I’ve always wanted a dog. Unfortunately, my family never shared the same sentiment. Instead, games such as Nintendogs and Ubisoft’s Dogz were my only way to experience owning a dog for myself. Since then, there has never really been a game to fill that void, aside from Little Friends: Dogs and Cats in 2019, which disappointed me massively. Now, something else may fill the void on Nintendo Switch and PC with developer Little Rock Games and publisher Freedom Games‘ To the Rescue!, launching in Q3 2021. Even better, charity partner the Petfinder Foundation will receive 20% of the profits made from the game, to support real shelters.
When I first took a glance at To the Rescue! by Little Rock Games, I was in awe with its cute visuals and abundance of adorable dogs. However, after spending roughly half an hour playing its opening segment on PC and chatting with one of the game’s designers, Olivia Dunlap, I realized that there was a lot more to this charming dog shelter simulation game.
To The Rescue! does an excellent job at easing you into the gameplay, with tutorials that are masked by the overarching narrative. After choosing your player avatar and selecting your own canine companion, the game kicks off with rescuing a nearby stray dog. This opening moment was inspired by a real-life event that happened to To The Rescue! designer Olivia Dunlap and their partner.
After taking the dog to the nearby shelter, it turns out that they are at full capacity, so it’s up to you to look after them. This is where you learn the basics of dog care, like feeding and understanding their personality traits. In a turn of events, the dog’s owner contacts you and reunites with their lost companion. Impressed with your work, your friend at the dog shelter offers you a job, and this is where the game truly begins.
However, the demo I played skipped ahead a few weeks to the part where you actually run your own dog shelter. There are a lot of elements that coincide with one another to make the experience quite intense at times. Dunlap told me that they are “trying to highlight the difficulties of being in that sort of situation.” For instance, puppies may be dropped off at the shelter, to “disrupt” the flow of gameplay.
For the most part, you will find yourself housing a lot of dogs at once on Switch with To The Rescue!. This will require you to be attentive at all times, as you’ll need to be mindful of their needs and, most importantly, ensure their adoption goes smoothly. Visitors will come to the shelter in the hopes of finding themselves the ideal companion, asking for specific traits and sometimes a particular breed. All sorts of mechanics play off one another here; for example, a dog’s hygiene will obviously affect its adoptability score. There is even an achievement-like system that was inspired by Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which offers a range of objectives for you to complete.
On Nintendo Switch and PC, To The Rescue! is an excellent representation of the difficulties that dog shelters face on a daily basis. It also manages to provide an addictive gameplay loop, with the constant goal of trying to get your dogs adopted. Little Rock Games has also made the decision to include euthanasia, as the developers felt it was necessary to raise awareness and reflect the reality of being in that situation. However, it won’t be glorified or presented as an easy option, and you will be able to opt out of the mechanic if you so desire. To The Rescue! is scheduled to launch sometime in Q3 2021 on Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam.