| Wow, this was better than expected. I expected a knock-off Telltale game with a historical story, but this stands up on its own. The voice acting is really good, especially for the prison warden, and the music is pretty good too. It keeps things tense as the action drama unfolds. Some of the character models are really janky though! My favorite is this one NPC who sits like a statue in an area, never moving. My second favorite was a man with extra-large, deformed hands. They looked like an alien's hands. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the attention to detail to place the character in the midst of the Iranian revolution. Really impressive. How many of the characters in the story were real people, or based on real people? |
So, in this game, you're a journalist, a young adult from a well-to-do Iranian family, trying to avoid sides in this political struggle. You take photos, but the problem is, as your character realizes, photographs are not neutral. The eye of the photographer inscribes photographs with meaning, and then those images can be interpreted by others for various purposes. One person looks at a revolutionary photograph and sees passion; another sees lawlessness. The coolest thing about taking photos is that many of them, once you snap, are juxtaposed with real photos from the revolution that have been recreated in the game. Extremely cool!
You of course get sucked into the revolution against the Shah, and the game tells the story of your involvement with resistance groups through your friend and family servant (I think this is the same kind of relationship I read about in The Kite Runner--not really servants, but not equals either), your family, including your police officer brother, and your lovely time post-arrest with a prison warden who enjoys a good torture session. The game does a good job exploring the moral gray areas of the revolution, how different groups had elements of good and bad, and how people changed sides over time. Actually, this game corrected my limited understanding of the Iranian Revolution. I didn't know how oppressive the Shah's regime was. I thought Iran was modernizing and that Khomeini's rise to power was more simply a backlash against westernization. I didn't know there were so many other ideologies vying for dominance, and that there were other prominent, even progressive, religious leaders besides Khomeini.
The game plays out in 19 chapters, most of which are basically interactive movies with dialogue options a la Telltale. Occasionally there will be a serviceable quick time event. My favorite parts were the few times you're allowed to walk around and interact with objects and people, like during a protest, in your father's study, or at a revolutionary headquarters. These moments slow the tense action down and let you view the pieces of history you've collected as you've snapped photos and read about Iranian culture. I haven't felt like I learned this much from playing a game in a while, and there are clear parallels here between this and Never Alone. I use Never Alone to teach about culture in my SOCI 1101 classes, and I had bought 1979 Revolution as a potential tool to discuss social movements or politics. Not sure how well it would function for an actual play session in class, but at least as an example may be useful to demonstrate something about religion and politics, ethnocentrism, and some other topics.
If I had to score this game, I'd give it around an 80, which is 10 points lower than I would have given it before the ending, which just...ends. Did they run out of time or money to finish? Are they planning a sequel? Not cool! I also don't think your choices mattered much. I can't imagine what else could have happened in the end depending on choices you make regarding your brother and cooperating or not with the warden. Also, at the end the game credits Sundance. Do they have a game development arm? I hope so. More games like this would be welcome!
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