WELCOME TO LITTLEWOOD! (Intro)
There’s something truly captivating about the slice-of-life genre. In fact, harvesting crops or cultivating relationships is strangely relaxing to me. Furthermore, as I get older, my reflexes start to falter. So, I appreciate the slower pace these titles have. Littlewood is just the latest entry into the life simulator genre but it introduces its own twist. Much like the PS2 classic Dark Cloud, you’ll be responsible for rebuilding an entire town. It’s a mechanic that quite frankly excites me to no end. As a creative person, the freedom invigorated me. The question I aim to answer in this review is if Littlewood is a gem without blemishes, or if its chipped and needs polish. Because this game allows the ability to name both character and village, I’ll use mine for the purposes of this review.
YOU SAVED US! (Story Synopsis)
You’ve done it and vanquished the dark wizard that threatened the world. After waking from a three-day slumber, a comrade named Willow greets you. She’s ecstatic to see you’ve awakened but there’s a tiny problem as it seems Katarina has been stricken with amnesia. That doesn’t deter her from helping to rejuvenate the town though. By collecting homes, trees, paths, and animals; you’ll flex those creative muscles to return a sense of normality to the people. As you do, you may reunite with new and familiar faces.
Littlewood is a mellow romp that demands imagination. Throughout the entire journey, you’ll be venturing to varying locales to collect resources. Be careful, however, as it’s possible to run into an enemy. Be vigilant and sharp as you never know where you’ll stumble upon a blueprint for something new. It’s time to return Neptunia back to its former glory.
DON’T YOU REMEMBER? (Writing)
The dialogue in Littlewood is focused more on casual interaction. It never tries to tell an epic narrative and instead concentrates on building relationships. When I first began to play, my impressions weren’t positive. For example, there’s a poorly written section just minutes in. It felt like the game was trying to actively avoid gender pronouns. It overused Katarina in its place and as a result, it read badly. I was afraid it‘d be like this throughout but hush my mouth, it got better. In general, I loved the banter between the characters. They all had distinct personalities that I could easily pick up on. There’s also a rather touching moment of loss and a message to cherish your loved ones. I didn’t expect that but it’s a welcome addition nonetheless. I found a wise saying too; “if it moves, eat it”.
WHERE DOES THIS GO!? (Gameplay)
As I’ve already mentioned, the core mechanic of Littlewood is recreating the town you once lived in. This sounds simple enough but this is also where the Dark Cloud influence comes in. In that title, the civilians have specific requests in regard to their home’s placement. It’s much of the same here with each individual asking that their dwelling and furniture be placed in a particular manner. For example, there’s one person that wants to be several squares away from the market. I loved this because it forced me to plan out my designs. In order to satisfy everyone, I had to meticulously position all of the abodes. I could ignore the instructions but doing so meant missing out on any important gifts that person has to give.
Do rest assured as I never felt the mandatory requirements were extensive. To be honest, it allowed a lot of flexibility because of how it’s implemented. You’ll rarely have a character ask to live right next to a building and instead, they’ll give a rough area to play with. As long as it’s within those boundaries, it’ll still count towards their requests. I’m thankful for this because it gave me the freedom to create. As a kid that loved Lego, the thought of putting a tiny city together is so appealing. It’s an immense help that each person has a single placement request too. The rest will be dedicated to either the plants they’d like outdoors or furniture. This tempered any frustration that could otherwise plague this feature.
PROGRESSION STALLED! (Bug)
Sadly, a recent update has introduced with it a progression bug. It’s one of the reasons that my review is so late; the other being just how addictive Littlewood is. The basis for this technical hiccup has to do with the mechanic I just finished covering. After I investigated a bit, I found that it affects two characters and prevents the fulfillment of their placement request. One of those will ask to be a certain distance away from the market. I did testing and even got rid of the market altogether. In both instances, it was a disappointment. It’s a puzzling situation because when I received my review copy, it worked fantastically. It was in the early hours of release that this issue began. Moreover, any progress I had made prior had been backtracked. Fortunately, I’ve been told it’s being rectified and hopefully soon. People need to experience this game.
FLOWERS SLOW ME DOWN! (Bug)
Another puzzling bug is that Littlewood has a stuttering problem. One instance comes in when you walk over flowers. The game struggles to keep a consistent frame rate, at least on the Nintendo Switch. As a result, it gets jumpy. A simple fix would be to avoid any and carry on. That’s all well and dandy but it’s not that easy for some. Much like others in the genre, Littlewood has a museum. You’ll fill it with items found during your excursions. It’ll include rocks, ore, wood, fish, and all sorts of things. What you’ll also need is flowers, but in colors not casually stumbled on. The sole way to acquire these is by watering the pre-existing flora. I skipped out on this because it was just too jarring for me. Another case of slow-down happens when placing pieces of vegetables in succession. From what I can tell, it’s a result of the particle effects.
Speaking of speed, there‘ve been reports of a scrolling issue. In build mode, the cursor will rapidly move. So much so that it was difficult to be precise. Oddly enough, there’s a solution that I clumsily fell on. By simply pressing the “R” button, it reverts the precision but maintains a slight speed buff to the cursor. I highly recommend doing this because before I found this trick, I struggled. I’d delete what I didn’t mean to, causing frustration galore. Take this as a helpful tip more than a critique.
MY EARS SMILE! (Sound Design)
I love the simplicity of the chiptune tracks. It was always befitting of the environments that it accompanied. Winter brought with it a low, somber melody, while summer was cheery and chipper. There’s also something catchy about each one. In fact, one of those tracks currently plays in my head. It definitely helps when I’m doing chores or collecting any items I need for crafting. The other thing I must applaud is the sound of rain. This may be unique to me but I absolutely love the soothing rendition of water droplets splashing against the ground. It puts me to sleep and not in a bad way either. Like I mentioned in a previous review, I fall asleep to sounds of nature. The idea that this rain puts me to sleep is a testament to how good I think it is.
THE EVENTS BEGIN! (Gameplay)
Littlewood has a day and night cycle and as a result, there’s an in-game calendar. You’ll be able to check this from the very beginning of your adventure. I noticed little icons whenever I did so. These indicate special events that will grant certain benefits depending on what it is. For example, the cow head brings a farmer to your town. It seems that their cows are playing hide-and-go-seek and it was up to Katarina to help tag them. Then, there’s an event that will bring a scavenger hunt. If Katarina locates any of the shiny eggs, then a special item unlocks. You may also get special cut-scenes depending on your heart level with any individual in your town.
GRIND IT UP, KATARINA! (Gameplay)
I’ll be frank, you’ll either love or hate the grind present. Katarina has hobbies she can level by simply partaking in them. In doing so, she’ll receive a set amount of experience each time. There’s also the need to collect items as they’ll be used for many reasons, including crafting. It’s a slow burn to unlock everything but to my surprise, I never got bored. Perhaps it had to do with the music, or maybe it’s the charming pixel-art. Whatever it was, it had me staying up until ungodly hours. I’d lose all concept of time and despite my eyes getting heavier, I’d convince myself it was early. Thanks to some useful quality of life additions, it made having to grind that much pleasurable. I can’t praise having a button in the menu that immediately warps you to your bed enough. It also comes with no downside!
AND THE CONSTRUCTIVE VERDICT IS…
Littlewood isn’t just a fantastic little game, but it’s a quaint, chill experience. It’s hard to think this was solely developed by Sean Young. One man put his heart and soul into this and came out with a literal gem. My concept of time was gone the moment I began to chisel against the rocks in the mines. The pixel-art is the utter definition of simple but is way more detailed than it has any right to be. All the mechanics work together beautifully and the music is just catchy as hell. I absolutely enjoy the grind and couldn’t get enough of collecting all the items. The banter between NPC’s was enjoyable and I loved the little portraits of the villagers.
There are, however, a few blunders that I came across. Littlewood has a stuttering problem and chugs when walking on flowers. Seeing such sudden jumps in frame rate was jarring, to say the least. It becomes more of an issue because I was unable to fill up the museum. I got to a point that I’d actively try to stay away from walking on flora of any kind. The slow-down extends to the small particle effects that burst from an item after it’s placed down. As undemanding as the graphics might seem, there’s a clear issue. What saves this is that these issues are isolated. In terms of the particles, it’s avoidable by simply not placing several vegetables in succession. I’ve been told it’s being investigated so a patch is on the way!
In my opinion, Littlewood is certainly worth buying and can stand beside the best. Unfortunately, it’s only available in the US eShop right now, at least if you want to buy it on the Nintendo Switch. Canada, Mexico, and Brazil will see it on March 11th, but it’s PC-only for the rest of the world for now.
While there is a patch in the works to address the hiccups, they currently affect the game. So for that reason, I have to say;
LITTLEWOOD IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
If you’d like to read more on farming and life simulations, how about taking a look at our Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town review?
Many thanks go to SmashGames who provided a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.
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Painfully single, but still somehow a master of dad jokes. If asked, he’ll answer it’s for his inner child. Fabio enjoys JRPG’s and has embraced his anime love.