It’s the middle of the night and you’re 10 hours into your road trip, when up ahead you see a sign for the last rest stop for the next 50 miles. The sign tantalizes you with promises of a Starbucks and some sandwich shop you’ve never heard of. You’re dreaming of a bathtub full of espresso and a sandwich the size of a Prius. Upon entering however, the only thing that’s open is the Roy Rogers. Begrudgingly you eat it. You’re not mad, rather, you’re just disappointed cause it wasn’t what you expected. That’s been my experience with Donut County.
Donut County is a game where you play as a hole that’s sole purpose is to terrorize and devour an entire town and all of the people that inhabit it. That alone was enough of a selling point for me, but Donut County did their best infomercial impression and repeatedly said “But wait, there’s more!” by adding in things like an adorably charming graphical aesthetic, a super rad effects-driven folksy soundtrack, and mischievous raccoons. With all these great ingredients, how couldn’t I love Donut County?
For a game about being a hole, Donut County isn’t a very deep experience. I’m truly sorry for the bad wordplay, but it really is the best way to summarize my feelings on the game. The entire experience feels incredibly rigid and guided. There’s no room for any experimentation or improvisation to be had at all. The levels are segmented into usually 3 or 4 stages, and none of them are particularly big, nor dense with objects to consume.
There are some brief flashes of interesting puzzle solving mechanics, but they’re abandoned almost as quickly as they were introduced. Things like, using the hole as a soup bowl, or setting it on fire to ignite things that fall inside, are all neat ideas that never get any more complex as you progress. There isn’t any real puzzle solving in Donut County, which seems like a gigantic missed opportunity.
I really wish I liked Donut County more than I do. It isn’t a bad game, but it is a game that misses a lot of opportunities to do something more interesting than just have you be a hole that things fall into. Donut County is at its strongest when it’s taken as a narrative experience, but as a game, I found myself wanting more.