playfulness that creates the perfect backdrop for a story peppered with intrigue, humour, travel… and fragrant French coffee.

Broken Sword 5 is available across devices, including iOS, Android, MAC, Nintendo Switch and PS4

Draugen

Draugen’s deliriously pretty, vibrant yet muted art direction does a magnificent job of capturing the natural grandeur of the Norwegian Fjords. It uses Norways’s ethereal landscapes as a backdrop for a haunting Nordic Noir, a tale of murder and deceit that unfolds as beautifully as some sombre poetry, slowly unfurling, perhaps a little too fittingly with themes of isolation, loss and mental health.

Of course, being isolated in the mountains and Fjords of Norway sounds pleasant by comparison to London — so beware the bouts of pining melancholia that are inevitable while walking those lonesome mountains.

Draugen’s core game mechanics offers little more than a (highly engrossing) cinematic walking simulator that’s peppered with moments of discovery, taking the player down barely trodden paths framed by magnificent sea and mountain views, a setting that’s all too sublime, especially for a story so dark and at times unsettling that some might find it hits a little too close to home during these troubling times.

But the drama is more than worth it for those seeking a more meaningful, film-like escape to delve into. An intriguing game mechanic that made me think so often of travel is the ability to stop and watch as your character draws the scene, which offers surprisingly idyllic moments for pause, enhanced by a euphonious soundtrack of softly played strings, and the melodious, soothing sounds of nature. Those who take the plunge into Draugen’s gorgeous world will be rewarded with a thoughtful story and a small but well-designed play area that conures the romanticism of the Fjords perfectly, and feels as though every mountain view and pleasant winding path, hides a secret just waiting to be uncovered.

Draugen is available on Windows, PS4 & Xbox One.

80 Days

Those who enjoy a spot of trip planning will love 80 days. The game is based on the 1872 Jules Verne novel Around the World in Eighty Days… but with a steampunk twist. As in the book, Phileas Fogg has wagered he can circumnavigate the world in just eighty days but the game puts the player (as Passepartout) in charge of the route, making choices that impact not just the time that it takes to make the journey, but also whether the protagonists survive unscathed. And it’s all told through whimsical, comic-like visuals and writing that feels so much more literary than the average game.

Each destination in the journey is accompanied by an interactive story and the opportunity to make money by buying and selling goods at local markets. Through conversations with airship pilots, passengers aboard steam trains and other travellers, one uncovers new routes and stories of murder, romance and rebellion as told through the experiences of the game’s locals and newspapers that pop up as interludes between scenes.

It’s an engrossing experience and captures that familiar feeling of fleeting connection that one experiences through random encounters while travelling. 80 Days pulls one in for the long haul but is as equally enjoyable when imbibed as short day trip-like snippets between chores.

80 Days is available on iOS, Android, Windows and Nintendo Switch

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