Sunday, July 29

Review: 1979 Revolution - Black Friday [Nintendo Switch eShop]


While games are a great form of entertainment there are case where they make a compelling case for being capable of more, including for the purpose of education. In particular in the case of history a well-made experience can help people to get a sense of what was happening at a far deeper level than merely reading words on a page or even watching a movie. Your investment in your character and the people you’re interacting with helps it all feel more personal and potentially not just inform you but also prompt you to think about how you would react in some extreme situations. That definitely seems to be the goal of 1979 Revolution, which puts you in the shoes of Reza, a photographer who ends up finding himself tied to the uprising against the Shah in Iran in the late 70s.


Over the course of the game’s roughly 20 chapters you’ll move back and forth between the present, where you’re being interrogated and the past chronicling the days leading up to the Black Friday massacre when soldiers shot down dozens of protestors. Your initial responses to questioning are likely more revealing about your own tendencies since you don’t yet have very much to go on, but as you move through the story you’ll be introduced to all of the players and begin to better understand the situation you’ve gotten yourself into. Not surprisingly, in tumultuous times like those the game is set in there are many factions and people with competing ideas, what you’ll need to do is try to put yourself into the situation and try to work through how you would decide to respond.


Aside from being put in the position of making some hard choices, though how much consequence they carry you wouldn’t find out without additional playthroughs, there are some more game-like sequences to break things up. Some of these are quicktime event-esque, where you’ll need to move in a specific direction or tap a button in order to fulfill an action. While these are a bit on the clunky side I think their goal, to help immerse you in the confusion and tension of things, is a good one. The most effective moments are ones that will have you almost literally walking through history, prompted to take pictures in certain areas that the game will then literally line up with historic photos of the events themselves. How the pictures inform and structure of the game itself and are then used to help immerse you in real situations is pretty fascinating and very different. One of the chapters that’s interesting in an unexpected way will have you searching your father’s study for a camera, where you’ll find real photos and home movies of Reza. Helping you connect to the fact that these are real people makes some of the decisions you’ll face even more complicated and more compelling.


If your goal when playing 1979 Revolution is escape and fun you’ll be sorely disappointed, but not all experiences have to have that purpose. Using games as a vehicle to educate and give people perspective is a noble goal and one Black Friday absolutely accomplishes. While I have some understanding of the Shah’s regime and its overthrow seeing it more through the perspective of someone on the ground and embroiled in the conflict directly was quite fascinating. This won’t be an experience that will satisfy everyone but if you’re in search of something a bit different that will help you explore history in a very different way it’s worth checking out.


Score: 7.5

Pros:
  • Why simply read about historic events when you can experience them?
  • The choices you’re given, and who you decide to side with, can be revealing about your own inclinations and character
  • Your character being in the moment and connecting the photos you take to the actual historic pictures of these events is a great hook

Cons:
  • If looked at purely for its game elements it’s not a very good one
  • Unsurprisingly, since this is history, there’s only so much carried consequence to your decisions
  • Though you could work through it again and make different choices for the sake of seeing what influence they could have it doesn’t have a very high replayabilty factor