'RSPCA Rescue Shelter' sim game fails to let the dogs out
Maybe I'm a heartless monster, but I'm playing an animal shelter simulation game and I've gotten to the point where I'm so bored, I'm curious to see my animals die. If I can feel more attached to my FarmVille Pink Cows than the small furry creatures of "RSPCA Rescue Shelter", I'm guessing the problem is with the game and not me.
Created pro bono by 3RD sense for the RSPCA Australia (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), RSPCA Rescue Shelter mirrors Think Pig, another advocacy game that was commissioned by the United Kingdom's RSPCA last fall. (Both RSPCAs have no formal ties.) But Think Pig was a flop, presently eking out only 3 daily average users and an all-time high of merely 3,373 DAU. And while RSPCA Rescue Shelter just launched last week, I predict that unless it improves, it'll do a similarly poor job of maintaining interest.
So what's wrong with it? First of all, the game really gets you into the habit of seeing these adorable shelter animals as 'goods' that you 'sell'. Because there's no shortage of animals coming into your shelter, but there's always a shortage of money. And there's no way to make money in this game except to dismiss these animals within an allotted time. Pocket Pets, such as rats and ferrets, can be ready for 'harvest' within a couple of minutes. Larger animals take longer. Without money, called 'Silver Paws', you can't do anything but sit and wait. Caring for the animals is no more than buying enclosures and basic necessities, followed by dropping the critters in until they 'ripen' a.k.a. become ready to be adopted.
Another laughable concept is that you get to name the animals. Except, what's the point of naming a rat that's only going to be in your possession for two minutes? Maybe the game understands this, because it does come equipped with a random name generator, which I end up clicking without even looking at the names anymore.
Perhaps the only way the game gets you to care is that pop-up window that appears when you've run out of space to house your animals, don't have money to build more enclosures, and there's so many broken pets knockin' at your door that you feel forced to send some away -- "Your rejection could be fatal for this animal!", the game warns. But the animals never die. They just get sent to another shelter. So you can keep stockpiling animals without consequence. I could go on...
Another problem is that the game's interface isn't immediately intuitive. For example, when you select an animal, a row of available enclosures are displayed. However, you have to exit the animal window and click on the enclosures on the field in order to house your animal. This game looks good and runs smooth, but the gameplay sucks, and as an advocacy tool, it actually does the opposite of what you want it to.
So what's the good news? Well, if you play this and bother to spend real money on it, that money will benefit RSPCA Australia's real efforts towards improving animal welfare. Also, 3RD sense is very open about player feedback. If you want to see this game do better (and it absolutely can, since it's still in beta), head to the Feedback tab on the top of the game and send them your comments and criticisms.
Play 'RSPCA Rescue Shelter' on Facebook Now >
[Hat-Tip: Campaign Brief]