Ever since I was a kid I have been a huge fan of the tycoon simulation genre of video games. When I was a kid I was a huge fan of the Roller Coaster Tycoon series, Theme Hospital, and any other tycoon game that I could get my hands on. I still love the genre to this day and like to try out as many of the new games from the genre as I can. When I saw Little Big Workshop I knew that it was a game that I wanted to try out. I have played quite a few tycoon games over the years and I can’t remember ever playing one that mostly revolved around running a factory to produce goods to sell. On top of this I loved the game’s art style. I was really excited to try out Little Big Workshop as it seemed like it was right up my alley. Little Big Workshop’s name and art style might make the game appear small and casual, but that is far from reality as it creates a genuinely enjoyable factory simulation tycoon game.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Mirage Game Studios, HandyGames, and THQ Nordic for the review copy of Little Big Workshop used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.
In Little Big Workshop you are put in charge of your own factory. You begin with three buildings, two workers and some money. From these beginnings you are tasked with building a large successful factory capable of building lots of different products in large quantities. In Little Big Workshop you will be in charge of the entire process from the raw materials arriving at your factory to the finished goods being delivered to the customer. Building a product begins with the product’s blueprint. The blueprint lists the required steps needed to turn the raw materials into a completed product. This includes choosing the raw materials you would like to use and what workstations/machines will be used for each manufacturing step required to complete the final product.
After you have filled out the blueprint the raw materials will arrive and your workers will get to work. How you plan out your factory can have a big impact on how successful your factory becomes. In order to complete a project you need to supply your workers with the right machinery. Just providing the right machinery is not enough though. You need to figure out how you will handle bottlenecks in production by splitting work between several different stations. Each room also needs to be planned in order to improve workflow as well as overcome the negative effects of the machinery to keep your workers happy and motivated. When your employees get tired you also need to provide them with a break room or be prepared for them to pass out on the floor.
The tutorial will hold your hand as you set up a basic factory, but you will then be left alone to do your own thing. Throughout the game you have two different options to produce goods. You will periodically be given contracts from other companies which are special orders that you must complete within a given amount of time to receive payment and improve your reputation with the company. Otherwise you can check out the marketplace. In the marketplace you are presented with a set of objects that you can make and sell. These objects have different requirements and sale prices so you want to make products that have high demand and prices or you might lose money on the products you produce. You also have to factor in the machinery required to produce the goods as well as how complicated they are to make.
At the beginning of the game you will start your factory by mostly producing simple products consisting of two or three different steps. For these projects you will mostly be using basic machinery. As you complete projects though you will receive money as well as research points. These research points can be used to unlock additional abilities or more advanced machinery. This allows you to replace slower generic machinery with more advanced specialized machinery. As your factory grows logistics become more important as you have to create an efficient flow of materials and goods through your factory.
If I were to explain what type of simulation tycoon game that Little Big Workshop is I would say that it sits somewhere between a casual and hardcore game as it shares elements of both. Most of the mechanics in the game are pretty simple to grasp as you don’t have to go into great detail to run your factory. You don’t have to worry about marketing, management, or the other aspects of running a business. You just need to worry about creating products quickly and efficiently in order to sell them for a profit. Little Big Workshop does have some depth though. The game gives you a lot of options as you can make 50 different types of products. These products can then be customized further as you can pick the materials used as well as some style/function choices. While your workers will mostly make the products on their own, to run a successful factory you need to micromanage. You need to design the factory in an efficient manner to create a good workflow. You also need to prioritize certain steps of the production process to prevent production from running into a bottleneck.
Heading into Little Big Workshop I had pretty high expectations seeing as I was a fan of the genre and I thought the premise was really interesting. For the most part Little Big Workshop lived up to my expectations. Basically if you have been looking for a game where you could run your own factory you should enjoy your time with Little Big Workshop. The game is not going to be for everyone, but there is something really satisfying about creating a factory that runs smoothly and churns out goods that you can sell for a profit. While some people may think there is too much or not enough micromanaging, I think the game does a good job finding the right balance. The game gives you enough control where you can decide how your factory is run without bogging you down with mechanics that don’t add much to the overall experience. Fans of this genre should get quite a bit of enjoyment out of Little Big Workshop.
On top of the fun and engaging gameplay, I really liked the game’s overall style. As you begin your first factory you zoom in on a table filled with model supplies which illustrates that you are basically playing with a bunch of miniature toys/figures. This exemplifies the game’s overall style which I would describe as more of a cartoony style. I really liked the game’s style as it brings a lot of character to the game. The style lets you know that instead of a stuffy serious tycoon game where you will spend all of your time looking at spreadsheets, it can be deep but also accessible.
I really enjoyed my time with Little Big Workshop, but the game does have a few issues.
Little Big Workshop has a sort of learning curve where you might struggle a little at first. This isn’t meant to imply that the game just drops you into the game with no guidance whatsoever. Whenever you start a new factory you begin with the tutorial which does a good job outlining the basics of what you are supposed to do in the game. It takes you through producing your first couple of goods, from the planning stage to completion, along with how to setup your factory. After the tutorial ends though there are some mechanics left that the game doesn’t fully explain. These mechanics lead to some trial and error as you figure out what products you should produce and how you should set up your factory. The market is filled with different types of products that you can make, but the game doesn’t give you a lot of guidance over which you should make. Especially in the early game you should probably make the simplest products as it allows you to make and sell them quicker. As you may make some bad decisions right after finishing the tutorial, I would highly recommend saving right after you finish the tutorial so you can always reset if you regret one of your early decisions.
Probably the biggest issue I had with the game is that there is some inefficiency in the factory that you are never given the tools to deal with. At the beginning of the game you don’t have access to all of the mechanics which make your factory more efficient. You need to earn research points in order to unlock these features. Other than these upgrades you need to do quite a bit of micromanaging at times in order to make your employees work more efficiently. For example when you start a new production all of the work orders are automatically sent to the workstations. When multiple different work orders are sent to the same workstation it will have workers complete all of one type of work before moving onto another type. It is usually more efficient to break up the work order so you can start providing the resources needed for steps later in the process. The game does allow you to do this by breaking up work orders and rearranging them at each work station. Instead of sending all of the work order to stations automatically, I wish the game would have let you choose the order of how you wanted the work to be done during the blueprint phase.
The biggest inefficiency issue comes from the workers themselves. For the most part you don’t have a lot of control over your workers. Once you hire them they basically do their own thing. You can set different priorities on jobs and workstations which help guide your workers to what they are supposed to do. That doesn’t always work though as they will sometimes work on low priority work over high priority work leaving a high priority workstation empty. This leads to workers sometimes not knowing what they want to do. There were situations in the game where I watched a worker walk to a building that was pretty far away to make a product. Instead of continuing to work at that station they would then walk to another workstation across the factory. Workers just seemed to jump from workstation to workstation at times for no noticeable reason. I wish the game would have let you micromanage your employees a little more by giving them specific jobs or let you assign them to specific workstations.
My final issue with Little Big Workshop is more of a wish than a complaint. I may be in the minority but I have always been a fan of campaigns in this genre. While I also enjoy sandbox modes I have always liked the more concrete objectives found in campaigns. I like to have a concrete goal to work towards. Unfortunately Little Big Workshop does not have a campaign and instead focuses entirely on its sandbox mode. The sandbox mode does feature some of the elements that would typically be found in a campaign mission. You are regularly given special orders which gives you some objectives to complete outside of just growing your factory. There are also some specific objectives that you have to meet in order to grow your factory and unlock more machinery and abilities. This is much better than just giving you everything at the beginning and setting you loose to just make a factory. After you complete those objectives though there aren’t really any objectives to the game. At this point you have to create your own fun as you design the factory of your dreams.
Speaking of the sandbox mode how much time you get out of the game will likely come down to how much time you want to put into designing your own factory. I haven’t finished all of the objectives for my factory so I can’t give you a great estimate on how long it will take to do the bare minimum to beat the game. You will probably get a decent amount of time out of just finishing the objectives, but you may be a little disappointed if you just quit after completing them. Most of your time will come from growing and building the factory that you want to build. Like a lot of the games from this genre you could get a lot of time out of the game if you want to perfect your factory or build several different factories. If you really enjoy sandbox modes you should have no problem getting your money’s worth out of Little Big Workshop.
Being a fan of the simulation tycoon genre I had high expectations for Little Big Workshop and for the most part the game met my expectations. In the game you are responsible for building the factory of your dreams from nothing. To do this you need to choose which products to make and plan out all of the different actions that go into making it. This involves providing your workers with the right equipment while also streamlining the manufacturing process. As you gain more money and experience you will unlock more technology and equipment which you can use to further expand your factory and make it more efficient. All of this leads to a really satisfying gameplay experience as you continue to make more products and expand your factory. Little Big Workshop’s art style adds to the enjoyment as it brings a lot of character to the game. The main issues with the game is that it has a sort of learning curve and at times you don’t have as much control over the production process as you would like. The game also only has a sandbox mode while I wish it would have included a campaign mode.
Basically my recommendation for Little Big Workshop comes down to your thoughts on simulation tycoon games and the premise of building your own factory. If you don’t like simulation tycoon games or aren’t interested in building your own factory, Little Big Workshop is probably not going to be for you. If Little Big Workshop’s premise interests you though I think you will get quite a bit of enjoyment out of it and I would recommend checking it out.