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I had such a blast in my time visiting the titular fictionalised version of Los Angeles, alternately harassing and helping its antropomorphised citizens, and just simply enjoying its art, writing and perfectly realised set of gameplay mechanics. Instead of stepping away from it going "that was perfect, I loved that", though, my feeling was more "that was it?". While ultimately, my unrealistic expectations are more of a me problem than a Donut County problem, I do feel like Ben Esposito and his co-developers' choice of genre inadvertently contributes to a short and contained length and scope feeling unsatisfying in its brevity. Both in terms of aesthetics and mechanical execution, the developers execute on a level that in my eyes puts DC up on a level with the best puzzle action games from Nintendo or Keita Takahashi, or more modern indie entrants like Overcooked (severely underappreciated as a single-player experience) and Moving Out.
Again, I think Esposito and company succeeded in everything they set out to do with Donut County. I just think that success subconsciously made me bracket the game in with those similar experiences, which created expectations in me the devs weren't even interested in meeting. Definitely a high four-star game, but somehow a three star experience. Brains are weird.
Thoroughly delightful detect-em-up. Going back after the end to look at the first cases, I was surprised to see how relatively simple they were, compared to the last handful. The thing is, I definitely didn't find them simple at the time. The difficulty curve turned out to have been expertly tuned by Color Gray (the developers). The challenge kept pace with me as I got more familiar with the way of thinking the game demanded to solve the mysteries – without ever becoming neither overwhelming nor boring, nor causing any spikes in difficulty.
Kudos to the devs as well for including various options for legibility and adaptation. I used the "no pixel hunting" clue-highlighting option myself, which worked seamlessly both visually and mechanically. I did not try the hint functionality, so I can't speak to how that works, but it was reassuring to see it to have such a prominent place in the UI.
Given the lineage The Case of the Golden Idol evokes, both with its art direction and gameplay, I admit I expected a much more opaque experience overall. So I was overall pleasantly surprised to find that Color Gray had decided to make playing the game as friction free as possible, while still retaining a nice level challenge (for me, anyway). Instead, the game builds a sense of the unknown and impenetrable by being parsimonious with the details about its world and characters, doling them out sparingly over the course of the entire story, allowing the unfamiliar and uncertain to lend an extra layer of doubt to my deductions. To me, that trade-off was perfect, though you might feel differently if you're sharper than I am, and/or in need of more resistance to feel satisfied by a puzzler.