I love management games. There’s something incredibly satisfying with taking a small operation, and expanding it until it gets larger. Cut out the fat, increase efficiency– you know, that sort of thing. Management games are usually relegated to PC, though—but some make their way over to consoles eventually. That’s the case with Little Big Workshop, a delightful game where you task gnomes with creating products for the market.
Little Big Workshop is a management simulation where you control tiny, tabletop factories. Your starting factory is smaller than a shoebox, but you’ll be tasked with created all sorts of toys, furniture and other items for the tiny capitalists that undoubtedly reign in this tiny world. The truth is, the tiny factory, tabletop aesthetic lends a whole lot of charm to the game, but it doesn’t change the gameplay too much. Don’t let the miniature presentation put you off though: this is a solid management game that made me sometimes think of Factorio before Tycoon.
Like any other management type game, worker happiness and the happiness of your clients is a factor. You have to take contracts and meet deadlines, and keep your workers happy while also laying out your factory for maximum efficiency. You’ll start off with assembly and wood working stations, but eventually graduate to metalworking and plastic machines and more, as the items you can make go from simple wooden furniture to more complex items.
All items require planning. If a piece of wood needs to be cut, or plastic needs to be injected, etc. you need to assign it to a workstation. You can link multiple workstations together using billboards, to increase efficiency. The more parts, the more planning is required—and the more workstations, and workers. You can have your workers specialize in parts of the process to make it more efficient too. You can assign workers to be woodworkers, metal workers, assemblers, etc. The more specialized their task, the better they get at it.
Like any management game, you’re going to want to keep your workers and your clients happy. Worker happiness is a consideration, but worker exhaustion is more important. Your workers, if happy, work more efficiently. But if they don’t’ have proper break areas, they’ll collapse on the floor in exhaustion. Client happiness is easy: as long as you match the specifications for whatever item they want built and get it finished within the deadline, your reputation will grow, and you’ll gain better relationships with your clients.
The more jobs you do, especially for clients, the more it increases your experience point gains. The more levels you can advance, the more skills you have available to pay into research and development. Research and development allows you to unlock better machines, again, for the ultimate goal of output. But output isn’t just determined by how good your workers and machines are–you need plenty of space to do all of that factory work.
If you run low on factory space, you can always remodel. Expand walls, build new rooms, and more as you grow. You can, eventually, even create more than one factory. One factory can specialize in woodworking, plastic toy making, or whatever you think it best for business. Expansion is crucial, because if you don’t expand, you’ll eventually find yourself unable to keep up with the market’s demands, and run out of money. Running out of money isn’t a death sentence immediately, but if you go beyond -5000 credits, you lose.
Originally a PC release, Little Big Workshop has made an easy transition to consoles. I played it mostly on Xbox One X, and it is completely playable without a mouse and keyboard. You have to use the joysticks as a sort of mouse cursor, which is less than ideal, but it works great in this circumstance. I was able to quickly select items and workers, even without a mouse, because the interface makes it a breeze. Little Big Workshop’s transition to consoles is admirable. Unfortunately, it appears as though Little Big Workshop is not getting the Halloween themed DLC that the PC version is currently getting, which is a shame.
One of my favorite parts of Little Big Workshop is its art style and setting. I mentioned before that the tabletop aesthetic doesn’t change the gameplay, but your tiny gnomes working in their little factory situated on what looks to be a workshop table, or even a drafting board, is incredibly charming. It’s probably one of the cuter management games I’ve had the pleasure to play in a while.
Little Big Workshop isn’t all perfect, though. As much as I liked the onus to make my factories more efficient, I didn’t like the feeling that it was very much required. Late game, making new products can feel incredibly overwhelming—especially if you don’t have the infrastructure in place, and the market is expanding around you. Some of the early game whimsy washes away when you’re dealing with multiple clients, and you see you’re going to miss the deadlines.
Overall though, I really enjoyed my time with Little Big Workshop. It’s cute, fun, and focuses on factory output more so than it does finicky happiness meters. Of course, worker fatigue and client happiness are important to consider, but you can spend most of your time making your factory more efficient instead of tweaking satisfaction ratings. The end game begins to feel a little unwieldy, but smart factory managers can work their way around the more complicated items you’ll eventually be making.
Little Big Workshop is available now on PC, and just released for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.
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