I recently had the chance to experience a preview / demo of the upcoming Dog Shelter simulator, To the rescue, and it’s as adorable as you’d expect.
Freedom Games hosted their first showcase at E3 and I was fortunate 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 history of the game, so there will be a few minor spoilers for the first part of the game.
To the rescue! is a dog shelter management simulator that I’ve been following since I ran into it when it was on Kickstarter in 2019. The game was originally set 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 committed that 20% of all sales will go to The Petfinder Foundation.
I had the chance to sit down with lead developer Olivia Dunlap and play a demo of the game. The game begins with a character and companion selector. There are a variety of human options and players can select a companion who will live by your side throughout the game. Your companion can be any of the 30 races currently available in the game. executive functions (other than 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 puppy moving to a new town when a stray puppy wanders your porch late at night. You take her for the night, then to the local shelter the next day. The shelter employee tells you that, unfortunately, the facility is full.
On a mission, you decide to bring him home and build a kennel in your garage to take care of him. This part of the game shows you how each dog in the game has unique traits, characteristics, and physical needs (e.g., a deaf and playful German Shepherd).
Once you’ve made sure the puppy’s basic needs are met, it’s time to find its owner by putting up signs all over town. The developers have said they want players to not only manage their shelter and rescues, but also work with the community and manage their reputation.
Eventually you will find the owner of the puppy, and through your hard work and dedication, the community shelter offers you a job. Here you will learn most of the basic mechanics of the game.
In the end, you find yourself so proficient in your full-time position with the community shelter that you are given the opportunity to open and manage your own shelter. Your the initial building is not very tall (as all management sim upgrades / expansions are done as you gain experience, money and reputation), but it is empty and ready to be used as you wish!
Some tasks like feeding and watering are straightforward, and there are a variety of top-level management tasks available through your computer. There’s the Dog Log, buying items and upgrades, social media to track reputation / plan community events and build.
Let’s get back to the basics, however. There are four types of dog food that vary in ingredients and cost. All dogs have their own preferences and not choosing the right brand can cause them an upset stomach and therefore damage their kennels more often.
One aspect of the game that the developers say is the treatment and prevention of disease. less like real life. Vaccines work as both treatment and prevention in the game and can be very expensive to preventively treat dogs for diseases they may never catch.
Overall, the goal of the game is to adopt as many dogs as possible. The adoption process is all about being careful to pay attention to the wants and needs of the adopter and the dogs you are trying to adopt. Adopters will enter the shelter and will usually have specific traits that they like / dislike (i.e. wanting a playful dog, large dog, or large playful dog). Some will be incredibly excited to adopt and be less picky, while others will be a little picky. Adopters will come to the shelter periodically, but you can influence and increase their chances of visitation by attending community events, on social media, and by generating enough good reputations.
Most of your shelter’s income will be generated through adoption fees and additional money will go towards improving the quality of life (better kennels, cushions, televisions, etc.), building expansion, etc. As your shelter grows and you find yourself stretched too far, you can hire helpers to help make sure all puppies are well taken care of.
If the dog’s needs are not met, he will go into a state of neglect. Dogs with low welfare are more difficult to adopt and when dogs enter a state of neglect 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 fetching, scratching the itch (giving lots of pets), and tug-of-war. Minigames will not boost a dog that is currently in a state of abandonment.
There is 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 on your computer. The report will include money earned, money spent, skill points, and available grants that will give you a financial boost if you complete certain tasks within a certain amount of time. Because you are on your computer, you can also shop or access the build menu.
To the rescue! has worked to maintain as much realism as possible in the game. So much so that it even includes the possibility of euthanizing dogs. The developers wanted to show players the full extent 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 viewed as a last resort.
Don’t worry though, if that’s not even something you want to consider, there’s a game setting that removes it from your game altogether:
âWe didn’t want to get away from it,â Olivia said. âBut we also understand that not everyone wants that experience in their game. It was really important for us to make the game always accessible to people who weren’t comfortable with it.
The ânot as negative as expectedâ reaction to his inclusion was surprising to the team.
âSo many people who work in real shelters were just surprised that we wanted to show it because it’s something nobody wants to talk about,â Olivia said. “I think it’s important for simulation 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 first found (and supported) To the rescue! on Kickstarter, but after my chat / demo with Olivia, my hype is at its peak. As a big 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 until the game is released in the fourth quarter of the year!