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Animal Shelter Simulator review - barking up the wrong tree

Check out our Animal Shelter Simulator review to see if it's the right new game for you to get your claws into on Nintendo Switch.

Animal Shelter Simulator review: A grey cat getting petted in a grass field

Our Verdict

Animal Shelter Simulator gives us a glimpse into the life of a shelter owner, complete with rescuing and nurturing pets, and all the daily tasks that go with it on Nintendo Switch. It may be a little ruff around the edges but it’s nothing to sniff at if you’re a fan of a simulator story.

Saving animals, looking after them, and petting them? Sounds like a good time – let us introduce to you: Animal Shelter Simulator on Nintendo Switch. If you’re a fan of zany simulator games that contain a laundry list of everyday tasks, then this is for you. Plus, you get to make friends with dogs, so really it’s a win-win.

Ultimate Games and Games Incubator bring Animal Shelter Simulator to the Switch after a successful time on Steam, so now we have handheld animal handling in our repertoire. Prepare for plenty of pets and planning in order to get your shelter off the ground.

Now, without further ado, welcome to your new career as a pet shelter owner! You’ve got a long list of things to do, so let’s get cracking. During your new career, you meet plenty of friendly dogs and curious cats, all of which appreciate your time and effort. You will get emotionally attached to these little pixely pets – sorry, that’s a fact. You can choose to start with either cats or dogs, but soon have the chance to build storage areas for the other type of animals and take them in.

The first task is to accept some lonely animals to rehabilitate, then give them some food and water, and give them a good scratch. The game adds more steps as you go on like giving them a bath and taking them to the clinic to heal what ails them.

Once the pets are all smiles, you snap a picture of your happy doggie or kitty to pop on an ad on the internet. For this, you use an instant camera which I can’t for the life of me figure out how to delete photos from when it’s full – however, it may just be a case of building the photo studio to get a better camera and scrap the instant completely.

Animal Shelter Simulator review: a dog sat in a van waiting to drive off

Potential owners then apply to take each pet and it’s our job to check that the pet’s traits and owners’ preferences line up. You dismiss the bad choices, then choose the best one of the lot, and solemnly carry the pet of choice to your van and step back as it gets driven to its new home. Yes, it’ll be happier with a family, but it’s bittersweet seeing them drive off.

There are plenty of tasks to dive into in Animal Shelter Simulator to keep you occupied, and it’s not all fun and ball games with dogs. There’s poop to scoop and cages to clean, supplies to order, and packaging to put in the correct bins. Let’s not forget rearranging the yard to squeeze new buildings and decorations in, and moving around interior furniture too! I recommend moving the computer desk to the front of the building so you’re not going through two extra doors every time you need to check your emails.

Now, unfortunately, Animal Shelter Simulator is clearly not a game created for the Switch. It came out on PC first, but the Switch port could have had a little more love put into it. As soon as the game loads, there are some funky textures hanging around and sometimes dogs’ ears clip through the back of their head.

Animal Shelter Simulator review: refilling and feeding a hungry dog in a cage

When petting dogs outside (the most integral part of the game), some framerate issues become apparent. The sensitivity of the hand petting the dogs is also a tad too high to work with Joy-Cons sticks, though that may be a me problem.

As I progressed, some more issues became apparent that – I’m sorry to say – just feel like a lazy oversight. When you send a pet off to its new home, you receive an email from the new owner. This is a copy-and-paste job that doesn’t mention the pet by name and just calls it ‘pet’, or ‘The Dog’. After the care I put into bathing and feeding these animals, it’s a little underwhelming.

Upon starting the game the ‘Look Sensitivity’ slider is all the way down, meaning it takes about half an hour just to turn left. Thankfully you can change this setting, but it’s odd that the standard setting is so slow.

the Animal Shelter Simulator building screen with menus and a blueprint of a building

We all know that the Nintendo Switch is not made for precise movements or any kind of building game – at least, not for me – so laying out your shelter can be very tricky with Joy-Cons when trying to place buildings in just the right spot.

The button choices for controlling the computer’s different functions are also quite annoying, as B is not back, it exits the entire thing – you need to scroll to the back button on the screen each time.

These aren’t game-breaking or enough to stop me from playing, though. If you, like me, like daft simulator games, you can easily keep going – and just have a little laugh when a dog’s head clips through its shoulders as it eats.

Animal Shelter Simulator review dog: a happy dog waiting for a treat

Given that Animal Shelter Simulator is a new release, there may come a patch to improve its looks and performance. At least, we hope so. We could also see DLC coming to the Switch version – the PC copy of the game on Steam has two DLC packs for horses then puppies and kittens – though it looks like two different teams work on the two platforms’ versions.

If you want a good-looking and perfectly playable experience with Animal Shelter Simulator, I recommend playing it on PC. However, if, like me, you like to relax on the sofa and play a silly game about building up a pet shelter and hosing off dirty dogs, then it is worth your time. Don’t expect fantastic graphics, but you can expect a warm and fuzzy feeling from helping pets in need find families that adore them.

Looking for more animal-focused games? We’ve got you. Here are the best wildlife games out there and some feather-flapping bird games, too.