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Animal Shelter Review

Animal Shelter Review

Animal Shelter (or Animal Shelter Simulator according to one logo on its Steam page) is a fairly relaxed management/simulator game in which you are in charge of running and developing, you guessed it, an animal shelter! As someone who has recently adopted a rescue dog, I jumped at the chance to see what this game was like, all whilst saving some virtual cats and dogs in the process. It’s a genuine shame then that I eventually found myself bored and lacked any interest in these digital doggos after such a long period of play.

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Starting up Animal Shelter, you’re asked to pick a name for your new adoption agency (Belly Rubs Inc. was my choice!) and to choose which species — dog or cat — you’d like to start the game with. You’re dropped straight into the tutorial where you’re tasked with taking in your first animal. It starts out simple enough, with the game taking you through each step of how to feed, water, and house the animal. The tutorial goes on for quite a while but doesn’t completely restrict you from doing what you want, allowing you to freely pick which dogs (or cats if you chose the option in the beginning) from a small list of ones that need rescuing.

Progression slowly grew from here, and I was appreciative of how Animal Shelter never overwhelmed you with things to do in the early stages of the game — particularly as later on, a fully upgraded shelter running at full capacity can get very hectic — as it allows you to get to grips with the mechanics and gives you small snippets of each facet of gameplay. I liked this approach as it felt I was constantly rewarded with new things to try out as opposed to having everything dumped on me in a wall of text tutorial.

Before too long, you’ll be asked to buy cages for the species you didn’t pick in the opening, meaning you now have cats and dogs to care for. Whilst the mechanics for each are basically identical, there was some variety in things like toys to play with and giving cats a litter box in their cages so they don’t have to be taken outside to do their business. Unfortunately, it was here that I began to notice that there was nothing else to see or do, and the rest of my time would be spent repeating the same tasks with very little variation between them.

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Each animal has a specific set of needs; things like hunger, hygiene, and health. These will all increase/decrease as time passes, and you’ll need to monitor each animal either by interacting with them, viewing their stats sheet on their cage, or checking your computer. Each need is easily met by performing whichever task is needed to improve their overall wellbeing. Some are more time consuming than others; a hungry animal can be quickly satisfied by simply filling up their bowl, however, if a dog starts to stink, you’ll need to take them to the washroom and clean them right up! Sick animals can be taken to the clinic where, depending on their ailment, they can be quickly treated and sent right back to playing. It’s great that Animal Shelter has a variety of tasks, but it felt like I spent more time picking up the animal and walking it from place to place, spending little time interacting with the animals before taking them back to their cages.

Meeting the needs of the animals so that they’re more likely to be adopted is a fairly quick process, so they’re in and out of your shelter quite quickly. This is great for earning more profit and levelling up your reputation, but it also means spending time walking back and forth to collect or drop off an animal at the entrance gate or returning to your computer to stock up on more treats. Something like being able to use a mobile phone or tablet would have been a massive timesaver and really cut down on these drawn-out moments.

One aspect of Animal Shelter I found very enjoyable was the management and building of the site itself. It works similar to Build Mode in The Sims, where you’re limited to a small area (with options to expand this as your business grows) to place cages, play areas, storage units, and many other necessary buildings. It didn’t take me long to completely alter the default layout so that my office was closer to the cages, and as more essential buildings such as the clinic were unlocked, I had to go back into this mode to switch up where areas were placed. It felt almost like a game of Tetris, trying to fit everything into the area, whilst also adding in some decoration and furniture. It even allows you to customise the placement of things inside these rooms; for example, I moved the computer from the back room of the office to the lounge, meaning I could quickly access it as soon as I walked into the main building.

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Animal Shelter ran very well on my laptop — which isn’t too surprising as it isn’t a big-budget title — and for the most part, the game looked fine. What was off-putting was the fairly stiff running animations for the dogs and, perhaps most importantly, the complete lack of personalities for any of the animals (despite what their information charts seem to suggest) which makes every animal feel identical. I would have liked a cat with a “silly” personality trait to act in a different manner to a cat that has the “gluttonous” trait. The game is fresh out of Early Access though, and at the time of writing has patches almost daily, so these, as well as some of the other issues I had with the title, can be fixed given enough time. What can’t be fixed, however, is the fact that after a couple of hours playing, you’ve basically done everything there is to do; the only reason to continue playing is to increase the size of your shelter, allowing you to rescue more animals. But this just becomes tedious busywork and I had to force myself to continue playing to finish up this review.

It’s difficult to recommend Animal Shelter in its current state, which pains me to say as I really wanted to enjoy a game made by a smaller developer who clearly has a passion for animals and the struggles many abandoned or neglected animals suffer through. Personally, I think it’s amazing that the team over at Games Incubator have donated $10,000 to animal shelters so far, and this alone makes me want to award the game a perfect score. But, in reality, there just isn’t much enjoyment to be had in Animal Shelter.

5.00/10 5

Animal Shelter (Reviewed on Windows)

The game is average, with an even mix of positives and negatives.

An enjoyable game for the first few hours, Animal Shelter quickly falls into mediocrity after this time when it's evident that there isn’t anything more for it to offer.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Mike Crewe

Mike Crewe

Staff Writer

Bought a PS5 and won't stop talking about it

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