As far as I can tell, this is the first glimpse we’ve gotten of To the Rescue: A Dog Shelter Simulator, and in fact, the demo describes itself as “an early alpha build”. I was particularly interested in trying this one out, as I backed it on Kickstarter last year. Unfortunately – at least for me – the demo was more frustrating than fun, although I can absolutely see the bones of a really delightful game here.
My struggle started in the tutorial – time is your biggest enemy here. You’re not given any time prior to opening or after closing to care for the dogs, so you have to do everything during the shelter’s open hours. As far as I can tell, nothing that you do stops the clock, which means if you want to take the time to read about the dogs in your care, you’re not actually taking care of them during that time.
I attempted two play throughs of the demo, and both times, I failed before the week was up. There just wasn’t enough time or money to take care of all the dogs being dropped off, and since I was so rushed trying to not screw everything up, I failed the adoption mini game more often than not. Between the lack of income, the cost of adding kennels for all the dogs coming in, and the fines for not properly caring for them all during my limited work window, I was bankrupt (and feeling really bad about myself) before day three.
I am really really hoping this is a tuning issue, and not a “realities of shelter life” issue, because making this game too realistic is going to make it depressing as hell to play. I realize that running an animal shelter is a whole lot more complex than just playing with puppies all day long, but if the outlook is too bleak, playing is going to be torturous.
I will be receiving a copy of To The Rescue: A Dog Shelter Simulator when it releases, due to having backed it, so I don’t have to make the hard decision of whether or not to purchase it. I am, however, really hoping that the event frequency in the early game gets brought way down to give the player time to acclimate to the things that need to be done, and that they consider auto-pausing the time when you are reading about the dogs in your care (since it seems like you can’t do anything when those windows are open anyway). The game looks delightful, but right now, is an unpleasant chore to play.
Edited 2:20pm 8-28-20: The developers are already tweaking the demo – my third try was considerably less hectic and overwhelming. Using the ribbons to move dogs between their regular kennels and the show kennels is also a game changer – this was referenced in the tutorial and I missed it! The fact that in one day the play experience is already smoother bodes well for the game, and I look forward to playing it upon release!