This stylish, funny game about gentrification just won Apple's iPhone game of the year award

Ben EspositoIn ‘Doughnut County,’ the scooter must go down the hole. The goose must go down the hole. Everything must go down the hole.
  • “Doughnut County” was just awarded the distinction of iPhone game of the year by Apple itself.
  • The game, which costs $US5, casts you as the pilot of a hole in the ground, with a mission to swallow up anything and everything.
  • The game is silly, and fun to play, but it has something to say about the effects of the tech industry on gentrification.
  • If you don’t have an iPhone, it’s also available for the PlayStation 4, PC, and Mac.

This week, Apple released its rankings of the best apps of the year, with indie hit “Doughnut County” taking the prize as the top iPhone game of 2018.

If you’ve never played “Doughnut County,” which costs $US5 on the App Store, I urge you to take a look: It’s a stylish, funny game that casts you as the pilot of a remote-controlled hole in the ground that sucks in everything it touches, from snakes and lawn chairs all the way up to mountains and Ferris wheels.

The game isn’t especially challenging – there are some light puzzle elements, sure, like sucking up live fireworks and using them to bust up obstacles into chunks that fit in your portable hole. But like previous award recipient “Monument Valley” before it, “Doughnut County” is more about the experience than it is about reflexes and skill.

And what an experience it is. The general idea is that BK, a raccoon, buys the town’s beloved Doughnut County pastry shop and launches a doughnut-delivery app. When the unknowing townspeople order a doughnut, though, what they get delivered instead is your portable hole in the ground, which proceeds to swallow up the customer and everything they own. BK, oblivious to the damage he’s caused, is just trying to do enough deliveries to earn a quadcopter drone.

It’s a not-so-subtle commentary on what happens to a community when the tech industry moves in: The townspeople in the game thought they were just getting a doughnut, but accidentally invited disaster into their lives. It’s a satire of companies like Uber of Airbnb, where a simple concept can lead to all kinds of headaches and ripple effects in other industries – just look at what happened to the New York City taxi business when Uber moved in, for an example.

Doughnut countyDoughnut CountyBK, the game’s protagonist, controls the portable hole via an app on his phone.

Tellingly, at one point, BK confesses that he doesn’t even know what a doughnut is, other than that they have a hole, and thought he was just giving the people what they want. The story itself is about the townspeople convincing him that he was wrong, and that maybe the people didn’t actually want to be at the bottom of a giant hole.

It’s all complemented by creator Ben Esposito’s striking art style, which is appropriately cartoon-y, keeping the mood light as you swallow everything and everyone into the gaping abyss.

So, yeah, it’s silly, and it’s short, and it’s not especially challenging, but if you have a few hours to kill, “Doughnut County” is well worth your time. And if you don’t have an iPhone, it’s also available for PC, Mac, and PlayStation 4, too.

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