Blanc: The Kotaku Australia Review

Blanc: The Kotaku Australia Review

Blanc is a heartfelt story of hope and empathy that doesn’t overstay its welcome and takes advantage of its simplicity.

Blanc is a co-op adventure developed by Casus Ludi and published by Gearbox Publishing that follows the journey of two unlikely woodland friends: a wolf cub and a fawn. It can be played alone with two sides of a controller, together on the couch, or together online. I played it on the couch with my partner on the Nintendo Switch and had a lovely experience.

The tale of two unexpected animal friends is one that we’ve seen many a time in media such as The Fox and the Hound and Oliver and Company. Even in real life, we’ll see pictures of capybaras hanging out with literally any other animal and it’ll make us smile.

blanc review
Image: Gearbox

Blanc very much plays on this theme, showing a friendship grown from a desire to survive and find one’s way home bloom between the wolf cub and the fawn. It’s a simple story with no dialogue, although you do sometimes have the option to make deer or wolf noises at one another. I like that.

With a simple basis of “two unlikely animal friends getting through a snowstorm to find their way back to their respective families” established, Blanc never really needs to expand its scope beyond a couple of story beats here and there that introduce a few different animal friends that were truly magical.

However, I wouldn’t consider this economy of scale to be a bad thing. In my time in this job, I’ve grown to appreciate a game that doesn’t overstay its welcome. But, in this case, I definitely would’ve enjoyed seeing a bit more interaction between the two animal protagonists beyond the standard gameplay, and I understand that a shorter experience isn’t for everybody.

blanc review
Image: Gearbox

The gameplay of Blanc consists of exploration, platforming, and puzzle-solving. You’re initially plopped into a vast winter wonderland with one job: keep moving. As the fawn and cub, you’ll find yourself jumping from logs to ledges to rooftops and maybe even helping each other along the way.

The wolf cub and fawn interact with the world around them in different ways, which forms the core of its gameplay. The wolf cub can pull objects and bite ropes to snap them, and the fawn can push things with its head and bow to make a deer ramp for the little wolf cub to get up to higher places. This last gameplay mechanic is literally one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen.

Then there are the puzzles, which mainly involve (but are not limited to) the other creatures that you meet on your journey. There’s a whole section dedicated to helping baby ducklings follow their mother in harsh winds that felt like it was pulled straight out of a storybook. Then there’s a set of puzzles involving two baby goats that mirror your movements which is just delightful.

Image: Gearbox

The exploration elements of Blanc reminded me a lot of Journey, albeit a little more basic. I especially felt this in a part of the game where you’re thrust into a friendly sliding race, which was akin to a moment in Journey where your character slides through caverns with jellyfish-type creatures alongside you. This, as well as the little moments of my partner and I running up on icy sheets to watch our animals slide along, felt like a fun little break from the journey ahead that really took advantage of the snowy world we were in.

The world of Blanc is visually stunning in its simplicity. It is completely black and white but is aided with detailed shading and solid outlining to produce a visage one would expect from a Disney artist’s sketchbook. This makes sense considering Blanc‘s visuals are the result of hand-drawn efforts being morphed into 3D. It manages to create a beautiful world without too many bells and whistles, which I think is really neat.

I went into Blanc aware that it wasn’t going to be super long. Going back to Journey, I recently replayed that game on my iPad and was reminded that it’s a relatively short game, only taking me two hours to beat. Blanc took about 2 to 3 hours to beat, which I was fine with. That considered, there was a short time jump in the game that went from the pair pushing through a snowstorm to suddenly jumping out of a vent, and I would’ve loved to have seen what happened in between those points.

Image: Gearbox

Honestly, I didn’t find anything I strongly disliked about Blanc, although there were a few minor annoyances. Due to having the two characters onscreen with no split-screen option, the camera can go a little wacko at times. As well as that, the only downside of no dialogue is that sometimes you really have no idea what you’re doing until it suddenly hits you and you’ve gone too far and have to backtrack. However, it didn’t completely ruin the experience for me or my partner.

All in all, I think Blanc sets out to take players on an adventure that feels like an interactive storybook, and it achieves it in a beautiful way. The determination of the wolf cub and the fawn to not only help each other get home but to also help others along the way tugs at your heartstrings. Blanc looks lovely at every angle and really lets you take its visual design in at every given opportunity. What it loses in a bit of a wonky camera at times and an ability to get a little lost, it makes up for in its charming tale of love, empathy, and hope.

When the credits rolled, I cried. I predicted that I was going to cry before the game came out, and then I fucking did. You could call me a psychic, but I would simply call myself a wimp. If you’re a bit of a wimp too, a sucker for an animal friendship that defies nature’s food pyramid, and you don’t mind a shorter experience, I think you’ll enjoy playing Blanc with a friend.

Review conducted on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the publisher.

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