As much as I like games with complex systems, exciting open worlds, and stories that last for over 100 hours, sometimes I'm just looking for something more bit to sit down and spend some time with. Something that's not so scary. Donut County is the latest game to scratch this itch to me and reminded me of the value that comes from titles like this in the indie scene.
" Donut County is the perfect game to relax at the end of a long day."
Donut County at the core (or lack thereof) is about what the game blatantly says is about: dropping things in the hole. Each of the game's 15 or so levels begins with you like a small hole that wants to soak up things in the environment. With each new piece of garbage you swallow, the size of the hole becomes larger, so that at the end of the level you are sucking up houses and blocks of stone while just starting to inhale grass or rocks.
It's such a simple loop, and I've talked about this before I previewed Donut County but it's something so satisfying about it. The process of releasing everything in every level in your wandering hole was so relaxing for me. If ASMR can be a video game, it would be this. Donut County is the perfect game to relax with at the end of a long day.
By the end of Donut County this game has evolved to add a new mechanic here or there, but for the most part it is not iterate of what it's already basically something like can be a negative thing if you do not find yourself all that enthralled with it to begin with. Fortunately, change of environments and the addition of level-specific puzzles help things that are fresh during the experience.
Above all else, what I think sells the experience of Donut Countys many different levels are the art style, the mood and especially the music. The binding aesthetics in this world is a good mix of being charming and simply goofy at the same time. The soundtrack of each level is not only good at its own benefits as individual music pieces, but these tracks really put the tone and further get you a track before you begin to suck things in your hole. Donut County is like an interactive version of the Beats to study / relax on videos on YouTube, as yes, I listened to while I wrote this review.
There is a bigger story at stake in the world of Donut County, and it's about as stupid as everything else. Each of the game's eclectic cast members remembers how they and their belongings were sucked into the ground thanks to the advent of these mysterious holes that have sprung up around Donut County. You will learn later about the fake power that lies behind this betrayal and it is so stupid in all the best ways.
There are many different characters throughout Donut County, and while each of them is highlighted at one point throughout history, some of them are more memorable than others. Some of my favorites include a chef who owns a nasty, bug-infested restaurant and a conspiracy theory-ridden possum that is convinced that the world is both flat and hollow. While some characters are more stand-out than others, I have to say that I loved the design of almost all of them. Donut County gives you the best in terms of the cartoon.
The one-case story-related aspect of Donut County which I think may be divisive, is writing, as it is very informal. Character dialog shows less like something you had seen in a script and more like a text message exchange you wanted with a friend. I found this to be a little fun, personal, as it fits the game's overall lack of seriousness.
If there's one thing I appreciate you can see it's thin fast. ] Donut County above all else is that it does not overstay its welcome. Clock in on about two hours in total, Donut County gets you in and out just before the kernel game begins to feel obsolete. At an age where every game seems to unnecessarily pull on or have sections that seem to cautiously eliminate driving time, this might be the most refreshing aspect of all.
I just want to take a moment to recognize how happy I am. Donut County has even seen the light of day. Nothing this strange and offbeat will never be published by one of the industry triple-A publishers, and I appreciate that Annapurna Interactive is willing to double down on developers like Ben Esposito and play as Donut County and provide for it to see a widespread release. We need more of this in the industry, and I hope more games from this ilk are starting to show over time.
Donut County is a charming and good example of how video games do not have to be too complicated or contain more mechanics and systems to do well. While your enjoyment of the game will probably depend on how satisfying you find the overall loop of dropping things into a hole, if this clicks with you, then there is much you will love. For the low entry price, Donut County is worth picking up and spending an evening just to have a good chuckle.