1979 Revolution: Black Friday – review

  • Format: Switch (version reviewed), PS4, Xbone, PC, mobile
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Digerati
  • Developer: iNK Stories
  • Players: 1
  • Site: http://1979revolutiongame.com/
  • Game code provided by the publisher

If you were given the opportunity to make your own videogame, chances are you wouldn’t look to the Iranian revolution of 1979 for inspiration. That’s exactly what Iranian-Canadian game director Navid Khonsari did though, for a project that seeks to educate as well as entertain.

The backdrop is the very real revolution, but the characters and precise storyline are fictitious. Casting you as fledgling photojournalist Reza Shirazi, the story flits between Reza’s internment in the infamous Evin prison, and his part in the revolutionaries’ protests which led to his capture. He’s torn in several different directions by his loyalist brother Hossein, his friend Babak, revolutionaries both friendly and antagonistic, his mother comfortable in the status quo… and the decisions of the player.

Best considered as a Telltale-style adventure, the game (just a few hours long) often asks little more of you than a dialogue choice or the completion of a QTE. Not that we’re complaining. Visually, certainly, the game is a bit rough. At one point Babak’s body had melded with a car, displaying Kitty-Pryde-style powers, which we don’t think is entirely historically accurate. Where it really matters, though, Black Friday packs a punch.

The writing is very, very good. Empowered by some fantastic acting, the script successfully paints a picture of a country in turmoil, populated by people who are not perfect, but human. Despite the game’s brevity, it’s split into 19 chapters. This helps keep you engaged but, to be honest, the story and the acting do that perfectly well unaided.

In truth, the choices that you’re offered have very little impact either short term or long term. They feel as though they have meaning nonetheless, even if what should be a heart-wrenching torture sequence with your brother loses all impact thanks to being introduced before you, the player, actually gets to know him.

As you’d expect, there’s a strong educational element to the game. It’s extremely welcome, if somewhat inelegantly handled. The areas that allow you limited movement are peppered with photos to take and/or objects to pick up. Each time you interact in this way, you find yourself ripped from the game to face a historical titbit in the menus, with the option of delving a little deeper should you so wish. This bluntness, combined with the occasional awkwardness with which a character prompts you to trigger a scrap of context, means that the experience can briefly feel like an edutainment title (shudder).

Still, the game as a whole is an excellent way to not only learn a little about the Iranian revolution of ’79 (much is left unexplained; unfortunate, but inevitable), but to demystify and humanise Iran and its people for those who need it. If you’re at all interested, this is well worth a purchase.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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