I recently had the chance to see a preview/demo of the upcoming Dog Shelter Simulator, To the rescueand it’s as adorable as you’d hoped.
Freedom Games held their first E3 showcase and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to preview a handful of their titles. One game in particular made me scream with excitement – To the rescue! I will be discussing some aspects of the game’s story, so there will be some minor spoilers for the first part of the game.
To the rescue! is a dog shelter management simulator I’ve been following since I stumbled upon it when it was on Kickstarter in 2019. The game was originally supposed to launch on PC, but the developers were excited to announce To the rescue! is also heading to the Nintendo Switch when it launches at the end of the year.
The developers have pledged that 20% of all sales will be donated to The Petfinder Foundation.
I had the chance to sit down with the lead developer, Olivia Dunlap, and play a demo of the game. The game starts with a character and companion selector. There are a variety of human options, and players can select a companion that will live by your side throughout the game. Your companion can be any of the 30 races currently available in the game. executive functions (apart from being cute), but they can help you with some things, like telling you what certain objects are for.
The story begins with you and your pup moving to a new town when a stray pup roams your porch late at night. You take it for the night, but then to the local shelter the next day. The shelter employee tells you that, unfortunately, the establishment is full.
On a mission, you decide to take him home and build a kennel in your garage to take care of him. This part of the game introduces you to how each dog in the game has unique traits, characteristics, and physical needs (for example, a playful, deaf German Shepherd).
After making sure the puppy’s basic needs are met, it’s time to find its owner by putting up signs all over town. The developers said they wanted players to not only manage their shelter and rescues, but also players to work with the community and manage their reputation.
Eventually, you will find the puppy’s owner, and through your hard work and dedication, the community shelter will offer you a job. Here you will learn most of the basic mechanics of the game.
Ultimately, you find yourself so proficient in your full-time position within the community shelter that you are offered the opportunity to open and run your own shelter. Your the initial building isn’t very big (like all management sims upgrades/expansions come as you gain experience, money and reputation), but it’s empty and ready to do what that you want !
Some tasks like feeding and watering are simple, and there are a variety of higher level management tasks available through your computer. There’s the Dog Diary, buying items and upgrades, social media to track reputation/schedule community events, and building.
Let’s get back to basics, though. There are four types of dog food that vary in ingredients and cost. All dogs have their own preferences and choosing the wrong brand can cause them stomach upsets and therefore more often make a mess in their kennel.
Disease treatment and prevention is one aspect of the game that the developers believe is the less like real life. Vaccines work as treatment and prevention in play and can be very expensive to preemptively treat dogs for diseases they may never catch.
Overall, the object of the game is to adopt as many dogs as possible. The adoption process involves paying attention to the wants and needs of the adopter and the dogs you are trying to adopt. Adopters will come into the shelter and usually have specific like/dislike traits (i.e. they want a mischievous dog, big dog, or big mischievous dog). Some will be incredibly enthusiastic about adopting and less picky, while others will be a bit picky. Adopters will periodically come to the shelter, but you can influence and increase their chances of visitation by engaging in community events, social media, and generating enough good reputation.
Most of your shelter’s income will come from adoption fees and the extra money will go towards quality of life upgrades (better kennels, pillows, TVs, etc.), building expansions and more again. As your shelter gets bigger and you find yourself overstretched, you can hire helpers to help you make sure all the puppies are well taken care of.
If the dog’s needs are not met, it will enter a state of neglect. Dogs with low welfare are more difficult to adopt and when dogs enter a neglected state, the shelter will face fines and fees as well as reputational damage.
A dog’s happiness can be increased by using a play area to engage in a few mini-games like fetch, scratch (giving lots of pets), and tug of war. Mini-games will not energize a dog that is in a current state of neglect.
There’s also a skill point system that allows players to unlock upgrades, like the play area. These points are earned through performance, so the better you do overall, the better you can make your shelter. You can also spend reputation points to unlock more skill points when you need a boost.
At the end of each day, players receive a summary of your performance that day on your computer. The report will include money earned, money spent, skill points and grants available which will give you a boost if you complete certain tasks within a certain time frame. Because you’re on your computer, you can also shop or access the build menu.
To the rescue! worked to maintain as much realism in the game as possible. So much so that it even includes the possibility of euthanizing dogs. The developers wanted to show players the full scope of responsibility when running a dog shelter. She pointed out that the players are not rewarded for euthanizing dogs, and that this is not a viable strategy for successfully running an in-game shelter. Instead, it is absolutely considered a last resort.
Don’t worry though, if that’s not something you even want to consider, there’s a game setting that removes it from your game entirely:
“We didn’t want to hesitate,” Olivia said. “But we also understand that not everyone wants that experience in their game. It was really important for us to make the game accessible to people who weren’t comfortable with it.
The “not as negative as expected” reaction to his inclusion came as a surprise to the team.
“So many people who work in real shelters were surprised that we wanted to show it because it’s something no one wants to talk about,” Olivia said. “I think it’s important for sim games to do this more often, to think about the real implications of what’s in their game and to try to be serious and honest about things.”
I was excited about this game when I discovered (and supported) To the rescue! on Kickstarter, but after my chat/demo with Olivia, my hype is through the roof. As a huge fan of dogs and management simulation games, I can’t wait for the chance to play the full version of To the rescue!
you can follow To the rescue! on Twitter @ToTheRescueGame waiting for the game to arrive in the fourth quarter of the year!