Blanc Review – Drawing a Blank
Developer: Casus Ludi
Release Date: February 14, 2023
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Gearbox Publishing
Genre: Online Co-Op
When focusing on simplicity, creativity usually becomes easier to comprehend and maneuver. However, shining the limelight on simplicity can overshadow the other important aspects of an experience. In Blanc, you and a partner must tag-team together as a deer and a wolf cub to find your respective lost families. Though this unlikely duo are adorable and sweet, the structural makeup of this adventure lacks substance.
From beginning to end, Blanc is a gorgeous sight to behold. The black-and-white aesthetic is eye-catching and distinct, engrossing you in a colorless world. Yet, the lack of colors doesn’t take away from the environment, as the setting is encapsulated in a snowstorm. The aesthetic appeal emanates from the effective transition of hand-drawn 2D art into magnificent 3D models. Though there aren’t any hues or pigments, the shapes of the surrounding nature feel alive. The intricacy in the linework is clean, and the amount of detail present is profound. Each scene was picturesque and kept me visually stimulated.
The cinematic soundtrack accompanies the visuals wonderfully. As you wander into unknown territory, the grand orchestral tunes grips your mind with ease. Though there isn’t a significant variety to the tracks, they evoke the intended emotional response effectively. The chimes are sweet and melodic when sharing a cute moment of success. When facing a wind storm, the intense progression elicits struggle and stress as you slowly maneuver your way through it.
As a deer and a wolf cub, you start off at odds against each other, separated and barking at one another. But as you continue to push forward in the snowy terrain, you must work together to overcome the natural obstacles on your path. This becomes the central dynamic as you strive to assist one another to ultimately reach your families. Likewise, you help other animals reach their destinations as you go on your journey. Some of these interactions are fun and playful, while others can be a bit tedious to trudge through. Though a thorough story isn’t required, the underlying tale of Blanc is minimal and dry. As a result, it doesn’t take long for any narrative plot points to progress, leaving me less invested in their outcomes.
As you traverse through the snowstorm, you encounter certain environmental obstacles that block your path. Outside of walking and galloping, the main gameplay element for both players is to collaborate and overcome these obstacles to find the path forward. These obstacles barely qualify as puzzles and are incredibly simple to move past. Unfortunately, this comprises the totality of your gameplay. There’s limited exploration and no incentive to roam around whatsoever. It’s unfortunate since this limitation provides meager opportunities to enjoy spending time with the partner.
Most interactions with each other or other animals are lovable, but they don’t last long. Any teamwork that must be completed feels elementary and lacks substance. The most fun we’ve had was sliding down the snowy hills and the occasional precious moments that the wolf and deer share. It doesn’t help that the gameplay is hindered by tough controls. Despite the extremely simplistic control scheme of the joystick and the A and B buttons, the controls were clunky and unresponsive. Achieving certain jumps or moving along certain paths sometimes felt like a chore, providing moments of unnecessary frustration. To add to the clunkiness, some animations were jittery and spastic, exacerbating any annoyance you may feel. In fact, some areas provided glitches, causing us to restart from our last checkpoint.
The anticipation for something else to happen kept building up as we progressed through each chapter. I had an inkling of hope for a new gameplay mechanic or an emotional moment to bring myself to enjoy this experience, but it became an unfruitful wait. The tiny moments of novelty and drama that do exist quickly become lost and forgettable, leaving us yearning for more. Unfortunately, the anticipation runs out promptly, too, as the runtime for Blanc is 2 hours at best.
This puts Blanc in a precarious position. While length is not a determining factor for enjoyment, it can become a primary focus if there isn’t much else to offer. I went around the snowscape with a partner, searching for our families. Outside of the gorgeous aesthetics, both visually and sonically, no substantive content sparked any significant emotion. There weren’t a lot of facets done poorly, but they weren’t executed wonderfully either. And while there were some endearing and silly moments, I came out of the experience feeling like I went through an underwhelming roller coaster at a theme park.
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