(available for Nintendo Switch and PC, Switch version used for the review)
Blanc is a small game made by the French studio Casus Ludi and has been published by Gearbox Entertainment. It’s a game that I’ve had my eye on for a while because of the concept: it’s a game where you are in control of a wolf cub and a deer fawn as they work together to travel a snowy landscape to reunite with their families. The game shows them working together to get through the landscape, solving various puzzles.
I wouldn’t describe Blanc as a puzzle game per se, it’s more of an experience or a journey.
The game offers both offline and online co-op, and although the game was advertised as two-player only, you can play it solo.
Blanc is obviously a much smaller title but it has really lofty ambitions, and it clearly caught the attention of Gearbox Entertainment as they decided to publish it. I have to say that Blanc is a game that you should only play if you have a friend over or if you can speak to someone online. Don’t think that you can just pair up with a random person either, the Switch version required your partner to be on your friend list. Since none of my friends have purchased this game, I had to play it solo. For the purposes of this review, I wanted to see how this game would work connected to the second controller, and I will comment on my thoughts on that.
- Art Style
Right off the bat, Blanc is a very good-looking game. It was a very bold decision for the game to be in black and white, but both thematically and visually it’s appropriate and amazing. It also is a lot easier to distinguish the environment than I thought it was going to be. They do a great job making snowy landscapes look beautiful and treacherous at the same time, and the game reflects the French countryside very well.
- Co-op Controls
When you play this game in co-op, the controls are good. I will stress that I couldn’t find a person to play co-op with me, but I can already tell from the minimal time where I used two controllers instead of one that the game was made with co-op in mind. While it is possible to play the game solo, please don’t play it like that!
It’s very accommodating no matter who plays the game, you only use the left analogue stick and the left two triggers. Communication with your partners is important for solving the puzzles but it’s not a game which requires a lot of timing to be accurate – it’s more concerned about the positioning of the characters. The deer can only do certain things that the wolf can’t do, and vice versa.
The gameplay, when done well, really aids the experience of the game.
The storyline is pretty good for the most part, it’s a pretty typical enemies-become-friends plot, but for the most part, it works out quite well. It feels to me like an independent animated film that you would see at a film festival, particularly with the black-and-white aesthetic. The team made the wise decision to not have any dialogue in the game, it’s all told through the animal’s expressions.
One of the highlights of the game for me was when the deer and the wolf came across two goat kids, each one mimicking either the deer or the wolf, which led to some of the better puzzles in the game, as well as one of the most heart-in-your-throat moments of the story.
I will say, just when I thought that the story was going somewhere, it just kind of stopped. It doesn’t feel like the most satisfying conclusion in the world, and it kind of gave me a feeling of ‘Well, that’s done then.’ This leads me to my next point.
- Game Length
This game can be beaten in about an hour and a half at most. If you’re adept at the puzzles you can probably beat it in under an hour. The game is designed that way on purpose because it’s designed to be an experience, and this is probably good because when you have a friend over you maybe don’t want to play this over multiple sessions. Still, I wish it was a bit longer. I feel like if I was playing this with a friend we would both want it to go on for longer. Granted, for reasons that I’ll go into, I didn’t enjoy the game in single-player, but this game still feels too short nonetheless.
- Single player controls
Blanc is functional, but I did not enjoy playing this game in a single-player. You have the same controls as co-op, but when you’re playing solo, you have to control the other animal at the exact same time as the other controller. It reminds me of trying to pat your head and rub your belly, which was really difficult to get a hang of. There were a lot of moments where I had to stop and regain my bearings to control the game. It is really taxing on your hands! They were kind of sore by the end of it because of how much effort I was putting into memorising how I’m supposed to move my hands to control both characters – and they often wouldn’t go where I needed them to. Only get this game if you have a friend you can play it with because single-player is rubbish to control.
Blanc is a very ambitious project and it does look great, but it’s a little too short for my liking and it’s terrible to play in single-player. If you can play co-op it’s a really good experience for the first time but it won’t have much replay value. It’s another example of a game with a great idea but is let down because it forces co-op.
Final Score: 6.8/10
Director of Axia ASD Ltd.
Self-proclaimed Nerd Consultant
and Head of Axia’s Film Society.
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