You ever see an idea and think to yourself “Why has no one done this yet?” This is the feeling I had playing To the Rescue. Its idea is simple but has the opportunity to be great. To put it simply, it's all about running a dog shelter — looking after them and making sure they’re okay to adopt. I had the chance to play the game and speak to Olivia, one of the main devs working on the project, and one of the few dumb lines to slip out of my mouth while playing was “Wow, I’m surprised someone hasn’t stolen this yet”. Yeah, I appear to be better at socializing with dogs than people.
Right now, it’s still very rough (ruff?) but there are so many little ideas I like about it already. Let's start with its lovely visuals. It just manages to capture a certain dumbness that dogs embody. From their vacant smile to their willingness to just follow you around, there’s just an essence the art style nails. Its presentation is sweet and cuddly but not in a way that tries to pull at your heartstrings. It’s relatively minimal in art details, letting your actions tell your story.
That story is nonexistent right now but it expresses a desire for what the game should be. The overarching story isn’t what matters, it's all about the stories of individuals and dogs — the story you choose to tell. You have just moved into the neighborhood when you find a stray barking just outside your house. After taking care of them and bringing them to the nearest shelter, you find out they’re full and the other one has a high rate of putting their animals to sleep, a fate you don’t want to see for the little puppy you found on your doorstep.
You decide to make your own animal rescue and start off on your own journey. This involves inspecting dogs as they come in, making space for them, and looking after them until they’re adopted. You can customize your space with new building blocks and ways of looking after dogs. You take them on a lead and bring them to their new home, where you can inspect them, keep them healthy, and prep them for the next person that walks in the door.
There’s this interesting sales like mechanics to what you do in To the Rescue. Oftentimes, people come in the door with something specific in mind and you will have to either give them what they want or change their mind to take home the pet they didn’t know they needed. As you look after everything, dogs start to develop their own personality that you have to accommodate. Some may be a bit wilder, where some will go hurtling to the front door if you let them off the leash. To the Rescue shines despite its barebones build surprisingly. When the game froze during an animation, I was annoyed not because I’d have to boot it up again but because I might have lost a little buddy.
That’s something that adorable animals bring out in people — the ability to be a little pathetic. Taking a step back, I was annoyed I’d lost a sentence of code but when you step forward and take it in, I’d built a little connection in my time with the game. This is very much a proof of concept but that concept has proven to be a goldmine.
One of the strangest things that stuck out immediately when I botted up To the Rescue was in the settings options. In there, I spotted a cute little tick over the euthanasia option. In the middle of this upbeat soundtrack and adorable style sat this one melancholic roadblock, one thing that brings it down. Upon speaking to Olivia, its reasoning didn't just excuse it, it actively illuminated one of the most genuine things I thought I’d see in a game of its caliber.
It offers those little nuggets of humanity that aren’t so nice, as to live without them would give the brightness nothing to contrast against, nothing to truly show how special that shine is. Although there are plenty of little issues right now, To the Rescue's heart was that brightness at the centrer and, I suppose, without them, I might not have spotted how genuinely charming this little preview was. So, I guess, thanks euthanasia?
Although a release date hasn't been set, you should be able to check out To the Rescue later this year. A code was provided for preview purposes by Freedom Games