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Wednesday, 27 July 2016

1979 Revolution: Black Friday.

Yes, it's another review of a game I just finished Let's Playing. You can find that Let's Play here.

1979 Revolution: Black Friday.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I was searching for a short, quick game to do a Let's Play of and, after dismissing several options, eventually settled on 1979 Revolution: Black Friday. Describing itself as a Telltale Games style game about choices and consequences, set against the backdrop of Iran's revolution of 1978 (the '1979' of the name comes from the fact that, along with 'Islamic Revolution,' '1979 Revolution' is one of the names used for the revolution as a whole), it came over as one of the most interesting and unique games that Steam had on offer.

The game's only been out for a few months, but it's already generated quite a lot of controversy, mostly in Iran, where a right-wing newspaper accused the game's director, Navid Khonsari, of espionage, shortly before the National Foundation for Computer Games blocked all websites distributing the game in Iran and began a round-up of copies. with the government-backed organisation claiming that the game will poison the minds of young people.

Set after the end of the revolution, you play as Reza Shirazi, an eighteen year old photojournalist who has been taken prisoner by the new regime, and is being interrogated in Evin Prison. As his interrogator tortures and cajoles him, we see in flashbacks how Reza got involved in the Iranian Revolution two years earlier, as he and his friend Babak participate in the events leading up to the events of the eponymous Black Friday.

Reza and Babak.

Starting on the technical stuff: The game looks like an old PS2 game, with graphics that are more than serviceable, but a fair ways behind the time. Characters often move in very choppy, awkward ways, and graphical glitches such as sharp framerate drops weren't all that uncommon in the game. The soundtrack is fine but not especially remarkable (it's also available to buy separately, but I'm not sure why anyone would). The voice-acting, meanwhile, is pretty good across the board - as it should be, given that the game markets itself on having an all-star voice cast.

The gameplay, meanwhile, is basically okay. Most of it consists of walking around with Bibak and taking photos - a pretty simple process involving waiting until a slider is in the centre of the screen and then snapping a picture, prompting the game to provide you with a little snippet of historical information. It's surprisingly engaging, and the bitesize bits of information you're given are always pretty interesting to read. When you're not doing that, the game has you either partaking in quicktime event action sequences (which are always pretty awkwardly, because sometimes the controls will fail to register that you've done anything), or picking responses in conversation, complete with the ominous Telltale-esque 'This person will remember that' alerts.

Abbas making a speech.

It's a bit odd that you get those alerts, actually, because for the most part, nothing you do actually changes anything. The only thing that makes a difference to the game or the ending at all seems to be how you treat Reza's brother Hossein, which determines whether it's him or Lajevardi (an actual historical figure used to great effect in the game) threatening you at the end. Granted, Telltale Games don't exactly offer a multitude of branching paths and consequences in their games, but they have a little more than that.

It's a very short game, coming in at about an hour and forty-five minutes in length. While this isn't necessarily a problem, it does mean that the price tag of twelve quid is way too much to be charging for it, because that's a lot to charge for a very small game with shoddy graphics and occasionally wonky gameplay. For comparison, The Walking Dead: Michonne, which is about three and a half hours long in total and a much more polished product, is a pound less than that.

Ali's only purpose in life seems to be to turn peaceful protests violent, even when
it'll lead to most of the protesters dying.

The story, while good, also feels somewhat incomplete. The game introduces a lot of characters without really fleshing them out or concluding their storylines at all, with only Reza and Babak getting any kind of particular focus despite Bibi, Abbas, and Ali all being framed as important. The game also ends on an incredibly abrupt note: Rather than come to any kind of conclusion, it just finishes on Reza telling Lajevardi he won't talk, and then the credits rolling. It's jarring, and a little strange, which is a shame when the story had so much potential.

I do always like seeing games that take an interest in real world happenings and history, though, and I like seeing games that focus on experiences outside of the US and Western Europe, so I did like how the game was completely an unapologetically about Iran and its history and culture. This was a game with a lot of potential, and while it didn't quite manage to live up to that, it's still worth checking out. 

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