System: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, iPhone, Android, Nintendo Switch | Publisher: Annapurna Interactive | Developer: Ben Esposito | Reviewed On: PlayStation 4 | Released: August 2018
Donut County is a physics-based puzzle game, where you control a hole in the ground, move it around that area swallowing up objects which leads to the hole slowly increasing over the course of the level. The aim of each level is to clear the map by swallowing up everything in your path.
The game centers around two main characters, Mira and BK, who both work at the local donut shop, BK is a raccoon who is delivering donuts to the residents of Donut County using his fancy new app, Mira soon discovers that BK is not delivering the donuts but instead holes are appearing near the residents who have ordered donuts, swallowing them and everything around them up.
Donut County is an extremely easy pick-up-and-play game, as all you do is click through dialogue during cutscenes and on each level, you control a hole in the ground that you move around trying to get objects to fall in, to make the hole grow. As the hole grows bigger, you can consume bigger objects, such as swallowing up a house, though do not let this easy gameplay fool you, there are puzzle elements to this game, one of the first levels you need to free a hot air balloon and to do this you have to grow enough to consume a fire put, then the smoke from the fire pit will make the balloon take flight free from its shackles once you place the hole under it for it to work. There are plenty of other puzzles in the levels throughout the game, some levels are just swallow everything up to progress, some require you to work around the puzzle in front of you, such as how to get rid of water as if water goes in the hole it blocks the hole, preventing you from gobbling up any objects.
The mix of simple gameplay and puzzles worked great, anyone can easily pick up this game and play it. The big thing for me that made this game come together as a complete package and not just a cheap easy platinum, is the story. My Gawd, the story shocked me how good it is and how funny the characters were, BK is such a funny character as the raccoon that is the sole reason for these holes appearing, technically you are BK in this game as you control the holes in each level and during the levels, you see BK in the top left corner of your screen on his phone as if he is playing on this app and controlling the hole, even though in reality it is you, the player controlling the hole in the ground. Mira is BK’s friend in this story and she discovers very quickly that it is BK’s app that is making the citizens of Donut County disappear, soon she turns the tables on BK, and they end up Nine Hundred Ninety-Nine Ft. Below Donut County, where they find the missing citizens and everything that the hole has swallowed in its path.
Even with our characters trapped below, the story unfolds as stories are told around a campfire how everyone arrived down below, with everyone wanting to blame BK and BK taking no responsibility, I will never do the writing justice, but this made me feel genuine humor and there were plenty laugh out loud moments for me with how good BK is written, as well as the other characters shining through, moving the story at a nice pace. One of my main criticisms to this game is…… It is not long enough! Yes, I picked this game up upon hearing that it was a quick and easy platinum, so for me, that suckered me in, but in my three hours of playtime, I was left wanting more, which for me shows how good the story landed with me, that this game became more than just a cheap platinum and done, it stuck with me long after I finished. There is no replayability in the game, and with the simplistic gameplay it is not a game I would pick up my controller to play again but this is me really nick picking, especially when this game was made by ONE MAN, Ben Esposito, who has previously worked on other games that Annapurna Interactive has published such as What Remains of Edith Finch.
The game has a simplistic art style for how it looks, which is not uncommon in indie titles such as this, but it works extremely well for the style of game that has been created, it feels unique and cute, especially considering that every building or rock or chair, big and small can be swallowed up by this ever-growing hole in the ground. I loved the level variation; each level was beautifully crafted, and I could not be happier with the design choice and the destruction you bring to each part of Donut County.
The music in this game was excellent, the soundtrack was brought to life by Daniel Koestner and Ben Esposito, with each song played, no vocals just a blend of different colorful sounds that together and in-game work great. The soundtrack is available on Spotify and I could see myself listening to this when chilling out. I genuinely enjoyed hearing the music throughout my time as each level and the associated music just clicked, it felt right and has a sort of bohemian vibe going, it truly was a treat.
To summarise my experience and what I have talked about so far with Donut County, I am firstly going to start by saying this game is genuinely worth your time, this game was a hidden gem for me, I did not expect to like it as much as I did, as I was just after the quick platinum I was told about. The game has a simple art design but works great, the story is simple but with the quirky characters and brilliantly funny dialogue, it only adds to the charm of this experience. Again, my main flaw with it, not long enough, the story has a complete finish, I was just left wanting more which I loved and hated all at the same time. Another issue I have not discussed yet, there was a Trashopedia in the game and they did not really encourage you enough to check out, this is where everything you swallowed up when controlling the hole was logged so you could go see all the different objects and some had some funny sentences but again you did not feel compelled to check it out and the layout of the Trashopedia I did not enjoy. I can understand this will not be for everyone, but this game is beautifully written and if you can overlook the simplistic art style of the game, then you will find plenty to fall in love with.
· Delightful story
· Great soundtrack
· Satisfying puzzles
· Cute art style
· Too short
· Trashopedia felt tacked on