1979 Revolution: Black Friday Review (PC)
When we talk about video games, there is and perhaps always will be a debate going on about the fun factor of a game and how that dictates the game’s worth. iNK Stories & N-Fusion Interactive’s 1979 Revolution: Black Friday is the kind of game that is likely to add fuel to that debate. In a world where racial, religious and political tensions are still unfortunately in the spotlight, 1979 chooses to observe the revolution that took place in Iran against the monarchy led by Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The game has some slight technical flaws and pacing issues that work against its goal, but it is nonetheless a gripping snapshot of human hope, passion and cruelty from a personal perspective.
1979 Revolution tells the story of 1978 in Tehran, Iran when tensions are reaching a boiling point as the populist protest the Shah. The player takes on the role of a young photographer known as Reza Shirazi. Reza’s close friend convinces him to come along to a historic gathering in which thousands of protesters took to the streets of Tehran to protest the perceived injustices of the Shah’s rule. What starts out as an innocent venture to photograph history in the making soon finds Reza embroiled deep in the heart of the conflict between government and citizenry. The game flashes back and forth between a future point when Reza has been arrested and is being interrogated and milked for a confession in prison and the events that led up to his initially unwilling involvement in the revolution.
The game works on a system that players of any Telltale Games adventure or even the recent King’s Quest reboots will be quite familiar with. Players control Reza’s decisions in active dialogue throughout the game. Sometimes you have as long as you want to make a choice, but most of the time, you have a limited window as well as opting to stay silent. Not every dialogue choice is monumental, but many of them work to change events as they go. It can be as much as a small directional change in the current conversation or a sweeping ripple down the line where a character remembers how you acted towards them or others. Playing a scene a certain way one time had us confiding with Reza’s brother, while the same scene played a different way ended in rather violent fashion. The main story moves in a very set direction, but the feel of change between playing a scene one way or another was absolutely present.
Another aspect of the game comes in exploratory phases of the game. As Reza is a photographer, his camera plays heavily into these parts. They often consist of Reza exploring a space, interacting with the environment or people and receiving opportunities getting pictures of what’s going on. A grand chunk of exploration and photography builds the historical part of the game. Almost every picture a player takes of a specific thing or moment ends up laid beside an actual picture of events from the protests along with facts or quips about what was happening, how it happened, or what certain things meant. Education can be a heavy-handed thing in games like this, but placed aside the interactivity of taking the pictures and capturing a similar image to the real thing was a unique and engaging take on the history lesson.
It’s not just pictures either. 1979 Revolution has visual and aural historical pieces scattered throughout the game. Sometimes it comes in the form of just observing an object such as a magazine stand sharing news of the pop stars of the time or audio cassettes labeled as music, but used to hide speeches from political and revolutionary figures that were banned and cause for arrest if discovered. The way 1979 Revolution interlaces historical context as a seamless exploratory piece that any good adventure game would employ is rich and thoughtful. The only part where exploration falls on its face is in movement. There’s no button for faster movement and Reza walks really slow everywhere. Sometimes it works out because there’s dialogue happening in the moment, but far too many other times it just felt a bit too sluggish making trying to get to any destination a drag.
During certain tense sequences, 1979 Revolution employs the use of quick-time events to deliver Reza through the fire and out of harm’s way. The sequences aren’t out of place, but they did expose some limitations. It was during a few of these that we saw texture pop-in or disappearance when it came to certain characters. In a packed scene full of running crowds and gunfire, seeing Reza somewhat sluggishly push and juke his way around the same people hurt the experience a bit. The worst, however, is dying. Failing to pass a quick-time event or answering certain ways in dialogue can end in a “game over” screen. Not so bad, except there doesn’t seem to be a way to fast forward through dialogue or animations that have been seen before. In other words, the worst part of a “game over” is having to sometimes witness or take part in the series of events you’ve already seen and it takes away from the full effect.
1979 Revolution: Black Friday will probably push people away and outrage others for its content. It’s not a feel-good type of game and not everyone may agree with the personal take of history that it provides. Furthermore, while it does fairly well in applying the conventions of current adventure games, it occasionally hurts itself in stretches of slow pacing and slight technical hiccups. That said, 1979 Revolution has a power that runs on par with games like Ubisoft Montpellier’s Valiant Hearts: The Great War and E-Line Media and Upper One Games’ Never Alone. It’s not a schoolbook history lesson and shouldn’t be taken as such. Rather, it is a powerful take on historical events that was inspired by personal accounts, documents, and study. To take that subject matter and roll it into events that left us begging for a continuation of the story past its credits is telling of its strength as an adventure that just happens to be educational.
This review is based on a download of 1979 Revolution: Black Friday provided by the publisher for PC.