I was not particularly fond of my dog Bobby when my family and I first adopted him from a shelter. He was aggressive, constantly barking, humped my leg one too many times and tended to prefer peeing inside the house than in the garden. Shamefully, I ignored him. I let him be my mother’s problem while I was away at university, and didn’t think much of him. However, as I was living at my mother’s house during the painfully difficult lockdown, I grew incredibly close to Bobby. We watched TV and went for walks together. He gave me barks of encouragement as I tried to lose weight and was there for cuddles whenever my depression got worse. It was great and I genuinely couldn’t imagine that year without him by my side. Alas, I moved out after lockdown and rarely see him now. I miss him and his opinions on Terrace House a great deal. Fortunately, the incredible To The Rescue! has not only given me digital dogs to cherish and look after in his absence but has helped me learn to overcome letting go.
“To The Rescue! does an incredible job of simultaneously keeping you on your toes while maintaining a high level of fun.”
To The Rescue! is a simulation game all about managing a dog shelter. However, unlike a lot of simulation games out there, To The Rescue! is an unrelenting yet genuinely fulfilling experience. This is because outside of managing budgets, the health and wellbeing of your dogs and the construction of your shelter, you’ll often be forced to make some genuinely difficult decisions.
In my first few hours with the game, I struggled to find places for the large influx of weary dogs coming into the shelter. I was forced to work overtime to deal with the myriad of problems arising from having far too many mouths to feed. The shelter’s budget quickly ran dry and the various visitors wanting to adopt a puppy went home dissatisfied. I watched sorrowfully as the shelter fell to pieces and as my futile effort to stay on top of things failed.
However, once you get past the first few days, To The Rescue! pulls you back and offers you a far simpler task. You move from managing someone else’s shelter to handling your own. You’ll have a handful of dogs to look after at first, and from there on out the game gently guides you in the right direction.
But that feeling of worry and panic never really goes away. To The Rescue! does an incredible job of simultaneously keeping you on your toes while maintaining a high level of fun. Through its myriad of well-refined systems and mechanics, it makes you care about the job that you’re doing. More importantly, it makes it feel important and fulfilling.
“There is always something for you to be doing in To The Rescue!.”
There is always something for you to be doing in To The Rescue!. Whether it’s cleaning poo from a kennel or tending to a sick dog, To The Rescue! is never short of tasks for you to complete. As the game progressed I found myself falling into an addictive loop. Where the initial few moments of the game had thrown me into the deep end, by hour three I felt like a well-oiled machine who knew exactly what to do and how best to do it.
But that doesn’t mean that the game is without feeling. Simply because I’m able to refill bowls or pick up poop more efficiently doesn’t mean it becomes any less of a meaningful task. Knowing which food Turtle eats only became second nature because the game made me care about Turtle and his eating habits. When a potential adopter turned up asking for a dog that is good with kids, I knew to pick Turtle not because I’d quickly read it in his folder, but because I’d memorised his every trait. And when Turtle was eventually adopted I didn’t move on and see what the next guy wanted, I genuinely cried.
“Its level of personality is what makes it stand out above every other simulation game currently available.”
During our interview with Olivia Dunlap – one of the developers on To The Rescue! – the question I wanted to ask the most was whether or not giving the dogs you look after up for adoption was difficult. Unfortunately, the answer is a bittersweet yes. You spend a lot of time with each of these dogs and want them to find a good home.
When Turtle first arrived I put him in his kennel, fed him and moved on. But over time I saw the potential in him. I loved walking by his kennel and saying hi each morning. I enjoyed taking him outside for a quick walk so we could both have a bit of a breather. After a while, I found myself suggesting him for adoption any time someone walked in because I wanted him to have a good home.
To The Rescue! wants you to form bonds and connections with each dog, and does a great job of making that happen. Whether it’s through the simple tasks you perform each day with them, or memorable moments that you share together, you will inevitably grow to love each and every one of the dogs in your care. This level of personality is what makes To The Rescue! stand out above every other simulation game currently available.
“Its numerous systems and mechanics are also incredibly easy to get the hang of due to its incredibly refined controls and informative tutorials.”
Fortunately, there is a lot to love about To The Rescue! aside from the adorable dogs. The game’s delightfully colourful art style encapsulates the warmth and vibrancy of the game’s cosy world. The pastel colours and minimalist style helps accentuate the expressive nature of the phenomenal animations while alleviating the game’s overall tone without diminishing the seriousness of the core themes. Additionally, the upbeat soundtrack and witty dialogue add to the overall sense of fun and jubilation so that it all coalesces into an incredibly enjoyable experience.
To The Rescue!’s numerous systems and mechanics are also incredibly easy to get the hang of due to its incredibly refined controls and informative tutorials. While it can become overwhelming, To The Rescue! always ensures it has given you every tool you’ll need to see yourself to the finish line without ever needing to hold your hand.
“To The Rescue! ensures you aren’t wasting your time when playing. It respects your time and never wastes it away.”
It is also just incredibly addictive to play. To The Rescue! creates a satisfying feedback loop by constantly rewarding players for completing tasks they would have done anyway. In a similar fashion to the incredible Grow: Song of the Evertree, To The Rescue! lets you complete milestones – which are ostensibly small tasks like cleaning up 50 pieces of poo – and then dishes out small but frequent payments upon completion.
Additionally, at the end of every day, you’re given a report card to show you how much money you’ve accumulated or lost and how content your dogs are. This, coupled with the desire to ensure your dogs are still okay the following day, compels you to continue in a way I haven’t seen since Civilisation VI. But just like the Civilisation games, To The Rescue! ensures you aren’t wasting your time by returning. It respects your time and never wastes it away. You’ll always have something fun and engrossing to do and the game will always reward you for doing it.
“Whether you’re a fan of simulation games, dogs or a mixture of the two, To The Rescue! is absolutely for you.”
To The Rescue! ended up being everything I wanted it to be. Its ability to make you care about each and every dog in your shelter is commendable and a true testament to the wonderfully talented team at Little Rock Games. The addictive gameplay, satisfying and rewarding feedback loop and dedication to highlighting the trials, tribulations and amazing work that real-life dog shelters go through are what make To The Rescue! so special.
I cannot recommend this title enough. Whether you’re a fan of simulation games, dogs or a mixture of the two, To The Rescue! is absolutely for you. This is a phenomenal simulation game full of wonderful ideas, fantastic art, adorable dogs and a lot of heart. Now, if you don’t mind, I think it’s about time I headed home to give Bobby a belly rub and finally finish Terrace House together.
Check out To The Rescue! on Steam here.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PC, code was provided by the Publisher.