Treva Entertainment's Outback Pet Rescue 3D is an attempt at an "edutainment" title that doesn't succeed at being a quality learning experience or a fun game. While there's nothing wrong with the idea — see animals found in Australia while learning about animal care and responsibility — the execution is atrocious, with horrible controls, primitive, pixelated visuals, non-existent challenge and baffling gameplay quirks that don't add anything except frustration. For a title aimed at children, we can only imagine that these feelings will be amplified.
From the first screen, players will be reminded of the early days of touch-screen gaming, when tapping the screen didn't respond quite the way it should have, or when it was required for doing actions that should have had regular control functionality. When we have trouble selecting a language to play in and can't even get to the main menu, you know there's a problem. The entire game is played with only the stylus; you can't move your character, select options, explore or carry out any actions via buttons. We were able to adapt, but kids who aren't used to the lack of freedom will likely lose patience fast.
Had the horrendous controls masked a great game, we could overlook some of the frustration. Unfortunately, the gameplay leaves a lot to be desired. The player gets a job in the Australian outback, taking care of animals and learning about them in the process; this amounts to dragging a car across a tiny map and finding animals to subdue and fix up. Dragging the car, itself, is infuriatingly difficult; the hit detection here is absolutely broken. Healing animals (like kangaroos, the first you'll encounter) usually amounts to identifying the problem by tapping the correct item on the correct part of the animal. There are also in-patient animals that need to be maintained in rudimentary ways, none of them realistic or interesting.
You can also purchase (with money you're paid for your hard, boring work) information about animals that sound like they were ripped from an open-source encyclopedia. The game would have been infinitely more interesting had the research portions been used in the style of Retro Game Challenge, where players could find useful tips and hints to help them. There's also an oddity that you have to sit on a couch to save your game and move on to the next "day"; auto-save would fit better in a title aimed at young children.
The dull, washed-out visuals only make the hefty price more inconceivable, while what little audio there is will be quickly forgotten. Free mobile games look and sound better than this.
Outback Pet Rescue 3D is a disappointing title. With such a large asking price, we imagine there are going to be a lot of disappointed kids and angry parents when the game turns out to be such a spartan and dull experience. There are plenty of other "simulation" games on the 3DS — stay far, far away from this one.