A group of friends huddles around a campfire 999 feet underground. Trash and fragments of buildings scatter the surrounding area. There’s also a raccoon. Welcome to Donut County.
Donut County is a lot like 2004’s Katamari Damacy, albeit with a hole instead of, well, a katamari. You move the hole under things, and things fall in. That’s the core gameplay loop, and although it may not seem like much, but it’s an absolute delight. Not only is the gameplay satisfying, but it’s wrapped up in an interesting and funny narrative with witty, fast paced dialogue and a cute polygonal art style.
The hole is a simple mechanic, but Donut County builds and expands upon it masterfully. In the beginning, you’ll just be moving a hole around, but soon enough you’ll be swallowing snakes to hit switches or finding a frog to catch flies. The game has puzzle elements, but you won’t be scratching your head in confusion or staring at the screen hoping for a stroke of genius. The Witness this is not. This, in combination with the game’s fantastic soundtrack, creates a surprisingly zen experience.
What surprised me most about Donut County was its narrative. Ever since the raccoons showed up to town and took over the donut shop, holes have been popping up everywhere, and people have started to go missing. The game’s story is centered around each resident of Donut County detailing their experience with the holes, followed by the player playing their respective level. While the residents of Donut County are funny and interesting, the real heart of Donut County’s narrative is the friendship between the game’s two main characters: BK and Mira. The back and forth between these two never fails to be entertaining, and the heckling from Donut County’s citizens made me grin ear to ear during some of the cutscenes. Sometimes you can see characters sending text messages to one another at the beginning of certain levels, and there’s something incredibly charming about BK and Mira’s texting mannerisms. You can also choose to send a duck emoji that quacks, and you’ll receive one or two in return. I enjoyed this feature more than I should have.
I really enjoyed seeing the new scenarios Donut County presented me with, but just when things were starting to get really good, the game was over. I finished Donut County in a little under two hours, and as the credits rolled, I was dying for more. I would have loved some challenge levels or just a couple more story levels. The point is, Donut County left me wanting more.
Donut County is the perfect game for this time of year. It’s a lovely breath of fresh air before the densely packed AAA season, and it’s a damn good one at that. I just wish there was more of it.