Cute animal protagonists will be the death of me. They lead me down the path towards staring at them continuously, cooing like an idiot and ignoring whatever’s trying to get my attention. Maybe in my aging years I have finally found my weakness, but it’s obvious French studio Casus Ludi had plenty of people just like me in mind when creating Blanc, the latest indie game ready to distract me with its endless cuteness. Spoilers, it worked.
Blanc tells a Disneyesque tale of a delicate fawn and a young wolf cub accidentally left behind in a snow-covered wilderness by their respective families. As either a solo player or co-operatively as two, it’s your task to guide them back through the winter (not quite wonder) land that awaits them, solving puzzles as a team and helping a few fellow animals along the way.
Unlike similarly designed titles like It Takes Two, Blanc simplifies things down both in telling its tale and exploring its black and white visual landscape. There’s no dialogue, and pointers as to where to go or what to do next are kept to a minimum, with all clues coming from our two little heroes in the form of audible cues and tiny notifications Spidey-sense style that indicate something nearby could be useful. That can range from pointing you in the right direction, such as leaving prints in the snow, or suggesting an object can be interacted with nearby.
The path towards home
Both cub and fawn (or as I liked to call them, wolfy and deerest) interact with the environments in different ways that visually reflect their own design. Being a small, dark-furred critter, wolfy can use its teeth to pull or break ropes and small, black textured handles, whereas the taller but stronger deerest can push doors and become a platform for wolfy to reach higher places it can’t otherwise jump to. Both need to work together on occasion, pushing and pulling in unison, otherwise there aren’t a huge number of mechanics to worry about. If playing solo as I did, you can assign either the left or right joy-con to each character, which took a little getting used to when you’re moving both at the same time.
One of the better puzzles in the game involves high winds, blowing just strong enough to stop other little creatures from walking through. As both cub and fawn, you must create a wind tunnel of sorts and slowly guide various friendly faces through to the other side. It isn’t altogether easy and will take a little to get the timing right, but it’s an interesting diversion from the usual exploration elements. Having said that, most of the puzzles don’t post much of a challenge, though that’s less a disappointment and more a reflection of Blanc focusing more on the journey and the bond formed between the two characters. On that front, it succeeds.
As much as I would have liked a grander story, one that had more cutscenes with maybe a darker tone on their separation from the herds, Blanc plays with emotion lightly though effectively enough. I’ll admit, I teared up a little at its final few moments, and one scene late in the game caught me by surprise (no doubt many other players will have the same reaction … you’ll know it when you see it), but I don’t feel like my expectations were completely met on that front. I enjoyed the journey and laughed a few more times than I was anticipating, especially when the game pointed out I could slide down snowy hills toboggan style, but when you think of two animals in the middle of nowhere you expect a little more danger and uncertainty surrounding their escapades than what’s presented here.
Snowy farming simulator?
Blanc plays things simple, which is a blessing and a curse. Anyone can pick up and play, especially younger children, with a lack of convoluted mechanics or controls. Those looking for more of a challenge, however, would be better suited to seek out the aforementioned It Takes Two, but Blanc is a user-friendly way to play a cooperative game without the frustrations that can sometimes come with them. As a solo player I found little to complain about outside of some minor framerate issues on Switch, while controlling both characters at the same time never became annoying despite the occasional ‘wait, which one is on which stick again?’
Though a short journey, I had fun with wolfy and deerest while it lasted. When the piano-backed music kicks in as you solve a puzzle and move on to the next area, I felt their friendship building and my love for them growing. That drove me forward to complete the journey and, as much as I wanted more little secrets to uncover, I appreciated Blanc’s storytelling and visual minimalism. The black and white nature surrounding you feels cold and lifeless, but the heartening adventure will warm you up in no time flat.
Reviewed on Switch // Review code supplied by publisher
- Casus Ludi
- Gearbox Publishing
- Switch / PC
- February 14, 2023