1979 Revolution: Black Friday
Developer: Ink Stories
Release Date: 2 August 2018
Price: $11.99 / £10.79
Reviewed by Ian Lewis
1979 Revolution: Black Friday tells the story of the Iranian Revolution of – you guessed it – 1979, through the eyes of fictional photojournalist Reza Shirazi. The game begins with Reza’s arrest and imprisonment, and as he is beaten for information, with the plot subsequently unfolding through flashbacks.
My knowledge of the 1979 revolution in Iran was pretty much non-existent, and this game does a brilliant job of bringing it to life. The setting is gripping, while the story you play through is impactful without feeling clichéd. Indeed one of the main strengths here is that while Reza is instantly likeable, there are a lot of shades of grey in the plot, which mirrors the feelings of the time in Iran.
This sense of authenticity is aided by the fact that the director of the game grew up in Iran at this time, and the development team interviewed 40 Iranians who’d lived in Tehran during the revolution to give a more rounded picture of events. As such, minor details are worth paying attention to – even graffiti on the walls is taken from actual markings in the capital.
Throughout the game you’ll explore the streets during protests while snapping pictures, unlocking background information and real photographs from the revolution as you progress. You’ll also make dialogue and action choices which, more often than not, turn out to be fairly inconsequential - although there are a few points in the game which have a bigger impact. The story isn’t particularly branching, but your choices in these sections will determine which of the two endings you see. So far, so Telltale Games.
There’s also a smattering of quick-time events too, where you’ll be prompted to press a direction or rapidly tap A to progress. These sections are brief and fairly clunky, removing you from the atmosphere. They’re not particularly frustrating, and I only failed once despite being fairly slow to react at times, but they don’t really add much for a title with such a serious tone.
So in total, there’s not much of a traditional game to play here – it’s definitely more of an interactive story. Yet this simplicity is a strength – it’s as accessible to non-gamers as it is to hardcore Switch fans. If you enjoy a good plot, then you’ll like this game, and you’ll definitely learn something too.
The only other main criticism I have is the sloppy animations in some of the secondary characters. Generally the game looked alright, but when you suddenly have someone waving their arms magically and dramatically above a typewriter to move its carriage, it can really take you out of the experience. Yet these aren’t game breakers, so in the grand scheme of things they should be taken as minor gripes.
It’s only a shame because the rest of the presentation is solid, bordering on very good. As stated the graphics are fine, similar in style to the Telltale games but maybe lacking a little of their finesse, but the sound effects are great and the voice acting is pretty believable – there’s no cheesy delivery here.
I found a couple of other niggles, including a section in a cinema that was too dark to play properly in handheld mode (with no way to change brightness in settings), and getting stuck behind NPCs on a couple of occasions, but overall the game played well, and I was able to breeze through it. It’s not a huge game – you can probably get through it in a couple of hours - but it’s worth playing once more to try out the alternative dialogue and action choices.
There might not be much ‘game’ in 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, but that’s not the point. This is a powerful interactive drama, offering a fascinating insight into real history, rounded off by some solid performances that keep you engaged throughout.
Pros & Cons
+ Strong plot with genuine intrigue
+ Tons of historical depth
+ Solid vocal performances from the cast
- Some ropey animation at times
- Haphazard quick-time events