To The Rescue! Review: An Amazing Dog Shelter Management Simulator

Alec Padua
Alec Padua
14 Min Read
6 Above Average
Review Overview

Ever wondered how it feels to run a dog shelter? As a dog lover myself, I never thought of being hooked on this simulation. But don’t get deceived by their cuteness, because this game is more challenging than I imagined.

In this To The Rescue game review, we explore the life of an animal lover who takes care of dogs. I appreciate the work that has been done with this game because it’s been well researched.

So let’s dive into the simulation mechanics of To The Rescue if it’s worth playing. We’ll also see how the devs will give back to a dog foundation should you decide to buy this game and be a part of Little Rock Games’ charity efforts.

Story Mode of To The Rescue

To The Rescue In A Nutshell

To The Rescue has two game modes to choose from which are Story and Sandbox Mode.

In Story Mode, you get a glimpse of how life in the shelter works. Don’t get too overwhelmed with the dogs at the beginning though, since this is an introductory chapter of what’s to come.

Later in the game’s story, you’ll be given your own dog shelter to which you can name plus access to a lot of features. You can upgrade facilities inside your shelter and replenish pet supplies through the store, and more.

I can’t say the text dialogues are memorable but at least the gameplay’s really decent to pull you through the simulation.

In the next sections of this To The Rescue review, we’ll explore the different features in detail plus we’ll be providing tips for you as well so you don’t get bombarded with the mechanics.

Flexible Story And Sandbox Mode

Every day is a challenge for your shelter and there are times that you’ll be given objectives every few days. Dogs and adopters have their own personalities so you’ll also need to stay on your toes and decide quickly what’s best for both parties.

You might even encounter dog fights here and there if you don’t pay attention to their traits but luckily you can also treat them inside clinic areas and they’ll be good as new.

To The Rescue Game Over Screen
Having over 40 dogs running around your shelter with the pressuring penalties is no joke!

The game’s over once you plunge yourself into more than 1,000 coins in debt or your reputation reaches -100 points. So this is where management decisions are put to the test. Continue reading as I also give you some tips to survive the shelter life if you don’t want this to happen.

You also have the option to skip Story mode and go straight to Sandbox. Sandbox mode provides you will mini-tutorials while you’re playing the game. So regardless of which one you pick, you won’t get lost.

How To Earn Coins And Build Reputation

To The Rescue builds around the aspect of earning donations through doing good deeds for the shelter. You’d be surprised sometimes just by giving your dogs a bath also has a chance of receiving donations from the community.

But the bulk of where earning coins can be very rewarding are the adoptions and grants being offered by the town mayor.

To The Rescue Grants

The game also discourages you from neglecting your dogs. So performing euthanasia (or sending them away to another shelter) can reduce your reputation and it can also lead to penalties which increase your risk of debt.

To The Rescue New Game Options

For those who aren’t comfortable with euthanasia, there is an option in To The Rescue to disable this mode so that you still get to enjoy the dog shelter experience.

Understanding Pet Profiles And Their Adopters

While To The Rescue does bring a lot of charm to their soundtrack and artwork, don’t get deceived by the cute and charming faces these dogs make. The game is actually challenging and we’ll also discuss later how time and resources also play a huge role in running a successful animal shelter.

To The Rescue Review: Dog Profile 1
Things to look for in a dog profile: Personality Traits and Adoptability
To The Rescue Review: Dog Profile 2
Hello there you shy and intelligent doggo!

I love that every dog that you’re keeping in your shelter has its own profile. You’ll get to discover traits that may become helpful for adopters later on. They also have their own adoption rating. So a good tip of keeping these stars maxed out is if you at least feed, drink, and bathe them as needed.

You can also let them play in the shelter’s respective play area and you’ll get treated to some mini-games like playing fetch, pulling a rope, or even petting them seen on these images below. These activities also give temporary adoptability meter boosts.

Fetch Game (To The Rescue)
Rope Pull Game (To The Rescue Review)
Petting Game (To The Rescue)

It’s also important to know your visitors’ preferences whenever they visit your shelter. Match their preferences with the dogs and you’ll get bonus stars for picking the right dogs for display.

A way of gauging visitors’ willingness (to adopt) meter is that you need to observe their dialogue.

If you see them say like “I REALLY want a dog”, there’s a higher chance for them to adopt right away since their meter doesn’t require many adaptability stars. Mixing 2-star to 3-star dogs in your show kennel is enough to convince the adopter.

On the other hand, if you encounter an adopter looking for dogs with specific traits, then you need to check each dog profile to match the adopter’s preference. If you managed to match the traits, a bonus star is awarded. For this scenario, you’ll need dogs that are 3-stars and above for higher chances of adoption.

To The Rescue Adoptability
Notice that this particular adopter was looking for a large dog, so we filled up the show kennels with large dogs to increase the chance of the visitor getting one. The Ribbon is a useful time-saving tool to quickly fill up the show kennels.

Time And Resource Management Put To The Test

Not only is To The Rescue a great dog shelter simulation, but also it teaches us to manage finances as well. Accessing your computer in the shelter will give you details on every transaction that you’ve spent.

It will also teach you when to buy supplies and upgrades the longer you play the game. Personally, I prefer accessing the computer for upgrades and replenishing pet supplies once the shelter is closed. This helps me focus on the next day’s objectives.

There may be some instances when I access the computer in the middle of the working day but only for emergencies.

I also appreciated how they implemented the overtime mechanic in this game. To The Rescue surprisingly teaches us to apply work-life balance not only in this game but also in real life.

To The Rescue Finances Breakdown
Doing overtime in a day will result in a 50-coin reduction per in-game hour. In this example, we overworked for 7 hours as indicated in the Wages section.

Whenever you accumulate overtime hours, it deducts from your finances. Additionally, if you have an overcrowded dog shelter, you’re also subject to penalties.

This game gives us a taste of real-life and some might argue that the dog spawning implementation can be a bit unforgiving. Perhaps adding difficulty modifiers can help new players adjust to the management sim genre.

Social Media Easter Eggs

The most useful tool that you have in your shelter is going to be your computer. Not only does it provide you with the ability to upgrade and restock your pet supplies but also you have the chance to join community events.

Barkbook Feed (To The Rescue)

Barkbook lets you can see feedback from the community on what they think about your shelter and you can also schedule events that can help boost your shelter’s reputation.

Barkbook Events (To The Rescue)

You can even hire other staff (via LeashedIn) if your shelter has greatly expanded. Trust me, it’s no fun running a shelter alone with over 30 dogs. You’re setting yourself up for disaster.

LeashedIn (To The Rescue)

Both Barkbook and LeashedIn are immediately available in Sandbox mode so you can take advantage of these social media channels early on in your playthroughs.

Controls And Quality Of Life Improvements

The controls in this game could get some time in getting used to. I tend to get confused with using the mouse wheel and the Q and E keys to navigate through my inventory items.

The nuisance that I found so far in the majority of my playthroughs is that there are some dogs that can’t be leashed out of their kennels. But the devs could patch this up in their next updates.

There could also be an option where we could have more barking sound effects giving us a more mental challenge and realistic experience.

To The Rescue Verdict

The Verdict

Behind every dog’s charm carries more responsibilities. I’m glad that games like To The Rescue are being made not only to make us aware of what happens inside animal shelters but also to teach us to be effective pet owners.

Little Rock Games has done a fantastic job in accurately representing dog shelters in real life through their extensive research.

At the same time, the devs did not put any sugarcoating when it comes to managing a dog shelter. The dogs may be adorable in the game but this is the reality that we are facing with so many stray dogs nowadays being abandoned in the streets.

It was also thoughtful of them to let the users customize their game experience such as letting them choose euthanasia or sending them away to another shelter as options for those who aren’t comfortable with peacefully ending the dog’s misery as this is a sensitive topic for debate.

If you found this To The Rescue review helpful, then head on over to Steam and get your own copy. 20% of the game’s profits will also be donated to Petfinder Foundation – how cool is that?

Adding this title to your gaming library and helping dogs find new homes in real life has got to be one of the most rewarding achievements to have as a gamer – especially if you’re a dedicated animal lover.

Looking into their Q&A section of the Little Rock Games’ Discord server, the team doesn’t have any plans of putting cats into the game but they are open to the idea.

To The Rescue Q&A
October 27, 2021: Apparently, cats are one of the most requested features in this game (Source: Little Rock Games Discord Channel)

They might release a separate DLC for cats or give players a huge update if this game gains more traction. Who knows? We can only speculate at this point.

Looking for more animal-themed games? Take a look at my review of this fighting and tower defense hybrid, The Last Friend.

This review is based on the PC version of To The Rescue! The key was provided by Freedom Games

Review Overview
Above Average 6
Overall Score 6
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Annyeong, my name's Alec and I’m a full-stack content creator where I focus on producing videos and gaming articles – I get mistaken for a Korean. I rebranded my YouTube channel to "Oppa Lec" in 2023 and turned it into a content sandbox around gaming, music, tech, and video editing tutorials. I’ve also been a YouTuber since 2009 as a one-man production team who has built four channels around piano covers, singing, gaming, and finance niches. You can also catch me streaming occasionally on Twitch and I have music released on platforms like Spotify. While I do enjoy playing mainstream games, I love reviewing indie or “hidden gem” titles. Some of my favorites that stood out are Eternal Return, Oblivion Override, Hades, Risk of Rain 2, Battlebit Remastered, and more. I always believe that you don’t need fancy graphics to make a fantastic game.
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