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1979 Revolution: Black Friday

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Digerati Distribution
Developer: iNK Stories
Release Date: July 31, 2018 (US), Aug. 1, 2018 (EU)

About Joseph Doyle

Joe has been known to have two hands with which to both play games and write reviews. When his hands are not doing those, he will put books, musical instruments, and other fun things in them.


PS4 Review - '1979 Revolution: Black Friday'

by Joseph Doyle on May 15, 2019 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

1979 Revolution: Black Friday is a suspenseful, narrative driven, action/adventure game set in the gritty true events of 1979 Iran.

Buy 1979 Revolution: Black Friday

If you're reading this, odds are that you have never seen the horrors of an oppressive regime. You've probably never seen your own military point guns at you for nonviolent protests. You've never felt the fear of being unable to see or speak to your family again due to political unrest. I never have and probably never will. iNK Stories gives us the opportunity to experience these harrowing events through 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, an interactive story that shows us the high-stress days of the Iranian revolution. As a whole, this game brilliantly utilizes making difficult choices in order to foster empathy and understanding in the player, demonstrating the real-life struggles of those in the near past and many out there today.

The gameplay in 1979 Revolution: Black Friday is similar to that of other interactive stories, namely those developed by TellTale. This essentially boils down to making choices, navigating Quick Time Events (QTEs), and investigating areas for information. This makes the game relatively simple to play. The QTEs feel good (if somewhat ham-fisted in their placement), it's straightforward to walk around the areas to gather clues, and the choices you make feel both important and understandable, with the game even enforcing a timer for most decisions. The tension in these solemn situations is incredibly apt, and it echoes the stress one must've felt in those times. You feel the heft of each decision as characters appreciate you more or get hurt in front of you.

Where Black Friday diverges from the pack is in its implementation of the camera system. Throughout the game, you're given opportunities to snap pictures of different people and events. For example, you see some people selling cassette tapes (remember, late '70s) and snap a photo, which is as simple as hitting a button as the photo comes into focus. What sets this apart is the option to read about the picture in context, showing a similar real-life picture (for those curious in this example, the cassettes had rock music on it, largely representing Iranian counter-culture at the time). These different aspects of the game keep the player's interest enough to continue playing in order to learn more about Iranian history, culture, and the story at large.

Speaking of the story, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday features both a compelling and important narrative. It opens with a single black background, with a stark white message in a bold font, describing the truth and gravity of the story that will unfold before you, pushing the player to reflect more on their decisions than they may while playing other games of this ilk. You begin playing as Reza, a young Iranian man who is harried and surrounded by the piercing red of a darkroom while being told to hurry to grab the right information. As you exit, you're intercepted by a military squad, and find yourself in a dark interrogation room, intimidated into giving up information on your part of the protests and opposition to the political regime. From here, you're thrust into flashbacks outlining your learning and involvement in these actions and how you reacted to them.

Throughout the course of the game, you're challenged to make choices between family, friends, and what you believe is the right way to challenge oppressive authority (force or nonviolence) — all while taking pictures of the events erupting around you and learning more about Iran and its history. One of the early choices in the game is whether to disrupt a peaceful protest by throwing rocks at military police. You're surrounded by the screams and cheers of the crowd, and you feel their fear and rage, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Through the cultivation of relationships between characters, 1979 Revolution creates intimacy between the player and the story. It depicts people in desperate times, seeking change and hope, and the player feels this throughout the game, short as it may be. Some of the scenes end abruptly and leave the player in a strange haze of emotions at times, but overall, this narrative is powerful from a video game perspective and important on a global level.

As far as graphics go, 1979 Revolution embraces TellTale's art palette and embraces the more cartoony side of depicting humanity, if only ever so slightly. On the other hand, while TellTale tended to use cel shading in its work (most notably The Wolf Among Us and Tales from the Borderlands), iNK Stories omits this in deference to realism — a wise choice, given the narrative and heavy subject matter.

On a whole, the game looks rather antiquated, with character designs and backgrounds looking somewhere between the first season of The Walking Dead and Tony Hawk's Underground 2, with the character movements leaning toward the latter. This is apparent during scenes with lots of characters (protests) or when moving around larger areas. Likewise, the UI and loading graphics are made to look like chalk and wouldn't be out of place in one of the class minigames in Rockstar's Bully. While these graphics are certainly out of date, we must recognize that the game wasn't made to be visually impressive, but rather as a conduit to explain Iranian history. The notebooks that store all the extra information, the pictures you take, and the character models are all secondary to what this game sets out to do — and it shows.

The music is dark and foreboding, representing the fear and terror in the hearts and minds of the people in Iran at the time. Sparse as it is, it packs a punch when it does come up. For example, when you pause the game, an intriguing, minimalist piano riff plays, giving one a feeling similar to that of L.A. Noire or Heavy Rain. As the track progresses, a quickly pulsating synthesizer graduates from humming to exploding in the background, only to backpedal into noiselessness, while the garbled chants of protestors linger hauntingly. This creates an edge to the piece, emulating whirring helicopter blades and creating anxiety in the player. The decision to include this in the pause menu is fantastic, as it continues the tension of the narrative. While this aspect of the art in the game is one that is used rather sparingly, it's still powerful and appropriate.

As a whole, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday is a quick and blunt showing of an important piece of history that's made to be accessible to our generation. As a game, the gameplay is straightforward but sometimes clunky, the visuals are lackluster but portray what they must, and the music bolsters the game's chilling tone and narrative. There are some bugs in the visuals and longer load times, but they're minor hiccups when taking into account the game's loftier goal of sharing this important piece of history with people who are largely unaware of it. The pain and want are well documented through this experience, and both in the gameplay and the in-game notebook. This title parallels that of Art Spiegelman's "Maus" graphic novels (highly recommended reading) in its aims and success. I would even go so far as to say that to play this game would be an act of global civic duty, and we should all play it to become better world citizens.

Score: 9.0/10

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