First there was Ranger Rick. Then there was Rocket. Now, there’s BK; a raccoon with a reputation for being selfish, arrogant and well, a bit of an asshole. But his loyalty to his best friend Mira knows no bounds and totally makes up for the rest of his er… less flattering personality traits…mostly.
Donut County is a hilarious physics adventure game developed by Ben Esposito. It takes place
999 feet below Donut County after a series of holes across town sucked everything beneath the surface. Huddled around a campfire, the residents of the town share their stories about how they ended up underground. But it doesn’t take long to find out that there’s a common thread to everyone’s account.
Each victim claims they ordered a donut to be delivered to their home but instead of getting a delicious frosted pastry, they were delivered a hole in the ground that gradually gobbled them up. Fingers quickly point toward BK. Not only does he work at the donut shop but he’s also been playing an app on his tablet which operates holes in a game. Except the game he’s playing is actually a remote control device acting in real time to drive holes around town in order to steal everyone’s trash. And while getting rid of trash is great and all, the problem is that BK assumes everything is trash, including everyone’s homes.
Mira is the first to call out BK for what he’s done to Donut County but he insists he was just doing his job. He’s the top hole driver for the Trash King and by collecting everyone’s things he earns points on his app. With enough points BK can cash them in for the super dope quadcopter that he’s been obsessing over. Blinded by his desire for the quadcopter, he tries to reason with everyone that the holes are really a good thing and in fact he’s the real victim in all of this. But despite his clever attempts to spin reality and Mira not buying a word of it, BK reluctantly accepts the blame. Together with his friend he must right his wrongs and work to get everyone back above ground.
Donut County is a game within a game. Each character’s story about what happened to them acts as a flashback, playable chapter, and features different settings to explore around LA such as Joshua Tree. Players use BK’s app to open up holes during each character’s account. While operating the hole players can explore negative space, collect trash, catapult objects, and combine items to solve puzzles. At the start of each level the hole starts out small and the more items it swallows up the bigger it expands, eventually becoming large enough to collect entire homes and mountains. I cannot express to you how oddly satisfying it is to control the hole (that’s what she said) and get items to fall into it until eventually there’s nothing but empty space left behind.
I played on both my iPhone and PS4 and found that I enjoyed the gameplay much better on the PS4. Playing on console made it easier to mellow out on my couch at home without the distractions of public transit killing my hole driving buzz. There were a few occasions where I couldn’t quite get the items to fall smoothly into the hole but overall the mechanics are fairly smooth on either device.
After each level players can review their score and scan their inventory, also known as the Trashopedia, to see what they’ve collected. Every item that has fallen into the hole is given a quirky label; a cardboard box for example is labeled as “a free house,” while a snake is labeled as, “alive spaghetti.” It’s worth a scan just to see the names. None of the levels are particularly difficult. There are a few moments where you must solve a puzzle using the hole but the solutions are simple. The game isn’t built to stump you. It’s built to be fun and laidback.
What makes Donut County truly special, beyond the satisfaction of making items fall into the ever expanding hole, are the characters and their interactions. The game opens up on Mira and BK texting with each other. Players can click Mira’s phone and reply to BK or send him duck emojis. From start to finish the entire game maintains a steady comedic pacing with consistent witty banter amongst the entire cast. The way they speak to each other felt like I was talking with a group of my closest friends.
As wrong as it was for BK to destroy Donut County, I understand why he did it…operating a hole is so much fun! Between the muted pastel color pallet and the chill acoustic soundtrack, I found the game to be therapeutic. It was as if the stress of my day was the trash and the hole helped me to get rid of it all. But in less than two hours I completed the game. The calm I had felt was over and I was left wishing that there were more levels to clear, more holes to expand, more trash to collect. Donut County could easily just be a game about a hole in the ground but it ends up being about something so much more.
Donut County is available now on PS4, Steam, and the App Store.
Check out the trailer below