I’m always on the lookout for cooperative games that actually push you to work together and figure things out as a team. I’m not talking about games where one player can have more input, but something like Hazelight’s It Takes Two, where everything is designed around cooperative play. In my Blanc review, I’ll talk about one of my favorite small titles of the year that relishes in empathy and perseverance through co-op.
Blanc follows the story of a wolf cub and a fawn separated from their packs in a snowy wilderness. Each player controls one of them and has access to their different traversal and interaction mechanics. The fawn can jump on higher surfaces, while the cub can get through tight crevices. You start off a bit separated and untrusting of each other, which is highlighted by a lack of direct interaction. However, as you start helping each other by creating paths, the distance between you two decreases as well.
I really like how the level design facilitates these ideas by slowly integrating puzzles that require more cooperation and trust. As your bond grows stronger, new mechanics are organically introduced, usually with some obstacles. The fawn can push objects into the world while the cub can pull them. This again creates new puzzle opportunities in the snowy world that gradually descends towards abandoned towns and factories.
This is a short game, and I don’t want to spoil some of the mechanics introduced in the later chapters. The game keeps things fresh, and there’s not a boring or necessary moment in this well-paced adventure.
White makes both players feel important by ensuring both characters have a role in each puzzle. This leads to communication, and I recommend playing it over voice chat. There are also moments in this game where you’re allowed just to have fun and slide down a hill. You can enjoy just being around each other in a cold, beautiful world where the snow doesn’t seem as oppressive.
While I have no qualifications about the game’s length, I wish some puzzles were a bit more challenging. I understand the intent to be a more accessible experience, but a few brain teasers would’ve been a nice addition near the end.
Blanc has a monochrome visual style similar to recent titles like TOEM, but practically everything is covered by snow. The abundance of snow does a great job of creating this beautiful yet oppressive landscape with a strong sense of space. I like how some sections are pretty open, and you can move around freely. While it’s clear where you need to go, you can’t help but stick around in these beautiful spots observing the devastation caused by this blizzard.
Both characters are animated well, and there are small touches in their movement that left an impact on me. Like when you’re walking a bit far from each other, the characters will sort of stare at each other regardless of the direction they’re headed in. The fawn jumps around in excitement, while the cub is fast and usually barks at every other thing. A lot of effort went into these unique animations, which further punctuate the more emotional moments sprinkled throughout the game.
The soundtrack isn’t as memorable, but the game uses it appropriately to elevate different moments. This is especially apparent when you’re going through set pieces and traversing different environments at a faster pace.
Connection and Co-Op Experience
When everything is working perfectly, the co-op experience is actually superb. However, I had a few problems connecting to my friend during some gameplay moments. First, it took me a few tries for the game to connect us and place us in a lobby. When it endlessly looped, I restarted the game, and it worked after a few tries. I imagine this is due to the host’s internet strength. It was still a bit of a bother for us to actually start playing together.
During the gameplay, when there are puzzles involving accurate timing, it’ll take a few tries to get it right if there’s something off with either the server or your connection. This could be something that happens specifically in the review build, and maybe a patch might address it.
Either way, even with these minor issues, we were able to finish the game. The time-sensitive puzzles weren’t that many, to begin with. A good indicator of when things are a bit amiable with the connection is when your character’s animations become a bit choppy.
I had a lot of fun with Blanc, and while minor network issues made things a bit annoying at times, I was fully absorbed in the tale of these unlikely companions. The game uses cooperative play in meaningful ways to create puzzles where both players are involved, and its excellent presentation paints a beautiful and devastating world.
What did you think of our White Review? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
This review is based on the PC version of White. The key was provided by Gearbox Publishing.