Welcome back to another PS4 review! Last time, I looked at Firewatch, a pretty small game and today’s is similar in that respect. Donut County was published by AnnaPurnia in 2018, and it’s available on PS4, Switch, Xbox One and PC, as well as Apple’s iOS and Mac OS. At it’s core, it’s a game where you play as a hole or, as I prefer to think of it, a miscreant raccoon controlling a hole.
If you’re wondering what I mean when I say “play as a hole” then I can’t blame you. Essentially, the raccoon (BK), has acquired a quadcopter drone which he is using to open up holes that swallow up the town’s residents and send them to the under-city instead of delivering donuts as he’s meant to. The game’s levels are a series of different puzzles to solve, where the hole must grow by consuming smaller items until it can swallow up everything. It’s a very simple concept, but I loved how it was executed. The plot is hilariously ridiculous, and I love that you get to play as a raccoon making giant holes to swallow rubbish (the raccoon’s nickname of trash panda comes to mind!), residents of various species, buildings, vehicles… pretty much anything, really.
The puzzles themselves are really clever, and I will admit to struggling with some of them, which is a bit embarrassing given this game is rated 3+ on the PlayStation store. As the game progresses, the catapult mechanic is introduced, which allows you to fire something back out of the hole. Sometimes, this is necessary to solve the puzzle. Sometimes, it’s just fun to toss things into the air and see if it destroys anything on its way down. Quite often, there are several steps you need to do in order to achieve the objective, which takes a reasonable amount of logic and problem solving. I would say this game is really aimed more at teenagers and up, though it is suitable for younger children in terms of content. Given that I played it at 21 and had to look up some of the solutions after my housemate and I failed to crack it, I think younger players would struggle, though they probably would still enjoy the mechanics of the game and the plotline.
One thing I really enjoyed about this game was the writing. I didn’t expect that much character development from such a small game, but BK and his human friend Mira were really fun characters. BK especially really made me laugh, and even the side characters were really well written. The writing is really sharp and it appealed to my sense of humour. It’s a bit ridiculous, BK is a bit sarcastic, and his reasoning just cracked me up in places. The way the speech is presented added to the humourous effect for me. There are no voice actors, so the speech pops up in speech bubbles, which allows the bubbles to be customised to fit the tone of the speaker, which was a fun little addition. While a lot of video games are focused on the gameplay mechanics, often sacrificing writing and characterisation along the way, Donut County’s main appeal for me is the characters and the plot line, though I am a bit of a sucker for a puzzle game (Portal review coming soon…).
In terms of play time, this is a short game. It can be completed in under two hours, though I think I took a bit longer to get through it because I did struggle a bit to get into the mindset the puzzles require. I didn’t get bored of it though, so I’m actually glad I was a bit slower, because it meant I got to enjoy it for longer! The animation style is pretty simple, but cute, and the aesthetic of the game was enjoyable for me. So many games nowadays are bogged down in trying to make things look realistic, so it’s a nice relief when game devs say “screw realism… cartoon raccoon!”. The one thing I would say against this game is that I’m not sure it’s that replayable. I would be happy to do another play through of it with a friend, but I don’t think I would go back to it of my own accord and play through it again. Still, having said that, it’s a pretty cheap game, so I do still feel like I got my money’s worth out of it. I haven’t checked whether it’s possible to just replay certain levels again, because I feel like if that option were available I might be more likely to dip in and out of it on occasion, but I don’t recall seeing that option.
Overall, Donut County is a fun little game, suitable for family playing (it’s single player, but that doesn’t mean you can’t all get involved!). It’s well-written, the characters are great, and it’ll keep you entertained throughout. A beautifully simple concept, with hilariously wacky execution.