A Co-op adventure that is as shallow as it is beautiful.
Blanc is a new indie co-op game from the French developers at Casus Ludi. In it, you play as a wolf cub and fawn, two unlikely friends, on a search for their families in the middle of a snowstorm. To find your families, you must work together to travel the lands, solve puzzles and follow the trail.
Right off the bat, the story calls to mind a massive Disney-style cuteness factor. The animation adds to that, with the fawn and cub drawn straight out of a cartoon with giant caricature eyes. They also speak in overly cute squeaks and barks to capitalize on the adorable nature of this story. The visuals are really striking as everything is a contrast of varying shades of black or white. All of this works well within the backdrop of a snowstorm.
The gameplay is co-op, and each character is controlled separately. The controls are simple: you have a call-communication button, a dash, a jump, and an action button that works contextually to push/pull or assist the other player in accessing new areas. You use these abilities to solve movement or platforming puzzles like having the deer be a platform for the dog or blacking the window in sequence to help a series of ducks. The puzzles can be as simple or as complex as the game allows. I say it this way because throughout the journey, you will find that the game itself fights you in a number of problematic ways.
Blanc’s camera follows your characters, but for some puzzles it moves to a fixed position. This camera angle works well for framing the puzzle but is a hindrance for depth of field. It’s near impossible to tell details of objects in the background or even where your character is located, especially in some of the late game puzzles. Also, since this is a co-op game, it’s possible for one player to go completely off screen and get lost outside of the fixed perspective puzzle, making such obstacles almost insurmountable.
More problems arise in that when the camera switches from a fixed position back to a following one, it snaps in an almost jarring way, making for some uncomfortable adjustments. I’ve seen quite a few of these snapback camera issues that force up close views on character models that are best seen from a distance. Blanc, generally, isn’t a difficult game. I just found that fighting the camera was its own puzzle, and that’s not a good thing.
The musical score of Blanc is beautifully orchestrated by Louis Godart. The strings and keys that punctuate every event are a definite stand out. There’s even an ode to the 2020 indie hit Untitled Goose Game that really brought me back. Godart is able to inspire wonder, uncertainty, and hope within every single note. This is definitely a soundtrack worth picking up.
Blanc, on the whole, is a fun, short experience that barely makes it out without overstaying its welcome. By the end, I was ready to call this journey a successful, but sometimes frustrating one. It’s great for a date night, but any longer would be too much. Its story is simple and inconsequential. Blanc also has a single player option, but it’s absolutely miserable. Controlling one character per Joy-Con is an annoying experience I wouldn’t suggest. The real stand out here is the soundtrack. I would put this soundtrack in the same tier as games like Hollow Knight and Ori and the Blind Forest. My biggest takeaway is that the Blanc soundtrack should be on everyone’s playlists, even if the game itself shouldn’t.