Your time with Donut County will be bizarre to say the least.
Starting the game off you play as Mira texting your best friend BK, a talking raccoon, who you then control for the majority of your time in Donut County, sucking up all aspects of the town into an ever growing hole. But this weird world that you’re placed in, despite all of its absurdities, still manages to feel grounded and, oddly, believable.
That is what makes your roughly two hour experience so enjoyable.
Donut County on Xbox One initially takes place through flashbacks showing what leads up to you being stuck 999 feet underground with the rest of your town. Each level is introduced through a short cutscene involving yet another person who BK has screwed over in some way. Each interaction is enjoyably funny and often involves BK trying to turn the conversation on them, focusing on how he has helped them out and provided a positive service for them. This friendly banter is written in such a witty way that it feels believable for this strange world. It must be said that most of the characters are a bit one note, but that is all part of the charm. And since you are constantly being introduced to new characters, they never grow old.
Further along, and as you progress, you take a more active role in the story to uncover wild conspiracies. This development allows for Donut County’s main characters to have more room to shine, often giving them increasingly ridiculous scenarios for them to react to. But while the majority of the game is based on an outlandish premise, characters do show growth and have some impactful lines. As you may expect, BK and Mira by far get the most growth, with specific actions putting strain on their relationship. This leads to some conversations towards the end of the story that you don’t see tackled in other more serious games. The short adventure certainly had an impact on me beyond its fun premise and clever gameplay.
Almost every mission in Donut County is started with the promise of delivering donuts. What the customers don’t know is that instead of getting some tasty donuts, they will lose all of their possessions and homes.
It is here where we see things start off with a small hole, but as you swallow up more and more property, your hole gets bigger and bigger. This is the crux of the gameplay. While some deliveries involve slight environmental puzzle solving – like setting off fireworks to knock loose parts of the environment above you – most of the time your goal is just to create a hole big enough to swallow up the person’s place of residence. While this repeats for a majority of the levels, as the short story develops, the objectives become slightly more complicated, culminating in a quick but fun boss fight. It’s a nice bit of development as the gameplay is never allowed to get stale.
The end credits of the game also deliver a nice change of pace, mixing up the gameplay in a way that pays off some of the long running jokes throughout the experience. It is this which just further cements what makes Donut County so good – the clever design overall. Yes, there are minor inconsistencies regarding the gameplay that get in the way, and while there are puzzles, they never pose much of an issue, leading you to their swift solution, with ease, and there are also issues regarding eating the items with your hole, where the physics of the game don’t work exactly as you would imagine, but none of that ever impacted on my enjoyment of Donut County.
It helps that everything is tied together with some fantastic presentation. The world is created in beautiful low poly models with vibrant colors, and it is this art style that perfectly fits the goofy tone set by the world and gameplay. With the exception of the main character, Mira, all others are adorable anthropomorphic creatures, each with distinct, though often tropey, personalities. This style also fits perfectly with the music; the light strumming of a ukulele early on sets the tone for the entire game, with a relaxed vibe set throughout.
In fact, the world of Donut County is nothing short of charming… filled with vivid environments that you will joyfully swallow whole.
Donut County is a bizarre experience, but it is one that is well worth having, so much so that there is no other game out there right now with this level of personality. The balance between charming characters, environments and a story that manages to be goofy yet impactful makes it truly special. Even though it may be a short experience, and there is little to come back to, it would be a shame for anyone to miss out on Donut County on Xbox One.