A beautiful and elegant variation on Snake
Blek is a minimalist puzzle game that encourages player creativity through a lack of rules, restrictions, or requirements. The only instruction you’ll ever be given is to make a gesture; after that, figuring out what to do, how to do it, and if you even want to is entirely up to you.
The world of Blek is made up of colorful dots on a white background. Drawing on the white screen creates a line that follows your fingertip as long as you continue drawing. Once you lift your finger, the line is let loose to fly around the screen, yet it’s not exactly free: the line will continue mirroring whatever directions you gave it while doodling. As it touches the colorful dots, they disappear, and once all dots are gone the level is complete.
Like walking down an empty road, your main goal is to get from point A to point B. You can do so by placing one foot in front of the other. Or you could do cartwheels. Or you could drag your feet in the dirt and make shapes. All of these options reach the end result, merely with different styles. Blek presents the same open-endedness: you could draw a straight line to collect two colored dots, or you could make a wave that bounces through them, or part of a square that abruptly turns and doubles back to collect each orb. There is no “correct” way to complete a level; any drawing that removes the screen of color is a solution.
Not every level offers so many different choices. As stages become more cluttered and complex, so must your drawings. You’ll have to collect half a dozen dots or more with a single line, while avoiding black holes littered around the board that will absorb your drawing. The slightest misstep—a slight flick at the end or an uneven arch—can result in failure. But Blek anticipates frequent losses and makes restarting as simple as possible; there is no level failed notice or restart button, you only need to draw another line to try again.
Whether you succeed on the first try or after twenty failed attempts, Blek is a consistently beautiful and surprising experience. Its shapes and colors are simple and crisp like their Bauhaus inspiration. Watching your line take life and follow your commands across the screen—and back again if it bounces off the sides—is like creating a very basic Frankenstein. You know what it’s going to do for the most part, but it will almost always take an unexpected turn somewhere. Learning to control this creation and direct it is as much a part of the challenge as collecting the dots themselves.
For all its beauty and simplicity, Blek is almost too minimalist. There are a couple of special dots that require a different approach—like those that contain orbs that can collect other dots, or dots that turn black once touched—but these are used sparingly and most levels feature just the basic, solid circles. Besides line-drawing, there is one other gameplay element the player can utilize, but this is not only essentially a secret, but it’s entirely optional for completing any level. This leaves most of the burden of variety up to the player’s own ability to create interesting solutions and remain entertained by what is essentially a puzzle sandbox.
This sandbox aspect will be a negative for players who prefer more guided gameplay, but a boon for those who appreciate nearly limitless replay value and opportunities for creativity. The few rules and features that do exist must be discovered on your own, and doing so can greatly change how you view past levels. Of course, even replaying a level with knowledge of how you completed it the first time still requires precision drawing and execution to manipulate the line just-so. The reward for this is watching your creation spring across the screen, both a puppet and a wild creature, a tool and an obstacle, the solution and the puzzle itself.