1979 Revolution: Black Friday

on

1979

1979 Revolution: Black Friday
PC and mobile
Developed by iNK Stories
Released in 2016

Though I often claim to be a lover of history, there are many parts of it that are completely foreign to me. I went into 1979 Revolution with a slight sense of worry, because I knew literally nothing about Iran or its history. Had the game asked me to mark Iran on a map I probably wouldn’t even have come close to it. I worried if this would be an excellent opportunity to educate myself or a reminder of just how unfamiliar I was with the setting.

It’s the former

The game puts you in the boots of Reza, a young photographer that returned to Iran amidst the revolution after spending time in Germany. Historic events are happening around him, the population is rising up against the oppressive regime of the Shah, and being a photographer, Reza is convinced by his friend Babak to take pictures of it all so the world can see what is really happening in Iran. As the player you can decide how Reza feels about the revolution himself, but one fact that doesn’t change is that his loyalties are divided. While he meets plenty of friends on the side of the revolution, back home his family favors the Shah. Heck, his brother is part of the Shah’s police force and working hard to quell the flames of the revolution that Reza’s pictures could ignite even further.

1979 streets.png

The story is told in the same format as a Telltale adventure game, with the player moving Reza around areas, interacting with objects and people, and making choices that slightly alter the course of the story. It doesn’t have the same budget Telltale works on and is a lot shorter, so the consequences of your choices are more immediate, but I found the story itself really amazing.

Reza’s conflicted position makes it easy to sympathize with him and I found myself easily shift in his shoes. For a lot of the early game I was giving the revolution my all, lending and promising my support, trying to keep everybody on good terms, but when family was brought up I felt the need to defend them. When sat down with them I even considered stepping back if given the chance to. For as short as the game is, I finished it in just over two and a half hours, the characters are really quick to endear themselves. I wanted to play it in a way that would assure they would all end up fine, as impossible as that is.

1979 home

The game really takes its time to explain the revolution and culture of Iran in a way that makes it easy to understand, so by the time I was finished with the game I felt a kind of connection with the country. It was fun to learn about its traditions and people, and the struggle they suffered through. I would be totally willing to give the game a 10/10 score, if it wasn’t for the open ending. While a lot of exciting stuff happens and it’s presented well, the ending comes too soon and leaves everything open. You don’t know what happens to Reza, you don’t know what happens to his brother and Bibi, and you don’t even really get to hear how the revolution turned out.

Story score: 9.5/10

Copyrighted by Telltale

The storytelling is more important to 1979 than the gameplay, which takes more of a backseat. Like a Telltale game, a lot of it is spend walking around and interacting with objects, but there is no puzzle element to any of it. You just walk until you reach the next area where a story moment takes place. Everything between you and the next destination is optional, though ignoring it makes the game a lot less fun to interact with.

1979 choice.jpg

Most of this optional content comes in the form of photographs that you can take. When you approach something worth taking a picture of a sound will play and an icon is displayed. You then bring up your camera and have to time a picture when the focus is at its clearest. It’s not hard to time at all and the game is forgiving with the input. When you take the picture the game will then put it next to an actual, historic photograph that looks like it and provide you with a bit of text that explains the context and value of it.

I found this really cool, as it implies Reza is capturing all these iconic images. The text you get is also not particularly long, so it’s easy to read and understand. You do find a lot of these and they are often close together, which means you may find yourself moving at a snail’s pace as you constantly bring up your camera and read through new entries.

1979 interrogation

Besides taking pictures and touching anything the game will let you touch, the game sometimes shifts to action sequences where you must perform quick-time events or quickly do something to make it through. This can be pressing the matching WASD buttons when prompted, rapidly clicking on something, or patching up wounded people by cleaning blood and applying bandages. The input for these can be a bit too precise for me, with the game demanding you actually mouse over something when asked to click a lot or making it hard to read what button it wants you to press. 

With a runtime of about 150 minutes you won’t see a lot of action and since your choices don’t change that much in the grand scheme of things, it’s a game you will probably only play once. It’s great while it lasts, at least.

Gameplay and extras score: 7/10

Faces of the revolution

Like with the gameplay, iNK really attempted to mimic the visual style of Telltale and gave 1979 a soft cartoon-like art style with realistic characters. The result is overall pleasing, with main and side characters looking really nice and detailed, able to easily express themselves and move around in a believable way. Where it becomes a bit messy is in the large street protests, where they attempted to sell the scale of the revolution by literally putting down hundreds of 3D-rendered characters doing various animations and carrying banners. While as true to the events as possible and these filler-characters are often clones with less detailed designs, I found that these scenes really tanked the framerate on my modest gaming laptop.

1979 assault.png

The sound design during these street protests was really above par in a game that otherwise wasn’t noteworthy for the music. You really get swept up in the chaos with loud chanting all around you, which explains why the game insisted I use headphones while playing. Another touch I like and am inclined to believe was genuine is the inclusion of Iranian language in spoken dialogue. Most of the game is in English, but they work in lines and honorifics that are apparently Iranian and sound really cool mixed in with the dialogue.

Presentation score: 8/10

Verdict

If you are the kind of person that is willing to buy a game for its story rather than the gameplay or its length, then I can completely recommend 1979 Revolution: Black Friday. It tells a story about an often forgotten bit of history from a country that many don’t think about often, and it shows the struggle of different factions among the revolution from the viewpoint of an interesting and conflicted character. I was completely enamored with this game, so please do try it out.

82/100

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