In the country of Iran, September 8th, 1979, is a synonymous date as it marks the anniversary of the Taleh Square massacre during the country’s uprising to depose the ruling faction of the Shah. The imperial army opened fire on a crowd of protesters, killing eighty-nine people in an act of violence that was to become known as Black Friday. The events of this tumultuous time in Iranian history are now charted in 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, an interactive, animated docu-film that now sees a release upon the Nintendo Switch.
Developed by iNK Stories and published through Digerati, this tell-tale style game tracks the true stories, events and people associated with the Iranian uprising. You take on the role of Reza Shirazi, a photo-journalist who has returned to his homeland from a brief stint in Germany, to find a common unrest amongst the people as the sanctions imposed from the Western world, as well as the tyrannic rule of their government, brings a crisis to the country’s population. The main focus of the game concentrates on the story, telling the tales of the people involved, as well as following the events that led up to the 1979 massacre. However, you also play an interactive role as you make choices that can have a consequence on your actions and of those around you; leading to tale of trying to find order amongst a world of chaos.
Between animated sequences that push the story along, you are tasked with a variety of actions, from narrative decision making, quick-time events and capturing the images of the uprising through the use of your ever-handy camera. These act as a mini-game style of play, as the QTE elements perform all sorts of actions from taking evasive manoeuvres during the heat of the moment to tending the wounds of injured parties. Taking photographs also takes on a similar role, as you scan the environment for photo opportunities, signalled by the view-finder’s green display, focusing on the shot and snapping the picture at the pivotal time; or when a cursor traverses along a meter, stopping it within a small margin in order to take the best shot.
As well as these elements within the interactive nature of the game, various points within the narration require you to respond from a choice of four dialogue options. Although the choice you make rarely impacts on the events of the story, after all, you can’t change the course of history, they can impact on the well-being of yourself and of those around you; often resulting in an untimely demise and game over. Should you meet your maker however, the game puts you back into the events just prior to your decision, allowing to change your response and carry on with the unfolding of events.
Although the story of the 1979 uprising are told through a series of dramatic scenes, the game also contains a variety of real-life elements to maintain one foot in the reality of the story it is trying to tell. These can come in the form of cassette tapes that playback audio files of speeches from the leaders of the time, as well as depictions of the original photographs taken during the uprising; ones that mimic the virtual ones that you take as you walk the streets of the Iranian capital. It all adds to bring a sense of realism to the events around you, as well as help to educate with a backstory using actual audio and documentation from the era.
The main premise of the game takes place around the confines of an interrogation room within the notorious Evin Prison. It is here where you are questioned about your involvement in the uprising, as well as the roles of your counterparts. As you answer the questioning, or choose not to, a variety of scenes revisit the key events of the revolution; opening up the story to you in a way that can influence how you react to your interrogation. It’s an interesting mechanic and one that forces you to think about your answers and the people involved. This isn’t a game that tip-toes around the nuances of its subject matter either, with often graphical depictions of torture, genocide and violence.
The graphical presentation of the game contains a motion-captured mechanic that contains a voice-acted and audio quality that is easily on par with a blockbuster movie. It’s action scenes are enthralling and the evolving story is thoroughly engaging. Saying that though, it’s general aesthetical feel is one that is very similar to the Grand Theft Auto games of the nineties. It’s visual presentation is quite rough in places, with basic texturing, modelling and background animations; although I also have to say that this graphical presentation matches well with the gruffness of the era in which it is set. However, this is a game that is trying to tell a story and in that respect, it produces a thrilling ride; one that is often harrowing, informative and educational.
For the length of its two-hour run, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday entertains with its movie-like presentations. It contains a very Scarface-feel to its depictions, scenes and events. There’s no pleasure-ride here, instead you are treated to a very harrowing depiction of life during the unsettled period of late-seventies Iran. It’s interactive elements do provide some entertainment, there’s nothing too taxing here or anything that drastically changes the course of events, but it’s the story-telling element of the game that simply shines through here; offering an engaging experience to keeps you glued to the small screen.
However, despite the success of getting its moralistic messages through, the story ends in a disappointing fashion; finishing with an abruptness that creates a few loose ends in its wake and leaves you asking questions. I have no idea if a follow-up is planned and taking it into account that this is a port of two-year old PC game, then I would hazard a guess at the answer being no. I also noticed a few frame-rate issues that stuttered at times. Again, for a two-year old game, this is inexcusable. Despite a couple of shortfalls though, this is a game that will entertain you in its presentational values, as well as educate and inform. However, once you have seen everything on offer here, there isn’t much to force you back. Much like a rented, or steamed movie, once you’ve watched it, you may never return to it again; although I would strongly recommend that you play through this game at least once, as it’s definitely a compelling journey through one of Iran’s most harrowing times.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.