Donut County is a charming little game created by Ben Esposito, if that name sounds familiar, that’s likely because he was also the creator of The Unfinished Swan and also What Remains of Edith Finch. Both titles which I have heard exceptional things about, but still haven’t got around to playing. After finishing Donut County however, they just moved up my list – especially as I already own both of them.
The premise of Donut County revolves around BK, a trash loving raccoon who owns a donut shop. The thing is, whenever a customer orders a donut from BK’s app, he instead sends and initially small hole to their location. This eventually grows until it is large enough to swallow the customer whole. If it sounds weird, that is because it most certainly is. There is however a lot more story here than you might first expect. With the main draw of the story being BK coming to terms with what his actions has done to the Donut County community, learning empathy, and subsequently remorse. It is cleverly written and I did like how it doesn’t shy away from the fact that BK is kind of a jerk, even if he is adorable.
The first bite is with the eyes
The first thing that you will notice upon booting up Donut County is the unique, low-poly art style. Character models all have sharp edges which are juxtaposed against their friendly pastel colour palettes and everything here is cute as hell. The abundance of pastel pink is brilliant and all of the landscapes which you eventually destroy are all wallpaper-bait. I’m also a sucker for raccoons and this game has a lot of raccoon in there.
Complimenting this art style is an exceptional soundtrack headed up by Daniel Koestner (it is on Spotify). If you’re a fan of low-fi beats, this is going the be right up your alley. Each track adds to the laid-back nature of the game, with no fail states to speak of, it is all about sitting back, relaxing and letting the atmosphere wash over you. If I was to describe the atmosphere of Donut County, like a reviewer probably should, I’d call it meringue-like, airy and sweet.
What is the filling like?
As mentioned before, the main gameplay loop revolves around moving a hole around a small area surrounding the unfortunate creature whom had a hunger that only donuts could fill. As you swallow up various objects like bricks and fenceposts, your hole will grow in diameter. The larger your hole becomes, the larger the objects you can swallow to become even larger. Eventually becoming an unstoppable force as you swallow everything from helicopters and caravans to entire mountain ranges. It’s difficult to convey just how satisfying it is to see a castle and grow until you are large enough to swallow it whole, without touching the sides. It scratches that same itch of escalation as Katamari Damacy, or that Flash game where play as the fish eating the other fish – you know what I mean.
There are some light puzzle elements involved too with regards to what you are swallowing, these are never anything that will make you think for more than a couple of seconds, but again, it is still extremely satisfying to watch unfold. For example, by swallowing a furnace and then some corn, it will cause popcorn to erupt from your cavity, which is an odd sentence, but lovely in this context. An hour or so into the game you’ll also gain access to a catapult, which allows you to launch anything you have eaten back out again as a means to solve puzzles. This comes into play at several points such as eating a frog to launch at some airborne flies in order to ground them, subsequently making them lunch.
Once you have completed a stage, you’re met with a progress screen and the option to read the “Trashopedia” – a book written by BK documenting all the items which have been swallowed to date. Each item has a humorous description written from the perspective of BK. These are never side-splitting, but I would be shocked if you don’t get a chuckle out of just a few of them. Popcorn for example is entered with the description “corn which has been punished”, there are other giggle-worthy statements, but I’ll leave you to find them for yourself.
I don’t want to dive too deep into the mechanics here as it really is best discovered for yourself. With a short runtime of under three hours, I also wouldn’t want to ruin anything. With this shorter run-time, it never outstays it’s welcome either, making it the perfect Sunday afternoon game.
A ‘hole’-hearted success
I know this is a bit of a shorter review, but there isn’t much more to talk about without discussing every little detail. Donut County is a wicked way to spend an afternoon. If you can pick it up on sale like I did for £3, do it. The original £11.99 price tag is a little steep, especially given that there isn’t really any reason to play beyond the credits. It is a unique, fun adventure with a heartfelt story and a surprisingly epic conclusion. Go and get it.
I’d say it is very ‘hole’-some. I mainly wrote this review for that sentence.