Donut County — Bite sized but filled with personality

Platforms:
PCPS4iOS
Released:
August 28, 2018
Publisher:
Annapurna Pictures
Developer:
Ben Esposito

Feature article

There is something therapeutic about cleaning, about throwing out the flotsam and jetsam of your daily life. Clutter and detritus builds up over time, it’s unavoidable. So it’s fortunate that when things get to much you can call on a helpful neighbourhood racoon to summon a sentient hole to gather everything up and send it 999 feet under the earth—wait, that doesn’t sound right. I’m confusing real life and Donut County, a brand new hole simulator from Ben Esposito.

Donut County is a lovely bite sized experience. The game keeps things simple, you listen as a circle of townsfolk huddle around the ruins of their town, now located 999 feet below the surface of the earth. It seems they are all angry at BK, the racoon who recently took over the local donut store—problem is that none of the anthropomorphic residents seem to really know what a donut is.

As each character tells their story about ordering a sweet treat donut we are introduced to a small cluttered level. Instead of the miraculous fried dough treat we know and love BK instead pilots a manoeuvrable hole from his tablet to ruin the day.

“As such you’ll start each level trying to figure out what exactly you can fit, slowly expanding and working your way up to larger items bit by bit.”

You’ll begin each level with a small diameter but as your hole feasts on smaller items it will grow. As such you’ll get busy trying to figure out what exactly you can fit, slowly expanding and working your way up to larger items bit by bit. As lewd as this all sounds it makes for a very simple mechanic which you can also pair with the ability to launch particular items you swallow back into the air. Each puzzle will also offer unique ways to interact with the levels, suck up fire and you’ll expel heat, utilise a big bird to drink the water you’ve filled up with or even suck up two consenting adult rabbits to aggressively expel their offspring at obstacles in your way. All for the end goal of total level absorption.

These bite sized puzzles mean you can take your time with this one, the overall length of Donut County isn’t remarkably lengthy and for the most part the puzzles won’t leave you scratching your brain for long. It’s more the act of what you’re doing creating an experience. Like I said at the beginning there is something soothing about watching the pieces falling in to place as the board is cleared. I would say the final act takes an odd turn and the game does seem to have an arbitrary final confrontation that feels a little out of place—but there is something this game has that so many games fail to achieve, charm, and personality.

The writing is quick witted and snappy, characters are fun and odd and each level encapsulates these micro moments that the townsfolk are experiencing. The banter between BK, the playable character, and the protagonist in our little raccoon’s tale, Mira, is genuinely enjoyable. Large portions of the conversations are told through text messages and a button that lets you spam emojis just to have your friend spam them back is genius.

Donut County is not about to blow the gaming world away, but does it have to? Like I said the puzzles aren’t there to have you pulling your hair out, it’s a moment of mindfulness where the only thing you care about is steering your little hole around a colourful landscape seeing what fits and what you’ll have to come back for later. While it has minor flaws you can’t fault Donut County for being a game that’s trying to be something it’s not. It is funny, it is colourful and it is a calming moment in amongst a deluge of games shouting in your face. Donut County is a little oasis that let’s you relax, chill, and swallow an anthropomorphic crocodile sunning himself on a deck chair as a hole controlled by the trash panda from the local donut store.

Be sure to also check out Omi’s interview with Donut County creator, Ben Esposito.