You know how it is, one minute you're driving to work, the next a huge hole opens up and you plummet into a deep chasm in the ground. These phenomena are known as sinkholes, and this is basically the premise of this charming title we got our hands on from Ben Esposito and Annapurna Interactive.
Much like a doughnut, the experience is short and sweet, with it running at about two to three hours to finish. What we have here is a simplistic puzzle game that won't put you to the test too much. If we're honest, it also feels like some of the ideas could have been developed a bit more, and we'll get into that in a second. However, before you write this off, we need to tell you we really enjoyed our time in Donut County.
You take control of an ever-increasingly bigger hole in the ground and need to swallow everything up on the screen. You start off small, but the more that drops down your hole, the bigger you get. There's not too much more to the simple mechanics than that, other than a few small puzzle elements on some of the levels.
For example (and, for the rest of this paragraph, spoilers), there were some seagulls on a phone wire which you had to get to drop to the ground so you could gobble them up. You first had to light a firework, swallow it, and then wait underneath till it blasted them. It wasn't exactly rocket science - well, it kind of was - but it did add something to the experience. It was this, however, that we felt could have been developed more.
Rather than being the crucial piece to solve the puzzle, it was just another part of the challenge of helping your hole get bigger. While the puzzles got slightly more complex as time went on, maybe it would have been nice to see them get even trickier than they were. That's the crux of this delightful puzzler. It had so much potential to be bigger. In fact, some of the later levels really highlighted what this could have been. At one point the player-controlled hole is racing round corridors from one room to another, and we only wish that there could have been more stuff like this from the start. There's a bit with a frog that we won't spoil, but this was particularly fun.
What is interesting though is the game doesn't suffer too much because of its limitations. There's still a huge sense of satisfaction to be drawn from watching things drop down. So, what else do we find so delightful about it?
Later on, you have the ability to improve your hole with a catapult that enables you to shoot things back out to interact with some elements of the world. This does give an element of progression and improves the experience, but there weren't as many upgrades as we would have liked.
One thing we adored was the charming animations and all things considered, the graphics looked amazing. The textures and use of colours were simple but really effective. This strong visual design only added to probably our favourite thing about the game: the story.
It turns out that Donut County is populated mainly by anthropomorphic critters like talking lizards and badgers, although ever since the raccoons moved in, people have been disappearing. The main story takes place 999 feet below Donut County and many of the levels are flashbacks to how the population ended up down there (the eerie music underground really set the scene in the dank cave and was in stark contrast to the world above).
The raccoons took over the doughnut shop, and anyone and everyone who ordered something from there ended up being swallowed. This of course leads to everyone blaming BK, the chatty raccoon. As we know in life you can't blame one raccoon for the actions of all, but the truth will later be revealed as you head to an LA-like city that holds all the answers.
In fact, we really enjoyed the banter between Mika, a boy who worked for the raccoons, and BK. We felt that the story was something which made this experience feel so much more complete. It's rare that a mobile-centric games like this focus so much on story, but without it, this one might have seemed a bit hollow and could easily have been lost amongst the plethora of puzzle options on the App Store (although you can also pick up the game on PC and PS4 too, we should note).
All in all, we have to say that despite the simplistic puzzles, this was a real pleasure. Although it was a bit short and we'd have liked some of the ideas to have been expanded on further, we had a lot of fun. The story and sound really worked well, and the graphics made this feel like a great game to play in your spare time on the bus.
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