Donut County is a lot like Katamari Damacy in reverse: instead of rolling things up into an ever-expanding ball, the idea is to sink things into a hole that gets bigger with each sunken item. Meet Mira, a human girl working at the local donut shop run by her raccoon friend, BK. Lately, BK has been obsessed with earning enough points to purchase a quadcopter through a new mobile app. The app is supposed to send donut deliveries to folks throughout town. But in reality, the app deploys a hole that sucks up everything that can fit inside. Within weeks, the entire town of Donut County has been sucked into BK’s hole, ending up nine hundred and ninety-nine feet underground. Huddled around a campfire, Mira and the animal townsfolk attempt to convince BK that he’s responsible for their predicament as they search for a way to return themselves, and their belongings, to the earth’s surface.
Gameplay is split into levels, with each level depicting one resident’s descent into BK’s hole. But Donut County doesn’t follow a typical linear storyline. Instead, the game begins by introducing its main characters and hole mechanic. Then, the game cuts to a point six weeks in the future, when everyone is stuck underground and Mira has destroyed BK’s quadcopter. BK is devastated by the loss of his toy, but Mira insists he deserves it because he destroyed Donut County. When BK refuses to accept this, Mira and the townsfolk work to convince him otherwise. This is where the game’s basic formula becomes apparent. First, a new resident is introduced underground via cutscene. Next, players are taken to the resident’s home as it appeared before being sucked into the hole. Finally, players are instructed to deploy the hole and use it suck everything up. In this way, the game’s story is told through flashbacks, with players directing the movement of BK’s hole.
Donut County is especially appealing to younger players because of its texting mechanic, which, on the earth’s surface, replaces traditional dialogue. (Texting does not happen underground in Donut County since all the residents are huddled together in-person.) The texting mechanic lets players control one side of a conversation with another character. When texting, players can either reply with scripted text (peppered with text-speak and internet lingo) or an emoji. Sending an emoji results in the other party sending an emoji right back, and this can typically go on for as long as the player likes. Even though there’s only one emoji to choose from, the mechanic is still quite cute and fun, adding an extra dose of silliness to an already-silly game.
Here’s where Donut County is very much unlike Katamari: sucking things up requires a good deal of puzzle-solving. At first, puzzles are simple: suck up the smaller things so the hole becomes large enough to suck up the bigger things. From here, puzzles gradually intensify, requiring more creativity and brain power as players approach late-game. An example? Water puzzles. To collect items submerged in water, players must suck up the water, bring the water-filled hole to a waterbird, let the waterbird drink the water, and repeat this process until the water is gone and the desired item is sitting on the ground. Although most players will likely feel stuck at one point or another, puzzles are generally intuitive, and unless they give up, players should be able to get through Donut County without much of a problem. Sucking things up into a hole is just as satisfying as we expected it to be, and Donut County’s silly humor, cute graphics, and and delightful soundtrack make for a perfect package at an affordable price.
Platform – Nintendo Switch eShop Download
Publisher – Annapurna Interactive
Developer – Ben Esposito
Price – $12.99
Genre – Physics-based puzzle adventure
Size – 317 MB
Nick and Sarah are the ultimate gaming couple. Nick is a Super Mario Maker 2 enthusiast, but working with Nintendeal has fostered a love for tough-as-nails indies such as Enter the Gungeon, Celeste, and Cuphead. Sarah prefers sim games like Animal Crossing, Don’t Starve, and Stardew Valley, but she challenges herself by grinding Slay the Spire from time to time.