Need to know
What is it? A physics-based puzzler where you play as a hole in the ground.
Expect to pay $13
Developer Ben Esposito
Publisher Annapurna Interactive
Reviewed on Windows 10, 16GB RAM, Intel Core i7-5820k, GeForce GTX 970
Link Official site
Donut County is delicious. It's a story-based physics puzzler where you play BK, a raccoon who ostensibly works as a donut store delivery dispatcher. But instead of dispatching donuts he is dispatching holes (via a mobile game interface) in order to suck up objects, people and creatures because a) raccoons LOVE to collect trash and b) BK really wants to level up his game and earn a sweet quadcopter.
After he ends up at the bottom of one of his own holes with pretty much everyone else in town, BK’s bestie, Mira, stages an intervention. The ensuing game alternates between animal citizens detailing their gripes about a Certain Raccoon Jerk and you playing BK’s mobile game, controlling the hole to enact the events that led to the animal’s specific complaint.
It’s adorable, gentle, and really funny in equal measure. The puzzling element is light but enjoyably so. You move the hole around with your cursor and if something on the ground above it is small enough, it will fall in. The more trash (or rather, pebbles, geckos, houses and mopeds) you collect, the bigger the hole gets, eventually swallowing whole sections of the neighbourhood. In addition to sucking things in, you can also occasionally spit things back out, which is how you gobble up hard-to-reach morsels like picnicking birds and dangling beehives.
Every completed section earns experience for BK and pushes him towards level 10 (and an explanation of what exactly happened to his beloved quadcopter).
The game-within-a-game idea works surprisingly well, and it allows relatively slight gameplay to feel in-keeping with the idea of a daft but compulsive and damaging app. Levels are short and sweet, the cast of characters are entertaining, and the story moves at a fair clip. Even though you can get through the whole thing in about an hour, it’s a jam-packed hour.
And that’s to say nothing of the Trashopedia entries which describe objects from a raccoon point of view, or the wonderful animation touches which infuse the animals with personality. My favourite was cutting to BK for the first time in the donut shop while he’s texting with Mira. He’s lying on his back, feet waggling in the air and tapping a screen. It’s so gloriously teen-lounging-on-a-bed-with-their-legs-up-the-wall.
There was one dodgy moment in terms of puzzling, where I couldn’t get the solution to a late-game scenario to register—a rare moment of fussiness where I repeated the only possible action over and over until one time it worked. But it was a lone irritant in a lovely experience.
In terms of reference points, there’s something of Lost Constellation (Finji’s Night in the Woods free sidestory) in here—it’s less about solving puzzles and more about interacting with a vivid world in an easy manner. The absurdity and fact you grow your collecting tool by picking up a ragtag assortment of objects and wildlife has echoes of Katamari, which is no bad thing!
Donut County is an entertaining diversion: it’s quirky, simple to play, and doesn’t outstay its welcome. Given so many games-as-service are currently vying for hundreds of hours of your life, small gems like this are a valuable and finite source of relief.