A seminal game for me growing up was Katamari Damacy. Rolling up objects with that sticky ball and growing bigger and bigger to appease the King of All Cosmos was extremely novel at the time and there was nothing else like it.
Flash forward a couple of console generations and there are countless indie games that can claim they too stand out of the crowd for being like no other game. However, we’ve absolutely got to the point where there are too many games, and more often than not, these fresh ideas found in indie games may not even be worth your time.
I’m happy to report that Donut County is an offbeat indie title that is worth your time, and there really is nothing else like it.
In Donut County, you play as a literal sinkhole that grows each time you suck up an object. As you can imagine, you can’t just suck up anything right away, you need to start small, and then using the analog stick, move around to bigger and bigger objects.
Within the narrative of the game, the sinkhole is controlled by BK, a lax raccoon who, kind of unwittingly, is sucking up everyone and everything in the titular Donut County under the guise of delivering donuts and leveling up in his tablet video game. (Yep it’s weird.) The game’s narrative unravels with different residents of Donut County recounting how the “donut” they ordered sucked them up, leaving everyone stuck deep underground.
The “donut” sinkhole of Donut County is fittingly the real star of the game, and moving it around and sucking things up (or down I guess) feels great. Ben Esposito, the game’s sole developer, has successfully created a simple gameplay mechanic that is well iterated.
This means each scenario (the level/singular story that the player navigates through) offers a new twist on the sinkhole mechanic. For example, one scenario has the player sucking up a giant carrot that gets stuck in the hole, allowing the player to lead a bunny out of its pen, eat the carrot, then get caught by the sinkhole. Another scenario sees you using a catapult in the sinkhole to get water balloons out of a giant gumball machine, then break the water balloons to suck up water, and then launch the water onto a mill to propel a raccoon on a log water ride up a hill and down the slide and into your hole. I love that example almost too much.
Each scenario successfully feels like a specific case study for the different ways you can use your growing sinkhole to suck up every object in sight. However, this never quite reaches the point of satisfying progression. The narrative restricts you from creating massive sinkholes that suck up an absurd number of, or really huge, objects. There are a couple of instances where you can, but for the most part you’re stuck sucking up only a specific spot. Sometimes the scenario will even teleport your sinkhole to other areas of the level rather than you, the hole, traveling over. It’s not a big gripe but I would have liked to feel a greater sense of progression when delivering donuts.
Donut County uses a simple, blocky art style that complements the gameplay well. The animal characters that round out the cast communicate through text via chips and chirps, reminiscent of a cross between Animal Crossing and Night in the Woods. Each character is a goofball with a modern texty vernacular, and this paired with the bizarre story is a concoction that could only come out of one man’s mind, but the result is a singular vision of silliness and sincerity that does manage to feel warm and sincere.
I brought up Katamari Damacy at the start of this review because it’s an easy point of comparison to Donut County. However, I think that comparison sells this title short. Donut County is its own brand of weird, creating a unique gameplay mechanic that successfully iterates through a quirky cast and silly narrative. Again, it really is unlike anything else and is worth your garbage time.
- Anyone who loves simple, fun, and, goofy gameplay held together with a cute/very odd narrative and characters
- Those wanting a brief (three hours to complete and platinum) palate cleansing experience between the big game releases this fall
IT’S NOT FOR:
- Trash pandas haters
Donut County is available for PS4, iOS, and PC
Review copy provided by fortyseven communications.