I have fond memories of the first Katamari Damacy game for PlayStation2. I bought it around Christmas of 2004 after it got a lot of praise online from various sites including GameSpot and IGN. It was quirky but that kind of against-the-norm that someone like me could enjoy. It wasn’t overly long, I’m pretty certain I finished the core game in an evening or two. It was short but I was hooked on the gameplay and really loved the concept.
So, when I first started hearing about Donut County, it gave me those same vibes. Instead of trying to build a giant ball, you’re growing a sinkhole by collecting items from the ground and making it bigger so you can collect more. I honestly thought this was going to be a series of levels where you try to make your sinkhole as big as possible before time runs out – similar to the idea of what Katamari did over a decade ago.
But that’s not really the case here. Yes, you’re causing items to fall int your sinkhole, and yes, it will get bigger but that’s it. Unfortunately, the levels are pretty short and the game ends so quickly that it leaves an unsatisfying taste in your mouth. I was hoping there would be more.
You’ve got a story here but it’s so uninteresting and you’ll probably zoom past it just so you can play more levels. The story does change the gameplay a bit, including a pretty interesting (but easy) boss battle to close out the game.
The only real bright spot to the story are the puzzle-solving situations some of the levels offer. You might need to fill your hole with water to progress. You might need to light up a firecracker or shoot items from a catapult to advance the level but that’s pretty much it. These are pretty easy to solve and you’re never racing against any sort of clock to finish a level in a given amount of time.
In all, you can finish this game in about two hours and do just about everything it has to offer. There is no incentive to go back and replay levels. There isn’t even an endless mode where you can just get bigger and bigger.
While I was disappointed with Donut County, it’s not a bad game. It’s just that I wanted more from it. This is a great example of a game that has a great concept but there isn’t enough depth to keep it going. The worst part is that there are countless mobile clones that take this gameplay hook and push it further. They might not look as good as this game and nearly all of them have bugs, but they show that Donut County could have been so much more enjoyable.