Interesting ideas are always great to draw attention, especially when there's a good cause or message behind them.
However, it has to marry good execution in order to leave a mark, so unfortunately for dog shelter simulator To The Rescue, Little Rock Games' ambition is mired down by a shaky foundation that brings the experience to the dog pound.
The premise is full of charm and endearment, casting players as a new arrival in a town whose local shelter is suffering from overcrowding and lack of funding.
It does not take long before your innate love of animals sees you taking over the reins of a new spot, and beginning the journey to take care of all the strays at your own shelter.
While the tutorial sections are competent enough to get you well-acquainted with what needs to be done when it comes to feeding and taking care of the dogs, as well as attending to potential adoptions, the real meat of the experience comes with having your own shelter to run.
How you want to set up your operation, ranging from the way kennels are placed, how the building is partitioned, and the equipment that the players can use to make their lives easier in To The Rescue.
Every dog that calls the shelter home has varying characteristics, and of course, different needs that need to be taken care of.
There are four different kinds of food, a variety of medical treatment options, and yes, you do need to give them a bath every once in a while and let them get some exercise out in the yard.
With limited hands and inventory, players will have lots to contend with as the shelter grows. It does not help that the controls are quite iffy, and not optimised to deal with the sheer amount of things to do at the shelter.
There are bugs and glitches that happen all too often, which can see staff get stuck, dogs not seeing their needs fulfilled even in the right conditions, and much more.
Such circumstances do affect how you would enjoy the game, even if the adorable canines are irresistible and make you want to instantly cater to their every need.
Even in its more simplistic style, To The Rescue finds a great balance for its visuals and even the sound design.
Getting all of these things right will be key to adoptions, which is another important goal for the shelter. Visitors will come in intermittently, with expectations and demands that can be met with the dogs you have staying at the shelter.
Every viewing sees the potential of five dogs being shown off and hopefully adopted, and knowing the different breeds like the back of your hand will help tremendously.
This process can be quite gratifying, even if the client's demands are not exactly met during your daily life in To The Rescue. Being able to give these canine pals a new home is certainly going to make everyone happy.
That said, while the general gameplay loop is quite involved, it does not have the longevity to sustain a predictable barebones endgame.
You will still essentially be doing the same things over and over again, even if you have more space or get a better reputation.
Perhaps the only incentive is to see the different breeds that will call the shelter home and get them into suitable homes, but otherwise, the first few hours are indicative of what to expect moving forward.
On that end, To The Rescue is not necessarily a bad game, but rather, the lack of polish and the lacklustre progression lets a promising idea down.
For dog lovers, it could have been something close to the heart and an interesting concept nonetheless, but ultimately, just like in real life, more work needs to be done to ensure that these dogs have a better future.
To The Rescue is available on Steam for $18.50.
Geek review score
A charming idea that had the potential to grow into something special, To The Rescue is let down by poor design and a lack of polish.
This article was first published in Geek Culture.