You don’t know your character from a hole in the ground.
That’s no insult: It’s the literal truth in a zany little game called Donut County. In this popular indie game, you play as a hungry, nearly bottomless hole designed to gobble up the world.
OK, so what’s going on here? Well, without giving too much away, it seems that there’s a new owner out at the doughnut shop in this game’s picturesque, cartoonish, titular environs filled with anthropomorphic animals. Of course, with a hometown name like Donut County, you’d think that a new doughnut stand wouldn’t be a big deal: Surely such a sweet place would have sweet shops and coffee stops on every corner, right? But this newly opened doughnut eatery has a few unique aspects to it.
For one, it’s been purchased by a sneaky little raccoon named BK. He’s a relatively new resident in the animal neighborhood and still hasn’t earned the community’s full trust. Turns out, that’s for good reason, ’cause BK’s donut store doesn’t actually deliver doughnuts. Its deliveries tend to be nothing but holes. That’s right, holes minus all the yummy dough or nuts one might be expecting.
That’s where you come in. Your job is to, well, be one of BK’s holes and clean up all the trashy things in the world. As you move your empty self around any given area, things fall in through you. (See, it’s a service. That’s what it is.) And then the more garbage you gather the bigger you become. You gobble up scrub grass, discarded coke cans, that old rusted bucket, that park bench, that—oops, well there goes poor Mrs. Potter. Once a hole gets going it’s hard to stop.
That’s how the story side of things whirs up to speed here: Once the animal townsfolk start disappearing and gather ’round a campfire some 999 feet below the surface of their former town, they begin comparing notes. And they realize what’s going on. Not only is BK and his non-doughnut holes to blame, but there’s likely a whole raccoon plot afoot. Someone will have to set things right.
It may come down to a hole like you.
If you’re wondering how you can be the villainous hole that grows and gobbles up a town bit-by-bit, but then end up saving the day too, well, that’s the charm of it all. I won’t give any more of the story away. To learn the twist, gamers must play through this quirky, character-driven and lightly humorous game. Gameplay is a pretty laid back, casual, and at times even downright soothing collection of challenges to make things disappear.
As you move from level to level, you find some puzzling moments in this cute hole-without-a-donut game. You won’t always be sure how to reach things up high (since you’re a hole down below). Or you might find yourself filled with water and in need of a way to dry things out. And eventually you’ll start to realize that the correct combination of swallowed stuff might create just the right amount popped corn or fired-off bottle rockets to work things out.
The story-related solutions are never really that tough. They’re more an exercise in exploration and experimentation that can ultimately feel kinda therapeutic. (Especially if you’re as much in need of therapy as me.)
Content wise, there’s not much to speak of here. The character dialogue is offbeat and whimsical and can sometimes tumble into potty humor. We see raccoons actually sitting on a potty reading the newspaper, for instance, and a character expresses his disregard for bathroom hygiene. The quick multiplying skills of bunnies get a bit of a nod, too. Players also access a “trashopedia” that spells out winking definitions of the various items you gobble up in the course of a level. But none of that ever rises above more than an occasional adult eye roll.
In fact, the game’s sometimes wince-worthy humor will likely stir up some grownup laughs that the kids might roll their eyes at. Sorta like the reaction Dad gets when you’re at a restaurant and your waiter comes over and asks, “Do you wanna box for your leftovers?” And Dad pipes up with, “No, but I’ll wrestle you for them.” Ba-dump chuck.
Yep, that’s when some family members might feel ready to crawl into a hole of their own.
Or they just might take out their phone for a game of Donut County themselves.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.