If there is one thing I can appreciate, it’s regular folk taking an exciting idea they have and turning it into something tangible. It can be beautiful and confronting art, transcendent or experimental music and, of course, compelling and engaging video games. Animal Rescuer is one such example. The debut title from Turquoise Revival Games is clearly a passion project from a team that loves every member of the animal kingdom, but if I had to condense my experience into one word it would be… ambitious.
On paper, Animal Rescuer has a fairly decent sounding setup. You play as a warrior who travels across diverse lands, fights bad guys and heals or liberates all kinds of critters, from goliath spiders and chickens to elephants and tigers. Unfortunately, the execution of the said premise is fairly basic and a bit confusing, leading to an overall dull experience. To begin with, the opening of the game doesn’t do a great job of providing any context for your adventure. It introduces you to the hero’s home island and his dying wife, whose illness doesn’t seem to be responding to any form of treatment. Out of desperation you travel to see a witch, who for seemingly unrelated reasons dubs you an ‘Animal Rescuer’, gives you an amulet that you can store animals in (like a giant Pokeball) and charges you with finding and saving animals from all over the world. She then says (again for no reason) that this will make you a friend of all creatures, but an enemy to some humans. Sure enough, as soon as she stops talking, you are beset upon by some random…bandits? I guess? With no mention about how this all fits into finding a cure for your wife, it’s hard to understand why I have a target on my back and why I have to rescue the puppy they have caged at the back of the witch’s island or any other animal for that matter.
That’s a lot of critters that need savin’
So, motivations aside, what else can you expect? Fighting the bandits in the witch’s hut shows you that combat in this game is serviceable, but not very well-tuned. You have your standard light attack with your sword as well as a charged heavy attack, however fighting feels slow and clunky, with enemies constantly darting in and out of your reach, regenerating health if left alone for too long and able to take you out in a few swift blows. You can level up and eventually purchase better swords, but combat never feels like more than an annoying chore.
Speaking of annoying chores, there are several islands to explore in the game, filled with people, some of whom can give you quests to complete. Again, with no explanation, you are asked to complete all kinds of everyone’s favourite RPG staple fetch quests. These are often quite convoluted to complete and with almost no narrative reason to do so (this person is willing to pay 2000 Gold for a violin and this person on another island has one so find them), it feels almost like a pointless inclusion to pad things out.
Alchemical potion or keyboard smash, you decide!
The meat (pardon the pun) of Animal Rescuer is, of course, saving animals. While it is a noble goal for any game, AR makes the process of doing so even more confusing than the fetch quests. Each animal you can ‘rescue’ has a different coloured cross above their head, indicating that they need some form of medicine. These medicines all have hard to pronounce and remember clinical (I think) names, all of which you have to make at an alchemy table. To make the medicine you need to first find the animal and the recipe for their specific medicine, then find all of the relevant plants littered around the islands and combine them at an alchemy table. This is especially annoying when you find something cool like a tiger, but have to leave it until you have the right plants to make the medicine. By the time I found all the various (and scientifically named) plants, I had forgotten where the tiger was. Even after you do rescue an animal, you have to find an animal courier, who charges you money to transfer it to your amulet, again for unclear reasons. You can pet some animals though, which is a big deal.
Being such a simple game does mean that it ran very well on my PC and load times between travel and respawning were pretty decent. I imagine that any computer with even low-end gaming specs would manage Animal Rescuer with not much trouble. All of the character models, environments and sound design elements do have a little bit of an ‘assets pack’ kind of feel to them, but given that it was made by a small studio, I’m not too bothered by that.
A dedicated cutscene to pet a cat? I approve
I do have a soft spot for small development teams and I find it hard to be critical while acknowledging the time and effort it takes to put together a game like this. Playing Animal Rescuer felt more like I was playtesting an end of year project for a game development student, albeit one that would get an A+. There is definitely potential here and it could be a decent game if there was just a little more focus on the narrative and the core gameplay loop. There is also a free demo on Steam that you can check it, if it sounds like something you’d be interested in.
Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher