Have you ever wondered what it would be like to own a factory where you have complete control over who you hire, and what you produce? You must start at the bottom, compete with others, and build relationships to increase your reputation. This is the main premise of my latest review title Little Big Workshop (LBW). Developed by Mirage Game Studios and published by HandyGames, it has you controlling an ever-growing workforce, balancing the desire to keep your people happy, while making top quality products for a handsome profit.
If you are a gamer who loves to focus on the smaller details, or a player who enjoys a lighthearted but detailed management game, then this could well be the title for you. Your life begins in a small unknown factory as a newly founded business. No one knows who you are, and few people will give you a chance. Your team of 2 workers is kept busy with the small amount of orders you receive, and it’s from this point that you develop your business model, and the money rolls in.
The game opens with a basic tutorial, this introduces you to all the radial menus, and their subcategories. You are told about the open market, how to create items, and how to fulfil orders. You are given the opportunity to hire more workers, make a comfortable environment, and you are shown how to make them work harder. In short, you are given a brief but thorough overview into how LBW ticks. The tutorial section is great, it gives you just enough of a foot up that you know what is going on, but gives very little away, so when you are let loose on your own, you still have plenty to learn.
Your starter factory is an empty shell, you are free to place whatever machinery you feel will best support your building requirements. Any of your workers can operate any of the stations, but further research and development is required to unlock more advanced equipment and materials. You find that you are constantly juggling reward against outlay. Should you invest heavily in a high profit item that will take days to complete, or maybe you ship out cheaper but easier to produce objects. The choice is yours, after all it’s your business, and you can run it how you please.
This isn’t a complete Sandbox experience, and the developers put some thought into giving you tasks and objectives to aim towards. There are set goals to accomplish en route, and when a group is complete, you will move to the next level of harder and more complex objectives. I particularly enjoyed this focus, as I lost direction in my own little world. Yes, people would ask me to fulfil orders, but once they were finished, I was left wondering what to do, twiddling my thumbs, waiting for someone to nudge me in the right direction. For some of you, this freedom will be welcomed, but I like to be pushed towards a set target; make a certain amount of money, or sell this furniture. Maybe it’s me just wanting to feel like I’ve achieved something.
I’ve played an awful lot of simulation games in my time, and my favourite types allow me to get hands on with my staff, and control how they work on a day-to-day basis. During my time playing LBW, I never felt in control of my workforce. Unlike titles such as Theme Hospital/Park and Two Point Hospital where you have complete choice over staff placement, and the tasks they are completing. None of these options were available to me. Now maybe it was something I missed, but I tried my hardest to find it, and my little people would work automatically, take breaks whenever they felt like, and practically ran the factory for me. This lack of interaction made the action much more voyeuristic, than hands on. I never felt truly in charge of the situation, and as a result, I couldn’t lose myself in the action.
What followed on from this lack of man management was a time consuming and almost grinding production line. Everything felt like it took forever, even when you speed time up. I would pray for the work to be completed so I could earn R&D points, but my team would stumble over one another, stop for a break, or just down tools. My first game ended when this exact issue occurred. Everything was running smoothly (but slowly), and for an unknown reason everyone stopped all tasks. There was no explanation of what was happening, or how to resolve it. I was not at a point to alter anything as I did not have enough points to learn new skills, and the lack of man handling meant I could not pick people up. What compounded the issue was when I demolished the doors, and the whole factory was shut off from the outside world. I had no way to redesign my factory (no R&D points), and no way to undo the demolition. It was an oversight from the developers as my game save was now ruined, and the only way I could continue playing was to start again.
Now, this may seem that I dislike the game, trust me, I really don’t. I loved most parts of it. It was disappointing that a released game would allow a game breaking issue to happen. The slow nature of the gameplay allows this to be played casually, and players of all skill levels should be able to pick this up, and be able to master it with very little difficulty.
One thing that struck me the moment the game loaded in was the cartoon style, and bright colours that the developers have used. I had to double check who had made it, as it had a Team17 look and vibe to it. I was reminded of Moving Out’s art style. It was fun to look at, easy to navigate, and the bird’s-eye perspective allowed you to focus on all the action at once. The UI is quite in depth, so I was surprised how clean and simple it was to select all tasks, and move through all the different menus.
Though the action is slow-paced, there is always something going on. I was quite surprised with the laid back and chilled out piano music that calmly played in the background. It wasn’t at odds with what was happening, but; it wasn’t quite what I was expecting to hear. I had thought a jazzy upbeat number would have been used. As it is, the calming piano tunes keep you mellow, and match the game’s pace nicely. There are limited sound effects that come from your workers, and the tasks they are completing. These sounds create a nice ambience and give you the impression of a busy factory setting. Though the audio wasn’t quite what I was expecting, it was pleasant, and complimented both the gameplay mechanics, and the action on the screen.
In a game that has a million different menus, building mechanics, and other finer details, I was surprised with how easy it was to control. Everything is well labelled, and the two main menus are easy to navigate. Any of the on screen information that can be interacted with is clearly shown with the button that operates it, so there is little to think about. I have a big thing for controller sensitivity, and the ability to view your whole gaming area, Mirage Game Studios did not disappoint. The cursor moved smoothly and there were very few issues other than the ones I have previously mentioned.
Simulation games are inherently addictive and always have a large replay value. LBW is no different. With a massive R&D section, ever changing competition, markets that fluctuate, and many objectives, there is plenty to keep you playing. A challenging achievement list will push you to keep playing this title to death, and if you aim to achieve the 100% completion mark, you will definitely have fun all the way. I can’t put a figure on how long this will keep you entertained, but I have played it for around 15 hours, and I still have lots to see, and many competitors to undermine, and upset.
As a gamer, I’m more than aware that simulation games perform and play better on a PC. With more buttons to use, less hidden menus, and a smoother gaming experience. It would probably be fair to say that this will almost certainly be the case for LBW, but the console version runs very well. Mostly it’s a very enjoyable time sink, and its cute and fine details will keep you busy for hours on end. Do I recommend that you play this? Yes! It’s fun, challenging, and can be played casually. The tasks give you a focus, but you also have the freedom to run your factory as you wish, just don’t delete all your doors like I did, it doesn’t end well. Can you take control of your small fledgling business and become the next big thing? I’m sure you can, all you need is time.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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Little Big Workshop Review
Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 8/10
User Review( votes)
A finance strategy game where you must control your workforce, select the product, and sell it all for a profit. Can you be the next big thing?
- The game’s difficulty is balanced perfectly.
- The graphics are bright, and fun to look at.
- The audio wasn’t as expected, but worked well with the gameplay.
- Lots of replay value.
- The slow gameplay may put people off.
- It can take too much time to progress.
- The lack of hands on people management is frustrating.