Reviews

Littlewood for Nintendo Switch Review

A delightful and relaxing post-apocalypse.

You’ve battled the monsters. You’ve formed bonds with powerful allies. You’ve traveled the land completing quests. You’ve defeated the Dark Wizard. You’ve saved the world!

Only, you can’t remember any of it. You are the famed Hero of Solemn, savior of the lands, but all you know is the world is broken and needs to be repaired, starting with the meager village you’ve woken up in. Your days of battling enemies and finding lost relics are over.

Your days of mining, gathering, cooking, and crafting have just begun.

Littlewood is a life simulator sprinkled with JRPG trappings. As the amnesiac Hero of Solemn, the journey of rebuilding your own little village begins. Experience is earned in various categories of activities by completing various activities and chores. An energy meter limits the amount of activities that fills up with each task completed. Each activity grants materials used for crafting or selling to make improvements and upgrades to the village. Similar to most life simulators, you will need to make your own personal goals and agendas and work towards those at your own pace.

Darn right I did! Wait, what..!?

In concept and core mechanics, Littlewood is a traditional and familiar life simulator. However, what makes Littlewood special is its quality-of-life features, ease of play, and delightful writing.

Littlewood strips away the trappings of the life simulator genre to achieve an almost zen-like focus and ease of play. The core building and crafting mechanic, the “Build” menu, is accessible at any time with the press of a button. From there, the player can terraform, build, craft, destroy, move, and customize without any extra gimmicks or filler. The game provides the player with the necessary tools within the first half-hour of gameplay. Unburdened by long tutorials, no “training” missions, no fluff. Play when you want and how you want almost immediately. Certain materials, such as wood and ores, do need to be refined into bricks or boards, but there is no obnoxious mini-game to do so; you go to the foundry or the mill, hit a button, and move on.  Once a new cooking recipe is discovered, it is auto-saved and can be made again quickly without having to repeat the process of adding ingredients. Everything is built on a core loop of improvement at your own pace. Thankfully no hunger meters, no degrading materials, and no limits on how many materials you can hold weigh down the gameplay. The only limit is how much energy you have for that day. Even if you overexert yourself, the only penalty is you start the next day with 25% less energy.

One button and menu system to rule them all

With all the extra trappings stripped away, Littlewood is a masterful piece of pure gaming design. It taps directly into the dopamine drip by making the tasks quick and painless, leading to quick rewards, quick upgrades, and a steadily increasing level of goal-setting and reward-scaling.

But there would be no point in completing these chores without some friends to share in the fun. Life simulators need a cast of characters to make the world worth the effort. Thankfully, the world of Littlewood is sharply-written and full of personality. Much like the design itself, the writing shows a level of character efficiency; when the characters speak, they speak briefly, but those brief snippets are enough to demonstrate their personality and goals.  Littlewood does not waste your time getting to know the characters, and the game does a nice job of slowly sprinkling in snippets of your past and the relationships you’ve had saving the world.  The more friends you know that move to your village, the more your past is revealed, providing a nice narrative incentive to keep collecting, expanding, and upgrading.

Friendship itself is an important mechanic to rebuild the world. Once a new character has settled into your village, you can choose to “Hang Out” with them as you go about your daily business. Doing so will provide you additional materials and bonuses while you gather materials. Not only can you level up your own skills, talking to your friends and hanging out with them increase their levels, which just keeps the improvement and progression moving.

The cool kids hang out with their friends

Littlewood has a simple, pleasant, and overall clean look and sound. It’s simple graphics might be it’s only shortcoming; while it is easy to differentiate objects and characters, the simple color palette and pixel art make personal customization a little underwhelming. A deep system of cosmetic upgrades are available, but the visual fidelity limits how unique a character’s house might look and feel. It’s a minor quibble, but players looking for cosmetic upgrades similar to games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons might find the presentation of personalization a bit lacking in comparison

In the end, I am looking forward to spending many seasons in my own village of Littlewood. The ease of play and streamlined mechanics make it a near-perfect fantasy world to escape into a hectic day. It is Stardew Valley without the stress of time; Animal Crossing: New Horizon, without the byzantine limits to work through; Ultima Online without the threat of being killed by, well, everything.

Littlewood is worth a visit. Just don’t be surprised if your vacation to your own village of Littlewood becomes a permanent move.

Score:  9

Pros:

  • Streamlined, addictive life simulator mechanics
  • Character and world full of personality and charm

Cons:

  • Graphical style limits the appeal of personal cosmetic customization

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