Block n’ White is a game by Adrien Avellan that totally encompasses the idea of black and white, in both technical, mechanical and metaphorical meaning. The game isn’t long or even that rewarding from a gameplay perspective, but I have a great admiration for how the game strives to ponder at least four ideas of black and white in its short runtime. Black and white was the restriction placed on the game’s development by its game jam rules and out of all the entries Block n’ White is the most complete thought experiment on that idea.
The first conceptual understanding of black and white is the colours themselves. Block n’ White actually uses the some yellow and blue shading in addition to the black and white, but not so much that it feels like it’s a game “in colour”. It still feels like it stays true to the aesthetic of black and white even if it cheats with a little colour here and there. It’s the most obvious thought when you think of black and white, most of the games in the jam only really embrace this one understanding of this. Block n’ White embraces other concepts, but this is one facet that is expected by the audience if the game wants to explore the others.
Another mechanical idea of black and white is the presence of light. On a screen black and white aren’t merely colours, but the presence (or lack of presence) of light. The white parts of the screen are much brighter to the eye than the black darker parts. Block n’ White actually plays with light mechanically in several ways. The player character is a light source, which distorts the strong shadows of the floating platforms as you move across them to the point where they can be completely masked in the shade. The player can be misled as to where the platforms actually exist or don’t. The game brings the presence or absence of light to the forefront.
Finally, black and white can have two different metaphorical meanings, either the idea of concepts in opposition or the idea of simplicity. Block n’ White actually kind of addresses both of these ideas. The game’s main mechanic is that the kind of light source can alternate between sunlight and moonlight depending on which platform you’ve landed on previously. Much like the colours black and white, day and night is a common example of opposites. Block n’ White emphasizes this opposition by inversing all the colour on screen when the player switches between day and night, this is a visually arresting switch and reinforces the importance of opposition.
The other metaphorical concept is that of simplicity. A sidescrolling platformer is about as simple as games get, no wall-jumping, no puzzles merely basic jumping. And Block n’ White is about as simple as sidescrollers get. Others may be put off by the relative simplicity of the game, but in this case I think it works here because of the game jam’s theme. The game’s simplicity is just another exploration of what the idea of black and white could mean.
All in all Block n’ White is a game with great understanding of its assigned theme of black and white. It would be nice if some of these ideas could be more explored in a larger game by Avellan but I won’t begrudge the short length with the understanding that he made it in just one day.