Donut County Started As a Joke, But It’s a Hole Lot of Fun [Preview]
Nine-hundred and ninety-nine feet below the surface of Donut County, there is a group of people gathered around a camp fire. Everyone there knows exactly how they each came to be in this strange new place, but none of them can agree on the reason. Could it be snakes? Perhaps it was the devious raccoons? All anyone can say for certain is Mira, the owner of the local donut shop, seems to be at the center of it all. We know better though. We know "a hole" lot better.
Developed by Ben Esposito, Donut County is a stylish puzzle game that mostly came about because of a joke on Twitter. It was only after attempting to create a game where you are a hole and you just swallow stuff that Esposito actually began to see the appeal. We were slightly skeptical at first too, but after about three seconds of playing Donut County, we got it. It's a wonderfully simple concept, executed with just the right amount of clever world-building. That it's also meditative and incredibly easy to play and enjoy makes it all the more appealing.
We played through two of the scenarios in Donut County, each of which begins with a visit to the cavern below the titular county. There, the former denizens of this cute township are all gathered, telling tales of how they found themselves in their shared predicament. The narrative, such as it is, is built around the lives of these characters, and the meanings they attribute to the things they own. These short stories also let us know the truth of the matter, even when the character spinning the yarn may have a slightly different recollection of the events.
Each story began with us the size of a small pothole, and the more we swallowed up, the larger we became. There's a bit of zen orderliness in arranging your approach to swallow things in the right order, though there's really no wrong way to play. You are a hole, and things will fall inside of you no matter what. It all comes down to being observant about the items you're engorging, and seeing how the characters are reacting to the events. The slight bit of physics involved in tipping tables or larger rocks to slide down your chasm of a gullet doesn't take a genius to figure out, and that goes a long way to making Donut County a game for players of all levels.
There's also a decidedly chill soundtrack accompanying all the action, which lends to the meditative state Donut County creates. Esposito's game is much more of an experience than it is a challenge, and that music definitely adds to the strange beauty of Donut County's world. There is a bigger mystery at large, but from our time with the game, it's much more about the serenity found in the orderliness of swallowing the world than it is about solving any great conundrum.
As one of the last games we got hands-on with at E3 this past week, Donut County was the perfect palate cleanser. It's an enjoyable game that didn't push us too hard with a complex control scheme or overworked plot. Donut County just simply let us be one with the hole. We only got to play for about 15 minutes, but we could have stayed in that place for another few hours for sure. Now we just have to wait for Donut County to actually come out before we can go back for more.
Donut County will be out on PC and iOS sometime in the future.