Donut County Review: Pit Falls

Donut County Review: Pit Falls

Donut County Review: Pit Falls. Donut County must be inspired by Katamari Damacy, one of the most important ‘weird’ games of the last 15 years. Much like that PlayStation 2 classic, it’s all about absorbing increasingly large items, although in this case you’re sucking them into a hole rather than rolling them into a ball. You drag the hole across the ground in each of the game’s 22 short levels, swallowing up any items that will fit. You start small, grabbing rocks, pieces of fruit, and inconsequential detritus, but the hole grows as you gather more items into it, letting you nab bigger objects and eventually, swallow everything in the level.

Donut County is, for the most part, a lackadaisical and gentle game. The control scheme is extremely simple, and the game’s laidback attitude is reflected in its pleasantly chunky art style and folksy soundtrack. It’s focused on the simple pleasures of manipulating in-game physics and the inherent fun of making objects and living beings fall into holes. When you’re finding the tipping point of an object–seeking the moment at which it’ll teeter over and tumble sideways through the hole, or when you’re trying to make an object fall over so you can nab the items sitting atop it–Donut County can be a lot of fun. But while controlling a malevolent hole that sucks in objects, people, and eventually buildings and structures is satisfying, there’s not a whole lot to the game beyond these mild pleasures. Donut County is not as deep as the holes it contains.

The in-game explanation for these holes is that BK, a raccoon who works in the county’s donut shop, is controlling them via an app. Most levels play out as flashbacks, with cutscenes showing the people BK has swallowed up reminiscing about what has happened to them while gathered around a fire in their new underground home (the earth, as it turns out, is hollow). The plot goes in some strange directions as it casually works through and untangles its own strange internal logic, and the script is full of irreverent ‘Internet’ speak–the term ‘lol’ pops up frequently in the dialog, which is very casual throughout. The flippancy of the script is charming at times, but it also means that Donut County is difficult to get truly invested in. BK is not particularly likeable, and his friendship with Mira–his human best friend, who encourages him to face up to what he has done–feels one-sided. The game clearly isn’t striving to offer a deep narrative experience, but there are quite a few ‘story’ scenes and most of them aren’t particularly engaging or funny.

Donut County Review: Pit Falls

Donut County lacks scale, too, with most levels feeling like they’re ending prematurely. Whereas you would sometimes roll up the entire world in Katamari games, levels in Donut County peak with you swallowing, at most, a building. The game instead focuses on the impact certain objects can have on the hole, often with clever or comical effect. Swallow up two rabbits, for instance, and love hearts will spring from the hole before a swarm of newly-born rabbits shoots back out. Swallow up a fire and some corn cobs and you’ll soon have popcorn shooting back out, which must then be collected again. The game is at its best when it’s testing out new ideas or gimmicks like these, but ultimately there aren’t that many clever things you can do with a sentient hole, and many levels absolutely whiz by without introducing anything new. The physics of the hole also don’t quite feel right sometimes–occasionally, objects don’t behave how they should after most of the floor disappears out from underneath them, which can be frustrating.

The last half-hour or so of Donut County is the game at its most inventive. While there are puzzles throughout the game the solutions are often immediately obvious, that is, until the final few levels where they become more intricate and enjoyable. Your hole becomes equipped with a catapult that is capable of firing objects back out, leading to a few neat puzzles where you need to spit objects back into the world to progress. These are mostly straightforward–for instance, you might need to catapult a frog out to capture a bunch of flies floating around the screen–but they add some much-needed variety to proceedings and open some new puzzle possibilities. Unfortunately, the catapult is only used a few times, albeit to an interesting effect, and it’s a shame that it isn’t gained early and used more frequently throughout. The final level hints at something greater still, taking the game in a different direction–without spoiling the ending, it’s an unexpected twist on what has come before, making you wish the rest of the game held such surprises.

Donut County is a game with fun ideas and a pleasantly relaxed attitude, but it’s not the most compelling of experiences. It’s easy to control, clever, amusing, and I finished it across a single session without growing bored. But it doesn’t offer the catharsis you might expect from a game about wanton destruction, and its lightness and short runtime make it feel inconsequential. Once it’s done you’re unlikely to think about it much again, let alone play it through a second time. Like a donut, it’s sweet and satisfying, but you’re acutely aware that there’s a hole in the middle of it.

FIFA 19 Nintendo Switch Review - Switched Off

FIFA 19 Nintendo Switch Review – Switched Off

FIFA 19 Nintendo Switch Review – Switched Off. If FIFA 19 on PS4 and Xbox One is a 40-piece orchestra with all the bells and whistles you can think of, then FIFA 19 on Nintendo Switch is the tribute band. The Switch version of EA’s footballing behemoth purports to have all the same qualities–the Champions League! Ultimate Team! Career Mode!–but under the surface, each of its many facets lacks the depth and longevity from other versions. On the pitch the Switch port feels relatively smooth, if a little dated, but it’s hard to shake off the feeling you’re playing an inferior and incomplete version of this year’s biggest soccer sim.

Some improvements from the PS4 and Xbox One editions carry over to the Switch port, such as timed finishing and the new Kick Off house rules options like No Rules and Survival Mode. Others, such as game plans–or any kind of tactical tweaks or player instructions–do not make the cut. Once you get on the pitch, things feel satisfying–sometimes. Passing still feels imprecise, even with the world’s best players, but shooting and dribbling feel almost as good as what’s available on other platforms. But this port also seems to pull from older versions of FIFA–many cutscenes and environmental cues like those read out by stadium announcers are from as far back as FIFA 10.

Additional problems crop up when you want to play a friend with one Joy-Con each. It works, but not particularly well. As with FIFA 18 on Switch, fewer buttons and sticks means there’s no way to use finesse shots, threaded through balls, knuckle shots, manual defending, skill moves, or driven passes. Double-tapping the right bumper allows you to knock the ball ahead of you in a similar fashion to the right stick when playing with traditional controls, but similar workarounds don’t exist for the other missing functions. Playing with one Joy-Con is possible but often ends up feeling like more hassle than it’s worth. You are, at least, able to matchmake with friends when playing online, which was missing from last year’s Switch port.

FIFA 19 Nintendo Switch Review - Switched Off

The Champions League license and standalone mode do form a part of the Switch version, complete with Derek Rae’s Aberdeen-Atlantic commentary and UEFA’s operatic anthem. Night games look impressive on Switch, even if the atmospheres don’t quite live up to the sights and sounds of the PS4 and Xbox One editions, in part due to lower resolution. The standalone mode is essentially a stripped-down version of Career Mode, which itself is even more bare-bones on Switch than it is on home consoles this year. On Switch, neither mode contains the dynamic cutscenes or interactive transfer negotiations found on other platforms. Here, FIFA 19 really does feel very similar to 18, just with updated licenses.

Ultimate Team has a similar story in this version. FUT is easily FIFA’s biggest and most popular mode, thanks in large part to EA’s Squad Building Challenges, in-form cards, and more live services that keep things fresh. All those are present and correct on Switch, but the mode is lacking in ways to actually use your squad. Division Rivals, FUT’s new sub-mode for this year on PS4 and Xbox One, is nowhere to be found, meaning you have to make do with standard old Online Seasons matches. Squad Battles, the primary method of play for offline players in FUT, is also absent–the more miserly Single Player Seasons are your best bet here. To make matters worse, you still need a constant internet connection to access even Ultimate Team’s single-player sections, so playing FUT on the go isn’t an option unless you tether your Switch to your phone signal. Oh, and the FIFA 19 companion app is not compatible with Switch versions of the game, so you’re out of luck there, too.

All that’s left is to lament the ongoing absence of The Journey, which of all FIFA’s modes appears the best fit for Switch–a deep, offline story playable in small chunks–and yet it’s omitted entirely from the port. And that sums up the Switch version of FIFA 19: a playable, competent game of football encased in a package of outdated modes and lacking the controls and features you really want.