Blanc has a simple narrative. We see a young white fawn and a black wolf cub, lose track of their families due to a snowstorm. In order to get back to their respective families, the two must work together and form an unlikely partnership.
The first thing you are going to notice is how magnificent the game looks. While not pushing the Switch to its limits (far from it), the art style that has been chosen is fantastic. With the game being set in winter and in very snowy conditions, the monochrome nature of Blanc really helps in this regard. It doesn’t automatically make you think it’s missing colour, as strange as that might sound at first. There are some hiccups in performance here and there, especially when playing in handheld mode. It is nothing game-breaking, but it certainly isn’t welcome. I would personally suggest playing in Docked mode. Performance is better and it helps the visuals really stand out over playing it on the Switch’s much smaller screen.
The main objective in Blanc then, is to navigate through short, compact chapters, that first see you traversing over lengthy, linear paths where you can’t do much else other than run as fast as you can to the end. These then close in on much smaller puzzle areas. While in these puzzle areas, your goal is simply to get both wolf and fawn across to the other side. Sometimes, it will be easy for one of the animals to get through to the other side, but not the other, and that is where the uniqueness of each animal and the puzzle-solving elements come into play.
The main difference between the wolf cub and the fawn is their different sizes. Due to this, each one will be able to do certain things in certain situations. The wolf is much smaller, so therefore can get into smaller holes in the environment, whereas the fawn can jump up much higher and can crouch down to create a stool for the wolf cub to jump up onto. It all leads to some interesting puzzle-solving, but nothing groundbreaking. While these sections are mostly fine, there are some occasions where the puzzles seem a little too obtuse, but that might be more to do with some occasional camera issues where your character can go disappearing behind objects and some objects not quite being as obvious to the solution as they should be. This can often lead to aimlessly wandering around pressing the action button in the hope that something works in order to progress.
Co-op is a major part of Blanc – I really cannot stress that enough. The two aforementioned animals are always playable, regardless of playing with somebody else or not, both are integral to the game and its puzzles. This means, of course, each animal is being controlled by a player each when playing 2-player. Playing the game this way is 100% the way the developers envisioned and wanted the game to be played. Everything works much better when playing with a friend, as you only have to think about your own character and not awkwardly try to manoeuvre two characters at once. Each analogue stick controls one of the animals, so you can imagine the difficulties that arise, especially when you are moving from one lengthy area to the next. If you have ever tried to play a 2-player game by yourself before, you’ll know exactly how difficult it is just to make them both walk in a straight line at the same time. It isn’t shockingly bad when you are solving puzzles, because those sections are a little slower paced – but this really is not the way to play, trust me.
It will take you around two hours to complete the story – maybe slightly more if you get overly stuck on a puzzle. Once the story is complete, there isn’t anything to do afterwards, other than to play the entire thing through again, which you’re probably not going to do due to the linear nature of the game. I am not going to get into the argument of a game’s value compared to the hours it takes to complete it. However, what I would say here, in my opinion, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It allows Blanc and the ideas it brings forward to never get too stale. Even another hour’s worth of gameplay would have been a little too much for me personally. On the flip side of that, you could argue that’s a fault of the game and I certainly agree to an extent. There’s just not enough ideas here to make a fully realised game. It has elements of promise but fails to capitalise on it.
If you think of any great game, it’s the ideas they present that make us as the player think that even though you have been playing it for 20+ hours, you still want to play more. Here, it’s more of the opposite – just over two hours in and I was glad it was over, not because I didn’t completely dislike the experience, but because there are only so many times that I want to do the same kind of puzzle. Another negative on the length of the game, is that there is no relationship building, so the story can only go so far. As I said earlier on, this is a very unlikely pair to go on an adventure with, so there could have been much more done with the two. I have seen enough Disney movies with similar-looking characters to know that more could have been done to make us as the player feel a little something more.
Blanc never truly lives up to its potential, but it is a good starting point for a potential sequel. There are simply too many missed opportunities with most aspects of the game. From the puzzle-solving to the story, more could have been done. That isn’t to say I completely disliked the experience, far from it. Just please remember to bring a friend along for the ride if you are willing to forgive any shortcomings.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Gearbox Publishing