There’s no denying that visiting an animal shelter is a joyous occasion for most people. Nothing compares to walking down the aisle and finding one you know will be your best friend. Beneath their cheerful, tail-wagging appearance, however, animal shelters need a lot of maintenance and work to thrive. Taking care of dozens or hundreds of dogs can be difficult, messy, exhausting, and frustrating, as I learned when I briefly worked in a kennel earlier this year. Knowing exactly what it takes to keep a (fairly) large pack of dogs satisfied, I was curious to see how Little Rock Games would approach shelter protection in the future. To rescue!
To rescue! is a management simulation focused on taking care of both the dogs and the business of your rescue organization. It’s developed by Little Rock Games and published by Freedom Games, and it’s coming to Nintendo Switch and PC/Mac via Steam this fall. When the game starts, you have just settled into a new house in a new town when you find a stray dog in the yard. When you learn that the local rescue force is too full to accept – and when you accept a job with your friend in the rescue business – you have been arranged by the mayor of the city for yourself. hide their own. After all, the only way to help the town’s stray dogs is to open a rescue of your own!
I was able to practice the game while talking to Olivia Dunlap, the project’s co-lead developer, about her inspiration for the game. To rescue! and what the team wants players to get from the experience.
In 2019, To rescue! has been successfully funded in Kickstarter. Dunlap told me via Discord the idea came from the team dogs themselves. None of the developers have experience with shelters, but they all grew up with dogs that had a big influence on them. When Dunlap was in college, some of her friends were fostering dogs and cats, which taught her a lot about the animal adoption process. Besides wanting to make a great game that would allow players to feed all dogs, Dunlap also wanted to convey the more difficult parts of working in a shelter: Caring for needy dogs, managing Manage the space and work with potential adopters. She wanted to emphasize that rescue work “is not just about taking care of cute puppies”.
Although the game retains some of the hallmarks of the management sim, the team has changed some aspects to cater to its message. One of Dunlap’s least favorite things about the management sim is its higher-level, god-like perspective. The team wanted to emphasize the relationship between humans and their dogs, so they opted to include a player character instead of using the traditional embossed or floating hand. The goal is for players to experience direct interactions between themselves and the dogs instead of just treating each dog as a number. It’s great to know that the team is preserving this positive aspect of shelter work.
Besides helping the dogs in the game, Little Rock Games also donates 20% of all profits to the Petfinder Foundation, an organization that funds shelters and rescue groups across North America. When I spoke to Dunlap, I understood that helping real-life animals is just as important as making a great game. To rescue! is a great example of how developers and publishers can do better with the games they make.
In my preview, I was able to play for the first half hour of the story mode. Dunlap walked me through the intro, which included a choice between a story mode and a more open-ended sandbox mode. The introduction makes a more important choice: Whether to include references to euthanasia. There are no gameplay changes between the two; If the player chooses to turn off death mode, the dogs will simply “release” instead. Since I’m used to working in an animal medicine environment, I chose to include references, but they didn’t appear in my demo at all.
After choosing the appearance of my character and his friendly dog companion, I was placed at the beginning of the story. The game isn’t story-driven, but the team wanted to include a story mode to provide context for the management aspects and create a broader sense of community between the player, the dogs, and the animals. adopters who come to the rescue from time to time. Dunlap shared that this arose out of discussions the group had with shelters in the Little Rock, Arkansas, area. Many people say that the local community is very important to them.
After the first part of the story, I move on to the actual management of the game. (Dunlap confirmed that the area that served as the guide would be playable in the final release, but for brevity reasons it was dropped from the demo.) Early in the game morning, the animals dog to the kennel at my shelter. After spending some of my limited funds building more permanent kennels for each, I take the dogs to their new kennels using Leash Mode, the way the game interacts with furry friends . Dogs pulling you while you’re on a leash, looks like the real thing.
Each randomly generated dog has a file representing what makes it unique – given their own age, size, breed, food preferences and personality traits – and a piece of the puzzle is to match the right dog with the right owner. Dunlap shared that the breeds of these dogs were intentionally left ambiguous because the team didn’t want people to think they could go to a shelter and always find a dog of a very specific breed. body. They also don’t want to inadvertently promote any breed stereotypes through random sorting.
During the last few minutes of my demo, I was trying to adopt a dog for a new owner. It’s harder than it looks; Everyone has a built-in resistance to adoption. As they see more dogs that fit their specifications, their adoption readiness will increase, as shown by the bar at the top of the screen. If they have enough goodwill, they will bring home a new dog – and it doesn’t always fit their guidelines completely. In my demo I couldn’t adopt a single dog, but that’s how it goes in real life, so I’m not too upset.
While I work with adopters, the dogs still need me. If a dog becomes hungry, thirsty, dirty or ill, a notification will pop up on the right side of the screen. Keeping a dog full, healthy, and clean increases his chances of adoption, so it’s important to make sure they’re all feeling their best. I quickly found myself overwhelmed by the multitude of things that needed to be done to keep the shelter running – which was exciting, that’s exactly how I felt when I started working at a kennel. The game runs on a day/night cycle, so I only have a couple of hours in the game to complete my quest before time runs out and get my furry friend home.
I went from To rescue! Hungry for more. While Dunlap didn’t share a specific release date, the game is slated to come out this fall, and I know I’ll be playing more when it does. Honest and colorful without going too far, challenging without injustice, To rescue! seems to be a lot of fun. Now if you’ll excuse me, Zephyr needs his food changed.