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PAX East First Impressions – Dog Sled Saga

Dog Sled Saga is a simple game about feeding and taking care of your dogs. But when those dogs are sled racing dogs, the relationship becomes way more complicated. Another recent Kickstarter success, Dog Sled Saga is both a mobile and desktop game, but when I got the chance to play at PAX East it was being demonstrated on a tablet.

Dan FitzGerald, half of the development duo, was there to explain the deeper mechanics at play during the racing portions of the game. The demo starts with recruiting three dogs for your sled team, as they run across the frozen tundra no matter what. If they are hungry or tangled up in the ropes, the dogs slow down, and at the same time their personality gets effected. By the third race the team became four dogs, but some of the original three had different traits due to my performance; the dog in the back became better at being in the back position, and the dog in front would become more hungry than the other dogs.

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In the races, there are signals or audio cues to tell if the dogs are hungry or in danger. Rapidly tapping the dogs will untangle them, and touch and holding a finger on the tablet will bring up an aiming arc. Each treat must be properly arced to reach the dog that needs it most, but their is a finite number of treats. Treats will replenish over time, unless all five are used before more can recharge, in which case the sled has to come into contact with a full bag of treats. If poorly timed, a dog could eat the whole bag before it gets to the rider, which is frustrating but thematically makes sense.

FitzGerald explains the theme of a nonverbal pet owner relationship being the central pillar for Dog Sled Saga. Instead of straightforward answers to the each dog’s problem, the final version will give signals for the player to figure out the best solution to their dog’s ailments. There will also be different paths to success, such as performing tricks – that weren’t present in the demo – in order to impress sponsors to gain more fame.

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Dog Sled Saga is not a game about the sport, so I was disappointed that aspect of the game was the only thing shown. However, enough of the pet relationship mechanics were teased for me to get interested in the game’s final release later this year for PC, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS.