Game: Dog Sled Saga
Time: 5.5 hours
This was a surprise Christmas gift that has been sitting on my wishlist since last year, back when I first heard about it and read the strong, positive reviews. I absolutely didn’t expect to be spending my Christmas building up a team of adorable pixel pups and racing them. But it was perfect.
What is it?
The game’s page describes it as:
As a rookie musher, foster a dogsledding team whose skills will grow if they’re treated right. Week by week, get to know your dogs’ unique traits, and carve your story into the trails of the Mount St. Something region.
Dog Sled Saga has a pick-up-and-play dogsled racing. Each dog’s speed is hindered by hunger. Lob a limited supply of food to them to keep at full speed. Hazards on the track await.
This is a very basic overview of what to expect. I won’t say the game is extremely deep, but it does have some interesting systems (hiring workers, dog breeding) that you can dive into if you want.
The basis of the game is putting together a team, caring for them to keep stress levels down, and balancing the care with training to keep their skills sharp. Each dog has hidden special traits, abilities, likes and flaws that you only learn over time.
Racing is the major aspect of the game, and the mechanics are pretty simple. The dogs move forward on their own, but become slower as they tire. You feed them snacks to motivate them again. Hold down the mouse button, which places a moving arrow indicator over your team, and time it so that you toss food to the right dog at the right time. It really takes a little practice to get used to, but isn’t that hard.
Sometimes dogs get tangled in the ropes and sometimes you need to adjust how far apart dogs are. Aside from that, you may have to avoid obstacles on the track and watch out for annoying trees that intercept your food toss. That’s really about it.
As your dogs earn “Perfect” food catches — which is totally up to the player getting the tossing time correct — they level up and their endurance increases. Your dogs also increase in fame for doing cool things, which brings sponsorship opportunities.
As you start racing in higher leagues, the difficulty increases and you get more dogs on your team to manage.
I liked that the game saves after every day, so you can pick it up and put it down to play in quick bouts. Even the races are pretty short. So it’s something you can make progress in short gaming sessions if you need to.
There’s also a short story mode — nothing that’s going to change your world, but it exists, so don’t knock it. And there’s a rival racer who annoys you as you move up the ranks. It’s rewarding to beat him when he tries to pass you at the last moment in a race. I’m curious about who he is, though.
I’ve only just qualified for the 3rd league, which has increased my dogs to 4 in a team. I can certainly see how things will get more challenging from here. At the same time, there’s a really laid-back quality to the game. Once you get into a groove, and your dogs are buffed and making time, it’s relaxing and fun to play.
Overall, I’m having a great time with this game. I kinda knew I would. I still have a lot to unlock (like breeding), and lots of racing ahead of me.
If you enjoy cute pixel management games and think racing sled dogs sounds like a fun concept, check it out. You might enjoy it, too!
Yes, if you enjoy this type of game.