Game Review: “Animal Shelter Simulator” (Xbox)

Today we’re going to take a look at Games Incubator’s Animal Shelter Simulator, which is just about as self-evident a video game title as a title can be.*

It really is just that: a simulation game that gives players the chance to start and operate their own animal shelter – caring for dogs and cats, matching them with new homes, and expanding your operations to accommodate more animals.

You can start with either dogs or cats (I chose cats), eventually opening up the ability to care for both once you’ve earned enough “reputation” points and the cash necessary to expand your facility. I found cats to be easy to take care of, and you will have to feed, water, medicate, groom, clean and play with them to keep them happy, healthy, and most importantly, adoptable. Making adoption ads for your animals was pretty easy. You take a cute picture of them, and then paste it into a pre-filled form on your in-game computer.

Failure to care for your animals within a certain amount of time will cause the animals to be removed from your shelter, and it will cost you a small amount of community reputation points.

Kalico kitteh

Once I had amassed enough cash and reputation, I was also able to open up more space and new buildings, including a clinic, a professional photo studio, and of course – a dog housing facility. All of these buildings can be arranged on your property in any way you like using the editor.

If this all sounds like something a bit much to keep up with, it’s really not. Even so, the game begins with an introductory tutorial that is fairly thorough when you meet your first animal. This includes step-by-step instructions and giant arrows hovering around the play area. This all helped me as a new player, but there were a few things that weren’t immediately obvious.

The process of matching an animal to an owner wasn’t clearly explained, as the sequence of button presses on that menu was tricker than it should have been. I also wasn’t sure what to do after the short countdown when you send an employee for a home check. It was all pretty weird for my first three cats or so, but I eventually got the hang of it. The tutorial might have done a slightly better job explaining the online store, too. It was still annoying to lose customers or animals while I tried to figure it out.

Build mode menu – look at the kitteh with the shovel!

From a visual standpoint, I found the cat designs to be oddly fascinating. There are multiple, unique coats of fur, which helps distinguish them when you have several cats at any given time. I should point out that (at least so far) I’ve not yet seen a cat I would describe as “fluffy”, and I have not seen any kitten- or puppy-sized cats or dogs, either. They are all roughly the same size and they all tend to have short hair. A bit more variety in their size and designs would nice, even though the designs are already pretty cool as it is.

You need to keep everything clean before the inspectors come check out your property

There are a few nice touches scattered throughout the experience, too. When you have two (or more) dogs at once, they will interact and play with each other in their yard. This is very sweet and adds some life and realism to their behaviors (realistic only in the sense that the dogs get along, I guess). The dogs didn’t necessarily behave as their in-game “paperwork” indicated they should. For example, I had a dog marked as “quiet” on their personality sheet, but she barked just as much as any other dog, for sure.

I didn’t see the same level of personality being displayed by the cats, though. Each cat has personality traits listed on their paperwork, but they all behave fairly similarly. Having cats that sweetly come up next to you while others remain shy and reserved would add more dimension to the cats.

I should note that the little animal doodles in the menu screens are adorable.

Kitteh iz supah-stah!

Other than a few areas where the tutorial could be smoothed out, there are a few other odd quirks that require more trial and error than they probably should have. For instance, you can only give your animals a medical injection on the clinic table is if they are facing you. You can’t administer it from the side, for some reason.

It also seems as though Animal Shelter Simulator is lacking in some areas that would make the game more immersive. It would be a bit more interesting if time and weather changed, as the time of day seems to stay the same no matter how long you play. It would be more interesting if there was a day and night cycle or if you had to shelter your animals from rain, snow, or other bad weather. It would certainly help keep the experience fresh in the long run. I also would have like to see the cat breeds listed on their paperwork, too. You can clearly see differences in their designs, but I would find it interesting to know if the cat is an American shorthair, Siamese, Abyssinian, etc.

Try all you want, it won’t work unless you’re facing him from the front

Once you get to know how to take care of the animals and you start to stock up the right supplies in reasonable amounts (which only takes an hour or two), Animal Shelter Simulator is a calming, easy, and enjoyable game. I would obviously recommend it to animal lovers, particularly for people who like dogs and cats as there are no other animals in this game (sorry, gerbil lovers). I should specify that you will need a bit of patience at the outset, though, as it isn’t always clear what you should do when the game presents you with new demands.

So, if you need an occasional time sink that lets you take a break from real-world people, give the furry felines and canines of Animal Shelter Simulator a shot. It is available now for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Steam PC.

*Disclosure: a copy of Animal Shelter Simulator for Xbox One was provided to The Splintering for the purpose of this review.

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