'Donut County' Indie Game Preview: A Whimsical, Pastel Reverse Katamari Damacy

donut county
Donut County. (c) Annapurna Interactive

Donut County takes place in two worlds. One is bright, upbeat, filled with perky Southwestern pastels. The other is way underground, filled with a bunch of cute animal characters who are huddled together around a campfire sharing the story of how things got to be like this. You play in the Southwestern world, but you’re trying to figure out how everyone wound up in the underground world - which, as it turns out, is the result of falling into a giant hole.

The first thing I noticed when the Donut County demo opened up was its appealing visuals. The second thing I noticed, as you play through a character’s introductory text conversation with her friend, was the playful and modern sense of humor. The character’s text convo felt as real and natural as one of my own, down to the ability to spam a “quack” emoji at your friend and have him spam it back. All characters that spoke shared this playful sense of humor, even when discussing what exactly it was that brought them down into this hole.

Speaking of the hole…

You don’t actually play as any of the characters. In Donut County, you play as a simple hole. You roam over the ground, swallowing up small bits of grass and pebbles. The more you absorb, the bigger you get until you’re able to swallow motorcycles, people, fireplaces and entire homes. You control the hole until you have consumed everything in the level, which may take abusing the physics somewhat to fit an awkwardly-shaped item down your ravenous gullet. It feels like a reverse Katamari, where instead of rolling everything up, you’re cleaning everything out.

Once the level is over, so is the story, and you move on to the next animal’s tale of woe as they struggle to understand why this has happened to them. While the demo was only the stories of two or three characters, there is an overarching story that will cohere over the course of multiple levels.

Donut County is charming and funny, with characters that feel real in a light-hearted and humorous way despite their whimsical appearance. It remains to be seen how much depth can be sucked out of the hole mechanic. One level forced me to startle some chickens off high ground using a snake who’d gotten stuck and was waggling its tail frantically, which gave me hope that the simple “hoover everything up” mechanic could be intensified with a few light puzzle elements.

The story is fantastic and weird enough to make you want to keep playing, and if each character’s story has just enough of a twist to keep it interesting, then playing through promises to be both brisk and, for the tidy perfectionist types, deeply appealing. It’s a simple game with a simple premise made fresh and vibrant by its unusual Southwestern setting and palette, and I look forward to playing through more of it and seeing whether or not the hole mechanic is kept fresh.

Are you interested in Donut County ? Feel free to let us know in the comments section below.

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