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  • Writer's pictureLaura Collins

Review: To the Rescue!

To The Rescue!, developed by Little Rock Games and published by Freedom Games, brings the dream of running an animal shelter to life through an adorable simulation game. Players assume the role of the protagonist and choose a companion as they embark on their journey to shelter management. The game's visuals boast a charming and slightly cartoony style that complements the simulation's theme, a perfect fit as it revolves around our beloved canine companions. The graphics are cute and create a warm and inviting atmosphere that draws players into the virtual shelter experience. Complementing these visuals is a cheery soundtrack, predominantly consisting of hopeful and cheerful melodies that enhance the overall gameplay. However, during the vaccination process, the heartrending whine emitted by the dogs adds a touch of realism and evokes deep empathy, showcasing the developers' attention to detail.

One notable aspect of To The Rescue! is the wide variety of available breeds, both for the initial canine companion and the breeds that will be met along the way. This totaled 28, which pleasantly exceeded my expectations. The inclusion of such a diverse selection ensures that nearly any player should be able to find their favorite furry friends within the game, adding a personal touch to the gameplay. Moreover, the game offers both a story mode and a sandbox mode, providing different gameplay experiences to suit various preferences while still going over the basic mechanics of how things work. In both modes, players are presented with the option to send dogs away instead of resorting to euthanasia, catering to the sensibilities of players who prefer a more compassionate approach.

The overall premise of To The Rescue! is simple and reflects the hard realities of running an animal shelter. Canines must be watered and fed, preferably whatever food meets their preferences, else their stomachs may become upset, leading to extra and unwanted mess in their kennels. As part of the responsibilities include keeping the animals clean, giving them their preferred food is most assuredly in the player's best interest. Just like in a real shelter, disease can easily spread, so it’s best to vaccinate the animals as soon as possible after their arrival. Ensuring they are vaccinated, and their needs are met means higher donations when adoptions occur, leading to increased revenue for the shelter and the ability to place more furry friends in loving forever homes.

Every day in the game is different, and each dog has its own preferences, personalities, health quirks, names, training values, and random traits, whether positive or negative. Potential adopters visit the shelter randomly throughout the day, each with their unique set of criteria and a "resistance bar" reflecting their initial reluctance to adopt. Meeting the adopters' preferences, such as age, training, or compatibility with other pets, increases the chances of successful adoptions, though still not impossible should the player lack an animal with the preferred characteristics if there are enough stars to exceed the resistance bar. Striking a balance between the dogs' individual traits and the adopters' preferences becomes a strategic challenge, allowing players to experience the intricacies of the adoption process.

To The Rescue! doesn't shy away from the managerial aspects of shelter operations. The game introduces administrative tasks through a desk interface, allowing players to access financial summaries, grants, and milestones, as well as monitor the dog log, order supplies, review staff resumes, manage the foster network, and upgrade and expand the shelter. Here is also where the play area can be constructed, unlocking access to multiple mini-games, which can enhance the overall adaptability of the dogs. In addition to the day-to-day tasks, engaging in community events becomes an integral part of the gameplay, offering opportunities to earn money, enhance the shelter's reputation, and even facilitate unexpected adoptions. Managing social media presence and hiring helpers further deepen the immersive gameplay experience.

While initially overwhelming, the learning curve of To The Rescue! adds to the game's realism and provides players with a sense of accomplishment as they gradually master the mechanics. The transition from a tutorial to managing one's rescue operation, starting from scratch, allows players to put their acquired knowledge into practice and witness the culmination of their efforts. However, as the shelter expands and more dogs arrive, juggling responsibilities can become challenging, creating moments of stress and requiring assistance from hired helpers.

Similar to real-life scenarios, the storyline of To The Rescue! emphasizes that individuals who work or volunteer in animal-related fields do so out of genuine care and passion for animals. Fortunately, I encountered only a few bugs, mostly involving minor issues that required reloading the day. While slightly inconvenient, they did not significantly impact gameplay. However, I did experience several crashes, which proved to be a little detrimental to the overall game experience.

It is worth noting that 20% of the profit generated from sales of To The Rescue! is dedicated to supporting real dog shelters through the game's charity partner, the Petfinder Foundation. This charitable aspect adds a commendable touch to the game, allowing players to contribute to a worthy cause while enjoying their virtual shelter management experience.

To the Rescue! Is available on PC (Steam, GOG, Epic games) and the Nintendo Switch.

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