Some video games like to throw players into intense situations. Whether it’s the fight against an army of demons or a desperate struggle to survive against the hordes of the undead, often players are left facing either the thrill of desperation or pure adrenaline. There are also those games that aim to do something a little different, and this is where Donut County resides.
On the face of it, Donut County seems quite dark: an entire town has disappeared into a deep hole in the ground. Stranded underneath the surface of the world, its inhabitants sit huddled, explaining what happened to them in the run-up to the collapse of the surface. Most of these characters, however, are very cute animals, and lay the blame solely at the furry paws of a raccoon called BK.
Quite simply, Donut County is a tender, funny game that’s extremely relaxing to play. From developer Ben Esposito, who previously worked on the likes of The Unfinished Swan and What Remains of Edith Finch and creator of indie horror hit Tattletail, it’s a title with bags of charm and a wonderful blend of witty writing and compelling gameplay.
At its core, Donut County is a character-driven puzzle game. There are overtones of Animal Crossing here, in that the game’s assorted species each hold their own vibrant personalities, and each is given the limelight with a level of their own. These levels explain how and why each fell into the pit, after ordering a donut from BK’s donut shop and getting a hole of an entirely different nature delivered.
This is where the gameplay comes in. The player is given control over a small hole in the ground, and is tasked with swallowing up all the items in each scene. The hole grows in size as the player takes down everything from plants through to those living in the town, and eventually even buildings.
It’s extremely satisfying to play, particularly at the end of the level where the player gets to mop up larger scenery and buildings to move onto the next stage. When a level has been completed, the player is greeted with a list of all of the new items swallowed in the level, often with hilarious descriptions for items as basic as pots and scraps of paper. It’s all nicely framed around the main characters of BK and best friend Mira, too, which helps tie it to the larger story.
In essence, the gameplay makes Donut County feel like an inverse of Katamari Damacy. Much like the Namco series, widespread destruction is turned into a colorful explosion of fun, but Donut County is much more laid back in its approach, allowing players to relax with each and every level, as they meet more and more of the interesting characters. All in all, it’s a very fun experience.
A big part of what makes Donut County so pleasant to play is its cast of characters. The relationship between the main characters BK and Mira is very sweet, showcasing a fun, joke-based friendship between the pair. The dialogue between the two is on point, helping to bring the overall plot to life.
The rest of the town, although only briefly involved, is still incredibly well crafted. All characters take part in a discussion under the surface of the Earth, but a big factor in understanding the workings of the world of Donut County is that you see each individual’s environment through a level of their own. Not only does this showcase different parts of the game world, but it also gives lots of variety in terms of colorful locales.
The world of Donut County is gorgeous. The game boasts a simplistic yet effective art style, with its cel shaded nature working well with the title’s quirky tone. Because of this, it’s a great game to look at, from twee farms through to the larger city vistas found later in the game.
The title’s not for everyone, though. Although Donut County does include a little gameplay variety by mixing up the puzzles to solve, including fun physics-based sections and even a boss fight at the end of the game, it’s still extremely easy. On top of that, the game is rather short, and although this does mean that it never outstays its welcome, there is the potential for players to be left wanting more than it provides.
Nonetheless, Donut County is still a charming game. The initial conceit of glorious destruction is neat, and its strange cast gives it a unique quality that is easy to be enthralled in. It’s a game with bundles of character, and those looking for a way to unwind for a few hours will find what they’re looking for.
Donut County releases August 28 for iOS, Mac, PC, and PS4. Screen Rant was provided with a PS4 copy for the purposes of this review.