There are some video games that you do not play to enjoy and, no, I am not talking about rage games, like some of the rogue-likes I have played as of late. What I mean is that there are some games that you play to learn or to feel something, to put yourself into the experiences of another in order to see through their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts the full spectrum of human emotions for the sake of empathy. The review you are about to read is one of those games. This is our review of 1979 Revolution: Black Friday for Nintendo Switch.
Originally announced in 2011 and eventually seeing a 2016 release on Steam, iOS, and Android, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday had a development cycle befitting the subject matter of the game. Afterall, it is set in Iran as the powder kegs of political and social unrest were about to explode. This historical event – know as either the Iranian Revolution or Islamic Revolution, saw the dismantling of the rule and westernization of Iran by Shah Mohommad Reza Pahlavi and the return to Shia Islam and establishment of the Islamic state under the direction of Ayatollah Khomeini.
In 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, you follow in the footsteps of 18-year-old Reza Shirazi, an aspiring photojournalist with a desire to capture images of life as it is – no propaganda, just the truth. It isn’t long after returning home from Germany that Reza finds himself with his childhood friend and household servant, Babak Azadi. Babak introduces Reza to a protest movement beginning to sweep Iran, inviting him to join the protests by exploring what would become historical events through the lens of his camera.
Along this journey, Reza encounters people from various ideologies who have differing ideas of how the Shah should be dealt with, how protesting should be done, and what type of state Iran should find itself in once the fires of this revolution were satisfied. On one end of the spectrum, you have the nonviolent protestors who simply want to be heard and to live lives at peace with their neighbors, no matter their religious or social convictions. On the other end, there are those who you would meet aggression with escalated aggression. Somewhere in the middle, torn between a family living in support of the Shah and friends opposed to his rule, Reza must decide his place in these events as well as what stories his photographs would tell.
This story of 1979 Revolution: Black Friday carries a hefty weight of realism and authenticity due to the director’s experiences as a child during these events as well as the team’s connections and interactions with other survivors of the revolution. Reza is a blank slate for the player to control, leaving a sense of moral ambiguity which allows the player to observe the events, make choices, and weight them against the nearly forty years of history that would follow.
Unfortunately, the gameplay within 1979 Revolution: Black Friday is a mixed bag. It follows in the tradition of the iconic Telltale Games style, mixing quicktime events with timed dialogue choice and social arcs based on your choices. While there are multiple endings, it does feel like many of the choices that you make are of no consequence later in the game.
From a design standpoint, the graphics and controls feel a bit clunky for 2018. Animations felt stiff and I found that button sensitivity was different dependent on the situation. Some quicktime events were mired by overly sensitive buttons while trying to enter camera sequences made me wander around to find just the right spot to push the right button to begin them. While these things did detract from the experience, they were not insurmountable. What was a bit more jarring was the timed conversations.
Arguably, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday’s best feature (outside of the way that it tells its story) is how it sets up the relationships within it. However, the speed at which dialogue options disappeared left no room for strategic thinking and left everything up to gut reaction or accuracy with buttons. This created some issues for me when I pressed the wrong button at one point, unleashing a cascade of events that I was not prepared for. But, at the end of the day, this game wants you to feel like you are in the middle of this situation – even in those moments where you don’t have time to consider your actions. I think that it wants you to feel a little bit of chaos, like you are out of control.
If you enjoy history or want to catch a glimpse into a historical event that you might not know much about, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday is a worthy conversation starter. It is a rare occasion where history is told without a heavy bias, but 1979 Revolution: Black Friday does fairly well in creating an environment which does not sugar coat the actions of anyone nor does it create sympathy from one faction or another.
At release, it will be $11.99 USD and is intended for a mature audience.
Note: Our copy was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by PR.
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