Donut County Review
Donut County Review
by Dylan Blight (PS4)
Donut County is a story-based physics puzzle game where you play as an ever-growing hole in the ground. Meet cute characters, steal their trash, and throw them in a hole.
I feel like a terrible person. In Ben Esposito's Donut County I destroyed people's homes, crushed the livelihood of residents, burnt down trees and sucked up everything in my path. I feel terrible, but I think that's the point.
The synopsis for Donut County says that you "play as a hole in the ground". However, you actually play as a terribly-bad raccoon named BK who is controlling the hole via an app on a smart device.
Creator Ben Esposito has talked prior to the release of Donut County about the game's themes, one of which is gentrification. As BK you suck up everything and as you learn further into the story, BK’s not doing it for fun, it's a job. To BK, it's all trash anyway so why is everyone mad when they're sitting thousands of miles below the ground?
Donut County is a lot heavier on story than you may have guessed given the genre. But between each level, you will be listening to BK arguing about why the hole swallowed up everyone; attempting to normalise the anarchist behaviour. Although the gentrification themes are obvious, they never flourish into saying anything. It's left at dark humour, and often cheeky fun but as the finish line comes up fast in Donut County’s less than two-hour story, you’re left waiting to swallow up the substance.
What's special about Donut County is its physics engine. The way the world and its objects interact with the hole in the ground. However, it’s more than just swallowing stuff up. Gameplay starts simple with you swallowing smaller objects to make the hole bigger before being able to swallow the bigger objects and moving onto the next section of the level. Nearly every level then finishes with the end goal of swallowing up the character(s) in the level and their homes.
For the most part Donut County is a very zen experience. You can control the game for the most part with just the analog stick, simply zooming around the beautiful levels to devour everything you can see. Watching how different objects interact with the hole is very interesting, especially from a design perspective as to how some things, like trees for example, are handled in-game. Later levels introduce puzzles although none of them are brain twisters. They are less puzzles and more examples of cool ways the hole can interact with objects.
Donut County leaves you wanting so much more when you’ve completed it’s short selection of levels. It’s amazing that Ben Esposito for the most part created this game entirely by himself, but it’s a game screaming for challenge maps, more levels, more, more, more! And no, I don’t miss the irony in screaming for more in this particular game.
If there’s one saving grace for it all being over too fast it’s the fantastic soundtrack from Daniel Koestner, which, if you’re like me, will rather quickly end up on your phone upon completion of the game.
I like to refer to my time with Donut County as ‘the time I was held hostage by interesting mechanics and played an asshole racoon.’ Have a garbage day.
Developer: Ben Esposito
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), iOS, OS X, Windows