1979 Revolution: Black Friday, from developer iNK Stories and published by Digerati Distribution, focuses on the horrific events that led to the Iranian uprising. It also highlights the irony of the West having this name for one of their biggest shopping sales of the year. I was very intrigued by the premise and the choice-based systems in play, similar to any Telltale game you can play right now.
The story revolves around the tale of Reza Shirazi, an aspiring photographic journalist, who uses his camera as a weapon. You start off in 1980 following his arrest and the story unfolds through several chapters retelling the events that led up to the riots. It’s safe to say, the story is very heavy-handed at times with every single element educating the viewer about aspects of the socio-political climate during the events taking place.
It was interesting and I enjoyed learning more about the Iranian regime’s and events, but sometimes it’s at the expense of actual enjoyment at times and this is more of an experience-based story. Contrary to appearances, the tale is unapologetically linear being factually accurate as it is. I didn’t feel like enough groundwork was laid before the main events kicked off and moments seemed to escalate too fast. However, it was nice to be able to choose the options that define the type of character you want to be, whether engaging in a more hands on way or just an onlooker.
A strength of 1979 Revolution are the dialogue interactions and this is important in a narrative driven adventure like this. The portrayal of a family literally torn apart between the ruling regime and the benefits that came with it, while also striving for a free and fair Iranian rule were excellently handled. You inevitably get swept up in events, but the result feels completely out of your hands. I felt the educational aspects overshadowed the seemingly choice-based dialogue up until a certain point.
Some situations will swing wildly from calm to insane, and it was in these times the the experience felt most real and it was nice to see actions throughout 1979 Revolution have an impact on the ending scenes. Of course if you follow historical data of this event, the real life story doesn’t end conclusively with a certain degree of ambiguity as to how it really ends, but that’s mainly for you to discover.
The gameplay in 1979 Revolution is not the focal point of this title and it shows. You control the character in a third-person view pressing a button to interact with the world. When looking at items of interest you can press another button to take you to a screen which will flesh out the item or image with more facts and information. While this all worked well, the gameplay felt more like just reading a history textbook on the events of this story. It was never fully engaging from a gameplay standpoint.
Dialogue choices mainly were where the key moments from the story came from, however you are given an incredibly short time to choose these and was often too short to even read all the choices. This could be a design choice to make the player pick a choice faster, but I found it much more annoying than like a game from Telltale. It plays like any one of their adventure titles in terms of making decisions but worse from a gameplay perspective.
You can die in 1979 Revolution in a few different ways: choosing the wrong dialogue option and during quicktime events. QTE’s play out very similarly to Telltale games where you have to press a button at a certain point, mash the button, hold it, or press a directional button to maybe jump over something. It didn’t really add much to the overall experience though.
Using your camera felt like the most unnatural to me. It revolves around walking in the environment and documenting the events that take place. Unfortunately, controlling the camera just doesn’t work well and could have been more intuitive. The timing based focus system gets boring after performing it multiple times throughout the adventure. I would have liked to have a manual focus option for the camera and even a point-based system you could attain a higher score by taking pictures of different elements in the environment. The camera navigation comes down to just panning the camera everywhere to find a green circle so you can take a picture.
Graphically, 1979 Revolution left a lot to be desired, mainly due to the fact that for such a heavy-handed narrative structure the animations came across as stiff and robotic. Environments for the most part are bland, the prison scenes in particular played to the title’s strengths. Fortunately, the sound design is an area of excellence and it comes through with a believable sound palette that creates a believable atmosphere. Characters are all voiced well and music from the region, mixed with a dramatic score, support the on-screen events from every aspect.
Overall, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday delivers on its premise and I found the story engaging with horrific details into the events that unfolded. Unfortunately, the solid narrative was hampered by some performance issues and visuals that just didn’t do the story any favors. These issues aside, any fan of the adventure genre should enjoy the story told, just be prepared to know that you probably won’t play through it again.