Sometimes a shorter, but still enjoyable, gaming experience is worth a player’s time. More content is not always ideal for certain games, as Donut County developed by Ben Esposito proves aptly. The game’s initial premise is rather unique, as the idea originated from a public game jam where a parody Twitter account won and thus their game concept was made into Donut County. This story, as well as the game’s short and simplistic nature, leaves it feeling like a pure expression of love for making games – one of the keys to a successful indie game. The game uses this simplistic framework to excel at character, both in the world and its inhabitants.
Story and Characters
The story of Donut County focuses on your character, a raccoon named BK, as he is accused of swallowing the entirety of Donut County into a massive hole and leaving them underground (which yes, he did). We hear from everyone who is in the underground cavern, and then play a flashback as BK when he swallows each character into the hole. BK does this in order to earn enough points on a phone app to purchase a quadcopter drone. As is readily apparent, the story is not very serious at all and takes a very tongue-in-cheek comedic tone, which works brilliantly with the game’s concept. This tongue-in-cheek element is prevalent in the game’s systems itself, as each item that you swallow with the hole has a description that clearly has BK’s cynicism and wit present.
As for the characters themselves, each of them has a clearly defined personality which leads to great comedic dialogue. This is mainly apparent in the relationship between BK and his employee/best friend, Mira. Mira plays the voice of reason who still throws out some sarcasm and insults towards BK. Meanwhile, BK is very self-obsessed and tries continuously to deflect blame from himself to the other characters with increasingly absurd justifications. Mira and BK’s friendship is very endearing and full of humour – it has heart, without ever breaking the fun and non-serious atmosphere.
For anyone looking for an exciting action game or a detailed puzzle game, that isn’t what Donut County is about. In the short length of the game, you’re playing a kind of reverse Katamari Damacy where instead of collecting items to make a larger ball, you collect items into a hole which will increase in size as more objects are swallowed into it. Later in the game you also unlock a catapult, which can be used to shoot some objects out of the hole, allowing for some small puzzle elements. I feel that this gameplay idea being so simple is the main reason why the short playtime (around 2 hours/3 hours to 100% on Xbox) is not a problem for this game specifically. Of course, the short playtime will always affect how much money you’re willing to spend on it, so keep that in mind if you’re looking for a deal or to download it via Xbox Game Pass.
The OST in Donut County is a wonderful mix of outlandish styles, yet very relaxing and pleasant despite this. Each level has its own theme, each very fitting for their individual tones while all sounding good in sequence as well. My personal favourites were the pause screen music as well as the level track ‘Birds of Paradise’ which are both very relaxing songs. Ben Esposito and Daniel Koestner did a great job on this soundtrack – so even if you don’t buy the game, I’d recommend this soundtrack if you need some chill vibe music.
Donut County has a unique art style which, while a little simplistic, is done so intentionally. Each environment appears like simple paintings (except for the underground that feels a bit more complex) made of colourful shapes, with buildings and animal models having little bits of detail to make them stand out. The fact the human character of Mira doesn’t have a face shows the lack of intricate detail, but this is hardly an issue as it fits the game’s simple and fun feeling.
As anyone reading may have noticed, the main word I would use to describe Donut County is unique. The gameplay is short and sweet and does not serve to give you much difficulty, but the overall style, humour, and tone is more than enough to keep people invested. The standout aspects of this game are definitely the music and the writing – while some may take issue with the writing using a lot of internet abbreviations such as ‘omg’ or ‘lol’, I feel it adds to the charm in its own way.
The price point for the game would also be a possible concern with how short it is. However, if you have Xbox Game Pass that problem can be easily alleviated as you can download and play it within an afternoon. Whether waiting for a deal or playing through Game Pass, I would highly recommend stepping into this world of donuts, destruction, and thieving raccoons.
Donut County is available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Steam for around £10. It is also available to subscribers of Xbox Game Pass.
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Reviewed on: Xbox One
Developer: Ben Esposito
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive