jeremyf's Donut County (PlayStation 4) review

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Donut County: A Little Hole Goes a Long Way

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Playing Donut County is just like eating a donut: It's sweet, cathartic, and when you finish you wish you had more.

For those uninitiated, in Donut County you play as a hole in the ground with the goal of swallowing everything in sight. As you gobble more items, the size of your hole increases, to the point where you can swallow entire buildings, mountains, and unsuspecting local folk. It's a cute concept, one apparently inspired by Peter Molyneux and that some have called a twist on Katamari Damacy.

However, the presentation is really what gives Donut County its life. I was won over by the trailer where a raccoon makes an updog joke and the dynamic pre-order theme of a raccoon on the can. The bright textureless landscape of Donut County is inviting. Chill tunes play in the background while the hole eats everyone's stuff. Menu design is often just as chill, but sometimes parodies that of more "hardcore" games.

Even in such a short time, Donut County becomes its own dysfunctional, yet lovable community.
Even in such a short time, Donut County becomes its own dysfunctional, yet lovable community.

I didn't expect much of a narrative from this game, but I was pleasantly surprised. Mira just smashed BK the raccoon's precious quadcopter. Why? Because he dropped most of the town's population, including himself and Mira, deep underground with his stupid holes. Each resident takes turns telling the story of how they fell down the hole, providing the framing device for the next level. All this builds to a clever climax and an epilogue that puts a nice cap on the whole adventure.

The first few levels are pretty barebones, but before long they start spicing up the gameplay with twists on what you can do with a hole. For example, you can set your hole on fire to lift a hot air balloon or use it to host a rabbit orgy. Eventually, you get a catapult that can shoot objects from the hole to affect the environment. Despite all that, I would hesitate to call this a puzzle game. As long as you keep sucking up stuff like normal, you'll usually get results. Level mechanics are there more to show off what Ben Esposito can do with a hole-based game than to actually challenge the player's thinking ability.

What you really ought to know about Donut County is how short it is. In a single two-hour play session, I nabbed my easiest platinum trophy ever. This has some positives and negatives. The best thing I can say is that from start to finish, I had a great time playing with the hole. The game shows up, does its thing, and gets out before the concept becomes stale.

Swallowing items remains fun for the whole adventure, but I wish it went a little further.
Swallowing items remains fun for the whole adventure, but I wish it went a little further.

I rarely complain that a game is too short - I find the opposite true more often than not. However, while Donut County is narratively fulfilling, I can't help but feel like there's untapped potential for more complex hole mechanics. This game could really use a set of challenge stages that push the player harder. To go back to our analogy, this donut could use some sprinkles to round out the package.

More than any other game I've played recently, Donut County would make a fantastic children's book. In its short running time, the game establishes a whole town full of silly characters, like the cat who makes terrible soup or the flat-earther Possum who nobody really likes. It reminded me of a snarkier, twenty-first century Busytown. A plot with holes gobbling up everything fits right in with books about crayons running away or the United States switching places with each other. You could even use the Trashepedia to teach kids about objects.

Barring an official print adaptation, though, I think Donut County would serve as a wonderful introduction to games for your young one. For the adults, I would still recommend it so long as you don't expect anything too deep (unlike the hole). Don't write Donut County off as a cheap gimmick or passing curiosity. By the time you're done, you'll wish you could stay a little longer.

Other reviews for Donut County (PlayStation 4)

    Donut Create Push 0

    Allow me to fall into the trap of talking about what this game isn't.I had high hopes for Donut County, a Katamari-style game where you control a hole that grows as things fall into it. Only, it's not done in the style of Katamari at all, not really. It's more of a puzzle game with Katamari trappings. Sure, Katamari games are split into discrete levels, but this goes even further, with fairly minute levels containing a couple of puzzles involving a specific set piece. There's no freedom to expl...

    2 out of 2 found this review helpful.

    [iOS] The Little Hole That Could (Create and Destroy Friendship) 0

    Note: The game was played on an iOS device."Donut County" is a brief and heartwarming story about a girl, a racoon, and a hole.The game's hook is very straightforward and easy to understand. You start each 'story arc' as a tiny hole and its size gets bigger as the hole continues 'eating' objects littered throughout the stage. The game will occassionaly shift and expand its perspective, while adding new gimmicks of "hole + object = new way to interact" as the story progresses.The game sometimes f...

    1 out of 1 found this review helpful.

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