Introducing: Littlewood Switch Review
Thank you, brave hero! We are ever indebted to you for defeating the dark wizard. What’s that? You don’t remember anything that happened over the last few years. So… listen you kind of promised me a satchel of gold yesterday…
Imagine waking in a world you saved, but have no memory of it! You see your friends around you, companions on your quest who lived, laughed and fought alongside you. Maybe they even loved you! (You know how those long adventures into the unknown get.) Now you have the pieces to pick up, and a society to rebuild. Amnesia will have to wait, this is Littlewood.
Littlewood, even the name is relaxing
Your friend Willow reminds you of your deeds and essentially acts as your tutorial, whilst also providing some exposition along the way. You are tasked with forming a town with your friends in the ruins of what is, presumably, your final battleground. In true RPG/Life Sim style you are able to name both your character and your town, but as I am still unimaginative after years of these types of games, I will stick with Littlewood.
The game advertises itself as a relaxing mixture of RPG and life simulation games, and immediately it is easy to draw comparisons. With its own take on resource collecting, crafting, and management, and its use of RPG elements, Littlewood creates a world that you will want to explore more.
Farming, Foraging, Collecting, and Crafting
Let’s start with the basics. On awakening, your friend Willow will introduce you to the building mechanic in the game. Blueprints are essentially items that you can build within the world, be it a house, tavern, coffee shop, or items to fill these buildings. These can even be moved at any time, without consequence. No need to pay some anthropomorphic raccoon with a corner on the real estate market here!
Once you have placed your friend’s houses, and of course your own, you can explore your world and start collecting resources. Build mode allows you to terraform freely, with any dirt you remove adding to your collection and vice versa. You do begin with rather limited options as you build up enough experience to unlock the shop and gain some tools. Once you unlock these, however, you have the ability to chop wood, mine minerals, and collect bugs, fish, and crops.
Very quickly on you unlock the ability to generate revenue and stimulate an economy within your town. Though I still find it strange – who on earth wants to buy collections of weeds after all – it does happen, with the items you place for sale being converted into the game’s currency, “Dewdrops”, the next day.
A hero can’t just be any old regular resident!
Clearly, you can’t just be a regular resident, I mean, you’re the hero of Solemn! So, as you could imagine, you shortly get given the ability to flex your dictator-y muscles by being made the “Mayor” of Littlewood. Though that title can be changed, I feel it important to note that “Supreme Leader” doesn’t fit, definitely a game-breaking issue!
Opening up the town hall allows you to purchase perks that can help you acquire more money or resources, or increase your chances of having some kind of benefit befall you while working to improve your town. You also unlock other buildings with their own unique functions. A tavern in which you can make dishes to sell, a coffee shop that offers various perks, a town square for events and the airship. The airship allows you to travel to areas of Solemn which, more often than not, contain more resources than you can collect in your own small town.
The other buildings of import at the start of the game are the wood mill and the masonry. Here you can craft the raw materials you collect into one of the three building materials required to fulfil building requests later on. All of these buildings can be upgraded by donating money or resources.
There’s more to it than just building
Each day in-game lasts as long as you want it to. With each task you complete eating away at your stamina, you run out of energy eventually and night time comes to warn you, then if you ignore that you will pass out. Waking up the day after passing out will yield less energy recovery, and therefore restrict your day.
Aside from the foraging and building, you can plant and harvest crops to add to the wares you can sell in the marketplace. The last component I have to touch on is the social and lifestyle aspect. You can interact with all of the characters in the world, and the majority will respond with some level of detail, though some NPCs are somewhat limited to the task they set out to perform. You are able to talk to, interact with, compliment, and invite characters to accompany you. While accompanying you, NPCs can give you dewdrops or resources, or you can complete tasks to fulfil their wishes.
Each of the residents has their own set of wishes. These can be found by gifting the character a desk and investigating their desk regularly. These wishes can be as simple as wanting to live close to you (jeez, stalker much, Willow?!) but get more complex as the game progresses. Some character progression unlocks cut scenes which help to uncover more of your backstory and theirs.
If you dive deep into the wood today
Littlewood’s art style isn’t taxing on the hardware but still gives the world its own charm. The sprites themselves are very simplistic and the world arrangement means you are at the mercy of a fixed camera arrangement. The buildings and world give an impression of merging A Link to the Past with Stardew Valley. Animations are fairly basic too, and most characters have limited dialogue unless triggering a specific event, but the writing helps to keep these moments relevant.
Musically the soundtrack compliments the relaxed nature of the game in a similar vein to Stardew Valley. The odd catchy riff plays in the background that, after a while, you may find yourself humming along to.
From a technical standpoint, the game isn’t taxing; it runs perfectly fine in docked and handheld mode and there aren’t any issues with frame rates or technical difficulties. The only real issue to note is the home screen logo, which developer Sean Young has already acknowledged, stating that a change is imminent with the next upgrade (and I’m guessing the first release in the UK).
The game controls well, and indeed becomes yet another feather in Littlewood’s cap. By attributing the functions of the tools to a single button rather than having to select from a wheel or an inventory, Littlewood creates a more intuitive interaction, again creating a more relaxing experience that could be seen by some to be “too easy”.
Your biggest enemy is yourself (and maybe the Dark Wizard)
One of the great things about this game is that you have so much choice, with very few consequences. You choose which goals to strive for, which residents to help at which time, even your daily routine is completely at your whim. Tasks can be done in the fastest, most efficient way possible or you can just sit back and let the day float by.
Unlike games like Animal Crossing, not visiting the game doesn’t affect your progress. There will be no residents crying because you’ve blanked them for a month (Look, Flora, I’ve just been REALLY busy, OK?!) or threatening to leave because you didn’t give them their ancient sea shanty wallpaper. There are also no consequences to resources if they are mismanaged. Most resources can be reclaimed, buildings re-positioned, and generally, you don’t find the need to second guess yourself.
Let’s address the Junimo in the room…
This game will immediately draw parallels with Stardew Valley, and rightly so. The game has a lot of similar mechanics and designs. However, beneath the tilled soil, there is much more going on that separates the two significantly.
Where Littlewood sets itself apart is by taking the consequence out of a lot of the core elements, and giving you a world that you can freely build and explore. It allows players of simulation games to quickly and freely change ideas without paying for the privilege, such as paying Tom Nook or having to visit Robin.
It is also quicker to get going than both Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing, as it doesn’t have certain criteria to fulfil at any one point. This blessedly reduces the linear experience that some simulation games give you starting off. There’s no need to get through your first year before you’ve accumulated enough profit to act freely, for example.
Where there is criticism, it is certainly minor. There is a lack of real depth to a lot of the tasks. You gain resources, craft resources and use resources without any real way to improve resources outside of sheer luck.
Littlewood is a great all-round life simulation game. It combines some of the best elements of more established titles like Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley while including a greater element of creative freedom and an interesting twist on the underlying narrative. It asks very little of you in terms of commitment and rewards the time spent with a compelling story.
- Gorgeous pixel world with charming characters
- Almost complete creative freedom
- Interesting approach to the time mechanic
- Villagers have limited dialogue at times
- Lack of depth at times is both a selling point and a detractor