I have harped on and on about how much I loved the indie game scene, usually because it allows people to unhinge their minds and let pure creativity flow. The other huge benefit is that small teams can develop a game to tell their story and views, without money diluting or removing it. Nothing could be truer about 1979 Revolution: Black Friday.
Originally released on Mobile, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday is like a long episode of a Telltale game, but with a level of seriousness that Telltale couldn’t achieve with fictional characters. Because it is set in real setting during a real rime with real stakes, situations are immediately heightened. In a game where you want to be a staunch hero, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday pulls no punches with the sights and sounds to make it feel more impactful, or letting you die for antagonising the wrong person.
Coming in at about three hours, the game isn’t long, but its heavy narrative is enough to land an impact, without being so long that its message is lost by being gamified too much. You play as Reza who is a photographer, having returned to Iran from France, he wants to capture the truth of the conflict Iran is dealing with. Catching up with his friend Babak who is involved in non-violent revolution against the Shah, he finds himself under assault and in life or death situations thanks to the oppressive rule.
Along the way he crosses paths with his cousin Ali who is also ready for revolution, but ready to lay down his life taking the fight to his oppressors, Raza finds himself torn between these mentalities. The game will give you opportunities to choose the path you take Raza down, but it throws in hairy moments that make these decisions much harder. I regularly found myself wanting to betray the mentality I wanted to follow from the start, and these grey areas are littered throughout the game.
Raza’s brother Hussein, for example, is a police officer who wants to enforce the law in its strictest sense. The game never makes Hussein an ethically bad man, but one who follows the rules he has been told to follow. This allows someone like me, who only know of the Iranian revolution from afar, to see the nuances in every side of these conflicts. In fact, as the game jumped around a little with time, I started to forget who was on which side for the different periods of revolution. This only made the decisions and major story moments that much more impactful.
The gameplay itself is like a Telltale game, with long phases of dialogue where you must choose an option with a strict timer, QTEs that have you swiping left or right, or slamming a button quickly, and moments of walking around looking for stuff. Generally, the walking around phases have you taking photos which it then lines up next to real photos taken at the time. This only continues to make the story grounded, and impactful.
Now for the bad parts. I have left this to last because while they are important note, the game is so much more than its technical faults allow. The graphics themselves are average at best, and well below what other games of its style have, and there were bugs galore throughout the game. I got stuck in crowds at times and had to restart the chapter, or one QTE where you could die would restart with insufficient time to hit the first swipe, and I had the game crash on me once. But the game is short enough and story important enough, that they aren’t that noteworthy.
For someone with at best a Western perspective, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday was a truly terrific game that I couldn’t be happier to have played. It taught me so much and made me feel a lot more than I could have expected from a short game like this. It is a special opportunity to play an experience designed by someone who has grown up during and after these horrible times in a conflict torn country.