As someone who grew up in the public school system of America, my knowledge of foreign conflicts is fairly limited. While the curriculum is constantly evolving, no one ever told me about the things that happened in the late 1970s Iran during a bloody revolution that resulted in countless people fleeing their homes forever.
Such a massive event seems like something we should all learn about, after all, those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it, but it wasn’t until 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, that I first experienced this piece of history. With a passionate development team, and some very real experience behind it, does this game do justice to an important piece of history? Let’s find out.
A Faithful and Authentic Recreation
In this choice-driven narrative game, you play as Reza Shirazi, a photojournalist pulled into the events of a political uprising and forced to decide how or if he will support the resistance. Right off the bat, the choices in 1979 Revolution: Black Friday carry weight.
Your decisions will affect not only Reza’s story, but the people around him will thrive or suffer based on what you do. Relationships and bonds will strengthen or disintegrate, which really lends a lot of weight to everything you do.
As you experience the story, you will also take pictures of various events and moments throughout the city and in a variety of environments. These photos can be instantly compared with the real-life work of photojournalist Michel Setboun, who took actual photos during this time period on both sides of the conflict.
The ability to immediately match up your in-game photo with a very similar photo from the time period is powerful stuff. Not only that, but you can read historical content about each of the photos, which further adds layers to the depth of the mechanic. Not only are you a participant in this revolution, but the context of it all is literally a button press away.
All of this is supported by exceptional pacing and superb performances from the cast. It also helps that the game’s creator, Navid Khonsari, was living in Iran as a young child during this time period. They were forced to leave the country and have never returned, mostly because they would be in danger if they did.
The personal investment and the thorough research on the developer’s part really make 1979 Revolution: Black Friday stand out from other historically inspired games. The focus on an otherwise unmentioned piece of history also goes a long way towards helping it stand out.
You may think that a game surrounding politics and history doesn’t pack a punch in terms of gameplay, but you’d be very wrong in this case. While a majority of your interaction boils down to making quick decisions, there are plenty of interactive quick-time events like other contemporary narrative adventures.
The photography mechanic also does a great job of immersing you in the events happening all around you. It all moves at an excellent and cinematic pace that had me engaged from start to finish.
Honestly, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday could have easily been my absolute favorite narrative game, but it does have a few shortcomings. While the historical accuracy, performances, and weight of the decisions in terms of relationships with your brother, cousin, and a longtime friend are all great, the game’s abrupt ending really left me wanting more.
The structure of the story, with its focus on flashbacks, led me to believe the game would eventually come full circle or resolve the story of Reza, but it does not. In fact, this game feels like the first episode, possibly two, of a series.
That would be fine if there were new episodes planned or promised like many other narrative games do, but 1979 Revolution: Black Friday makes no mention of this being an “episode 1” in the title, thus leading me to believe it was a complete experience.
Now, you could argue that the ending is meant to be abrupt, and I’m all for contemplative conclusions, but this particular ending left the story feeling way too unfinished to be justified as the “end” of this story.
It really felt like the game hit a climax and then promptly stopped. It was disheartening, mostly because I was all in. I was ready to see how everything played out, and before I knew it, the credits were rolling.
Despite this, I would still wholeheartedly recommend the 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, if only to support this talented team and their vision to bring an untold story to light. It’s a very strong narrative game, but the unfinished feel of the story really left a bad taste in my mouth.
A Mixed Bag of Presentation
Narrative issues aside, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday employs a simple art style that works perfectly fine, but the rough edges do tend to show more often than not. Blurry textures, in particular, take away from the immersion.
The game makes up for this with excellent performances from the cast and some fairly expressive animation. It’s also a small thing, but I really enjoyed the moments when characters momentarily lapsed into the native language of Farsi during a conversation.
We, of course, get the English translation in the subtitles but peppering the native language into the dialogue with a few words here and there really helped pull me into the world and the performances.
I wish there was more to 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, or at the very least a season pass promising more episodes. The experience here is incredible, while it lasts. It has some rough edges and oddities, but this is by far the best way to experience this untold story.
Perhaps the best way to teach history is to force us to relive it. I for one would love to see more games like this enter classrooms if only to shed light on things that are rarely discussed in our modern society.
At the very least, I sincerely hope we see more from the incredibly talented people at iNK Stories. They say you should vote with your wallet. Well, people, it’s time to get out there and vote, because this is one experience gaming needs more of.
Final Score: 8.5/10
A copy of 1979 Revolution: Black Friday was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 9/6/18