After mingling with cats and witches in Cat Cafe Manager, I was itching for another animal-focused business sim with that type of cozy charm. Luckily, I got to try out To The Rescue! when it made its debut at E3 2021.
To The Rescue! is a business simulator in which you operate your own dog shelter. The story begins as we find a stray dog on the street. The local dog shelter is full, so we decide to step up for the poor abandoned dog and others like it, and run our own shelter. This is the beginning of an adventure that was way more emotional than I expected.
As our first few dogs are just getting settled in their brand new kennels, someone is already knocking at the door to adopt one. They are looking for a large dog that likes other dogs. It is time to prep up the puppies and show how adorable they are.
“A dog’s particular traits will affect how generally “adoptable” a dog is to the average visitor looking to adopt,” says Olivia Dunlap, Lead Developer at Little Rock Games. “But some adopters will be looking for specific things, and matching those preferences can make a huge difference in a dog’s adoption chances.”
Each person coming into the shelter to adopt a dog has a resistance bar. They won’t adopt until they are certain of their decision, and this bar is here to remind the player of that. The more they like the dogs you present, the faster their bar will break. If you can’t conquer their heart with your dogs, then the visitor will leave as lonely as they came in.
The overall concept of To The Rescue! is cute and relaxing, but the game does not shy away from the hardships faced by real life dog shelters. When a dog is too sick or cannot be adopted, it may be euthanized – or taken away, if you disabled the euthanasia option in the game’s menu.
“Trying to find a good balance between representing reality and making a fun sim has been a constant balancing act we’ve been trying to stay aware of throughout development,” says Dunlap. “From the beginning, we wanted to include the optional euthanasia feature in the game, and we have been pleasantly surprised at the positive response we’ve gotten because of how we aren’t trying to avoid some of the harsh, difficult realities, even in a really cute game.”
Dunlap is right: To The Rescue! really is a cute game. However, behind these adorable little dogs is a real management game that requires players to juggle between many responsibilities. It is quite challenging to attend to our dogs’ needs and business obligations while making sure the adoption process goes smoothly.
Luckily, we can unlock helpers that can take care of some more basic tasks, like feeding and watering dogs when things get out of hand.
“An accumulation of lots of small challenges can lead the player to have to make some tough decisions,” says Dunlap. “We would recommend for new players to pay attention to the in-game skills that they can earn to help make things a bit easier over time, like unlocking abilities to persuade adopters, and improving the number of options for helpful community events.”
To keep the shelter running, players can count on donations. Every once in a while, we get a notification warning us that someone has donated to our shelter via our website.
And as real shelters also need donations to run, 20% of the profits made from sales of To The Rescue! will go to the Petfinder Foundation. This public charity gives grants to shelters and rescue groups to prevent the euthanasia of adoptable pets.
To The Rescue! does a great job depicting the daily operations of real dog shelters, all while staying a cute business management game. The game strikes a great balance between a sense of real life responsibilities, and letting players live out their wholesome business fantasies.
To The Rescue! will be available this Fall on Steam and Nintendo Switch.