The notion of two disparate species of animals coming together to help one another is not particularly new in the world of storytelling. The trope goes all the way back to the likes of Peter Rabbit, in which our intrepid titular hero enlists the assistance of Squirrel Nutkin to help fend off the dastardly fox, Mr. Tod. It’s a concept that just works and is immediately endearing to both children and adults; so it’s no wonder, then, that Blanc resonated with so many upon its initial reveal. But does the actual gameplay hold up? Mostly, but with some important caveats.
Blanc stars two playable characters — a wolf cub and a fawn — both of whom have been inadvertently cut off from their respective families during a sudden snowstorm. As the two try to get their bearings, they run into each other over two sides of a frozen river, and ultimately decide to help each other return to their parents and siblings. Considering there’s absolutely no dialogue in Blanc, developer Casus Ludi has done a remarkable job in communicating exactly what’s going on with the two main characters in question, despite the admittedly simplistic plot.
You’ve got a few different options when it comes to setting up your game. Primarily, this is a co-op experience, so you can play locally or via online with relative ease. Local play requires you to split your Joy-Con between two players or use two separate controllers altogether. Alternatively, the game does allow for solo players to experience it; you can use the left analogue stick to control one character, and the right to control the other, with the bumper buttons mapped to the other in-game mechanics. It’s a bit of an odd setup that takes a bit of getting used to, but if you’re not keen on co-op games, we reckon it does the job just fine.
The opening section gradually introduces the game’s core mechanics, and you’ve really got just two options available to you at any one time: ‘jump’ and ‘action’. The action command is context sensitive, so if you’re playing as the fawn, you can use it to become a sort of makeshift platform to help the wolf reach high ledges, or you can simply use it to grab onto objects or snap them in two with the wolf’s jaw. It’s very simplistic stuff, but we feel this is beneficial to the overall experience. The true joy of Blanc lies within its atmosphere and visuals, so introducing complex gameplay mechanics would undoubtedly intrude on this significantly.
That said, there are plenty of puzzles to sink your teeth into - literally, in the wolf's case. These mostly consist of moving objects or causing changes within the environment to help one or both characters reach new areas. They're not too demanding for the most part, but the game would do well to point you in the right direction at times, as the distinct lack of hints or tips can cause brief moments of frustration. Additionally, some of the later puzzles include NPC animals which effectively mimic your movement. So not only do you need to keep an eye on what your own characters are doing, but you need to ensure that you’re also guiding the NPCs properly. This can get a bit fiddly at times and comes very close to negatively impacting what is mostly an easy-going experience.
We also have to mention the camera, which unfortunately doesn’t always behave itself. Naturally, with a co-op game of this nature, the camera is essentially fixed and zooms of its own accord depending on where you are in the environment; if the two characters are close together, the camera stays up close, but if you move further apart, it will pan out to give you a better view. It’s fine for the most part, but there are moments where the camera gets a bit stuck or is blocked by objects in the area. Again, it wrenches you from the otherwise immersive experience and reminds you that, yes, you are playing a video game.
Despite our issues with the game, however, Blanc really shines when everything is singing from the same hymn sheet. Because the puzzles are generally so simplistic, getting through them requires little exertion and makes for a really pleasant experience. There are also moments that pay direct homage to titles like Journey and Abzu where you’re effectively gliding on the snow through multiple environments against a backdrop of truly beautiful music.
Not only that, but Blanc looks pretty stunning at times. When the camera pans out to give you a proper landscape view of the environment, it really hits home just how successful the unique, abstract art style is. It helps create a great sense of place, and this is boosted significantly by little details such as snow tracks left behind by the characters, and blankets of snow cascading down roofs or planks. The devs have done a great job at making the most out of the extreme lack of colour available.
In terms of overall length, you’re probably looking at around two hours to complete the whole game, and that’s being generous. It’s definitely quite short, but the content that is here feels very much worthwhile. It’s a lovely little story of hope and triumph through hardships, and although there are moments where we feel the emotional stakes could have perhaps been pushed a bit further, it’s definitely a story that will resonate with children in particular.
Blanc is a pleasant, easygoing co-op experience that will provide a couple of hours' worth of enjoyment along with a few frustrations. The camera can be a bit messy at times due to the two-player setup, and the game could definitely do with a hint system in some areas, as we imagine children in particular would struggle with the overall lack of direction. That said, it's a lovely-looking game and an entirely inoffensive experience that anyone can pick up and enjoy with little fuss. If you're looking for a new, emotionally driven co-op game, then Blanc is an easy recommendation.
More coop games is always welcome. This sounds a bit like Pode, but I struggled with its its early cryptic puzzles.
Wow, it's that short?! That makes it so much more appealing. So many open world games... ugh.
Anyway I will probably get this because of the short length! Thanks for the review.
Can you play this single player or is it co-op only?
I am so glad that the modern distribution system and marketplace allow games like this to exist. I will definitely check it out. And thanks Nintendo Life for making me aware of it.
Now... how do we get Unfinished Swan on the Switch?
Should definitely end with the cub finding his mom and dad and the wolves proceeding to kill the fawn for food
"Alternatively, the game does allow for solo players to experience it; you can use the left analogue stick to control one character, and the right to control the other, with the bumper buttons mapped to the other in-game mechanics."
Sounds like this one is similar to Affordable Space Adventures in that playing it in coop is the superior way to enjoy the game. I'll pick this up, and hopefully my younger brother and I will have some time to make our way through it when we 2-3 hours to spare.
Which book is that in?
This looks like a lovely game. Do you have to play via WiFi if using two consoles or can it connect in the same style mario kart?
The review reads like a 8,5/10, but maybe it's my bias towards the game, which I really crave and desire.
The only thing I seem not to grasp entirely, is:
If the game is easy, does it really need to get easier?
I would argue that finding your own solution is the core of a puzzle game, and not everything needs to have a huge marker so that the standard consumer doesn't get lost.
I can always count on NintendoLife to give me a new word. This time, faff. Hope that plays in Words with Friends.
Haha $15 for two hours? Getting to Marvel-tier levels of rip-off.
Might still get this just for the art style and story alone. It's good that this game is on Steam which would make it easily to be speed run and refunded the same day.
Eye catching visuals, but the game always struck me as the sort that pins most of its appeal on just that, and it's really barely more than an experiment with the art style. I won't be buying it but hopefully the nice art wins enough supporters to encourage the devs to put out something a bit meatier.
Wolf cub and fawn - sold. I’ll get this for my daughters and backseat-play it. It’s perfect for that.
Puzzle-y, pretty, and to the point. I'm fine with that. Though I believe I'll wait for a sale like most of my eShop pickups.
So this has online co op but the full priced Kirby doesnt?
I will get it as it looks adorable. Kinda like Never Alone, a simple, short co op game.
Peter Rabbit lol
No it's not
Such a letdown Was really looking forward to it, dang.
@Serpenterror way to steal money from devs.
Congratulations. It’s one thing to refund something that you don’t like or doesn’t work, but to cheat them out of a purchase and still plan on completing their game… wow.
Despite the cons I'll definitely get this game at some point (in fact, it being short is actually a pro for me considering how many games I'd like to play).
Happy to hear it has a solo mode so I can play it as soon as I get it and later in co-op to let someone else experience it!
I think I’d have gone for Aesop’s Fables as an early example of unlikely animal pairings. You went a different way.
It said titular hero.
There isn't a Beatrix Potter book where Squirrel Nutkin appears with Peter Rabbit, let alone one where Peter Rabbit is the eponymous character.
Therefore the statement, "The trope goes all the way back to the likes of..." can only be in reference to something like the TV series or the films, which are quite recent. That means that this trope is quite new if we are to use Peter Rabbit as a frame of reference.
Got it to play with my 6yr old daughter - we were doing fine until the first 'extra animal' task and that is where her patience quickly ran out and we stopped playing for now. Great looking game.
Even with those negatives, I still might consider buying this on a sale. But it's great to know that I don't have to use two controllers to play it.
I'm playing it with my 14 year old daughter and it's a real gem ! I love it !
I read those statements as meaning that the design choice didn't work with some puzzles in the game. Not arguing your point about puzzles and solutions, more just offering that I didn't read them as contradictory necessarily. Like a bad clue in a crossword puzzle, maybe?
@WatsonWatson When you put it that way, yeah maybe it's something like that
Cute concept, awful controls. Could barely make it through the game on single player because the controls are so infuriating. You have to be prompted to do even the simplest of things, like pushing or pulling objects, jumping, etc. I understand having the animals controlled separately for co-op but if one plays on single player mode, why not have the fox or the deer computerized? Y’know, like any other game out there. I’m considering picking it up on steam but doubt controls will be any easier. As for the switch version, don’t even bother unless you want to be mad the whole time.
Charming art style, but the game is pretty simple and a little buggy. Not sorry I got it, but was hoping for better.
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