At PSX this weekend I had the chance to check out Ben Esposito’s upcoming physics puzzle game/hole simulator, Donut County at the Annapurna booth. I previously saw the game at E3, so I had a vague understanding of what I’d be trying out. While it’s a somewhat difficult game to adequately describe, I can say with confidence that it is an incredibly calming and satisfying game that could only be compared to the iconic Katamari Damacy.
Though this comparison is only valid in terms of its atmosphere and appearance. Donut County’s gameplay is the polar opposite of Katamari’s, as you aren’t pushing things up into a ball- you’re pulling things into a hole. In Donut County you play as a small hole in the ground, but as you move around and swallow things up, the hole grows in size. In the demo I went from being big enough to swallow a small pot to being large enough to swallow a park ranger’s station. The size jumps were never jarring however, as I only noticed how much I had grown once I started devouring larger items.
This simple but satisfying gameplay makes Donut County a truly therapeutic experience. Like watching the “DVD” logo perfectly hit the corner of the screen, or seeing that last drop of coffee break the surface of your perfectly poured cup, Donut County is designed to make you feel a constant sense of relief. You feel like nothing can go wrong as you gobble up every item in your path, and as you gaze upon the level after cleaning it up yourself, you feel a sense of pride that is both incredibly minor and incredibly pleasing.
Donut County’s atmosphere feels just as whimsical as its gameplay. The demo was full of soft pinks, oranges, and greens, while the characters were either simple looking people or anthropomorphic animals, normally with their own visual gimmicks. It’s cute and easy to look at, which makes me think Donut County could be one of the most relaxing games to come out in years.
I found the dialogue to be a bit more mixed, as it has a “quirky” tone to it that I feel is difficult to pull off without seeming dated. While Donut County is definitely more subdued in this regard than other games, some of the lines still felt a bit off. If the dialogue keeps its current tone it won’t be a major issue, so here’s hoping it stays somewhat subtle. This is obviously a highly subjective issue, however, so if the writing of games like Night in the Woods or Life is Strange appeals to you, you’ll likely feel at home here.
I’m looking forward to playing Donut County when it releases. I think it could definitely be the perfect game to play after a long and tiring day, or when you just need to feel good. And really, who couldn’t use a game like that every once in a while?
Donut County releases for the PS4, iOS, Android, and PC next year.