I find myself increasingly bored by big scale, so-called triple-A open world collectathons in which the entire experience is diluted by endless icons dotted around gargantuan, intimidating maps. Most of what you end up doing in so many big open world games these days just ends up feeling like completely pointless busywork, there to pad out the running time of the game to an often unmanageable length – or to push players into completing another achievement/trophy just for the sake of it.
There’s a point at which collecting stuff just ceases to be fun. Yet, as Donut County proves, in a more tightly focused game that’s compact in size, just collecting random bits and pieces can be an absolute pleasure.
The story of a Raccoon – working at a donut shop, naturally – who wants to earn a promotion that’ll net him a sweet Quadcopter, Donut County sees players in charge of a hole for most of the game. Yep, you read that right: a hole. In order to progress, you’ll move the hole around, collecting objects and growing in size until you can swallow the biggest stuff on the current stage – and then you’ll move on. There’s the odd, brief detour here and there in terms of gameplay and even some gently challenging puzzles thrown into the mix, but generally you’ll simply be consuming everything in sight before you progress.
Yet – despite how dull that may sound – it’s an utterly compelling, wonderfully enjoyable experience. The story is funny; wittily written, told with the narrative jumping back and forth – and utilising a charmingly eccentric cast of characters. The low poly visuals are colourful and appealing, with some lovely visual gags often thrown into the mix too.
The soundtrack is particularly good; a nice mix of Bonobo-esque downtempo chillout and more upbeat, jaunty tunes.
Though it’s a brief game, there’s something to be said for an experience that leaves you feeling satisfied with a story told from beginning to end in a few hours – without ever feeling boring or padded out unnecessarily. The art of simply collecting stuff by moving a hole around has a weirdly therapeutic effect, with the nicely implemented physics adding to this relaxing feel.
Even the credits are brilliantly inventive and interactive; I can’t remember the last time I not only didn’t skip a game’s credits, but actually had fun with them.
I’ve not covered the full story here because there’s a lot of joy in discovering its oddball charm for yourself. It’s a genuinely enjoyable, amusingly offbeat tale that’s brilliantly written and wonderfully surreal. Donut County is a superb little game that makes busywork fun and even meaningful. I really enjoyed my time with it and would love to revisit the kooky cast and strange world again sometime.
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