Developer: Little Rock Games
Release Date: November 2, 2021
In the interest of full disclosure, I backed To The Rescue! on Kickstarter back in the late summer of 2019, and I played quite a bit of a demo build back in August of 2020. Obviously, I knew I was probably going to enjoy it – I tend to enjoy simulation games, especially ones with a story mode (which this game has), and I’m a sucker for a bunch of adorable dogs (which this game also has).
I am, in fact, enjoying it quite a bit so far, despite the fact that it’s a bit rough around the edges. There are a few character presets to choose from, and quite a few puppy presets from which you choose an animal companion. The story modes starts with some tutorials to introduce you to the somewhat unintuitive controls and mechanics. Before you know it, you’re working a day at the animal shelter by yourself. You’ll need to care for the dogs, which includes feeding, watering, bathing, and keeping their enclosures clean. Later in the game, you’ll add enrichment activities & medical care to that list. If that was all you needed to do every day, you’d already be pretty busy, but you’re also responsible for presenting dogs to potential adopters, as well as ordering supplies and managing your social media presence, all while balancing a budget (and trying not to run up too much overtime).
It’s a lot, but it’s also compulsively playable. Visitors will come in looking to adopt, and a lot of the time, they have preferences that they’ll tell you about. Of course, you may or may not have dogs that fit those preferences, but every dog also has an adoptability rating based on their profile. You can show five dogs at a time, and each star of adoptability (plus each star from matching customer preferences) will wear down their resistance meter. Turn that meter green, and you’ll be sending one lucky pup to their new home. Sometimes, visitors will come in looking for their lost dogs, and instead of having to put the proper pooch into the show kennel, you can just bring the correct dog directly to the visitor and send them on their way, usually with a small donation or reward in hand for your trouble.
Although adoptions are key to being able to manage your shelter, and are the most lucrative way to make money, you’ll also receive donations, and you can choose to pursue grants, which are special tasks you’ll have one week to accomplish. However, if you neglect caring for your animals too much in the pursuit of the almighty dollar, you’ll find yourself getting fines and potentially being shut down. It’s a frenetic balancing act with multiple fail states, and a lot of the time, dogs will be coming in faster than you can adopt them out.
Unfortunately, euthanasia is a reality in the animal shelter world, and it is also true here. Some dogs, for one reason or another, are just very likely to not be adopted. However, for folks who want a less realistic but more palatable experience, there is an option to turn of euthanasia in your game, giving instead the option to send a dog away. It doesn’t completely eliminate all references to this sad reality, but it does give you the option to not have to do it yourself.
Save points are only available at the end of each day, and they occur after you clock out. If you have any computer work you still need to do, you can do that off the clock, so it’s better to use the end of your day on care tasks rather than ordering supplies if you want to keep your staff budget down. I’m about two hours in, and not quite all the way through the first week, and new mechanics are still unlocking for me at the end of each day. I’m not sure where I’ll manage to find the time to do everything every day, especially considering that I’m taking in more dogs every day than I’m adopting out, but I’m looking forward to seeing where the game will take me.
SteamDB estimates that Dogs Organized Neatly has sold between 26,300 and 72,300 copies on Steam. Although the sales numbers are respectable for the developer’s first foray into video games, reviews are mixed. Most of the negative reviews focus on bugs, with a few complaints about pacing and an overly long, but not terribly effective, tutorial section. Although I encountered a few minor glitches and some non-intuitive game play elements, I didn’t experience anything game breaking like many players have. It is ranked 5709 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.