by Henry Stockdale
reviewed on PC
Small design, big heart
It’s not uncommon to see businesses start from humble beginnings, starting life within the comfort of the owner’s home. Looking to encapsulate this within their debut title, we find Mirage Game Studios presenting us with Little Big Workshop, a cutesy simulation game where the factory is set atop your living room table. Designed as a beginner-friendly experience, it’s not without fault but it proves to be a charming experience you’ll sink many hours into.
Creating an empire
Playing as the boss, you‘ll start with a small factory, hiring workers to carry out orders. Your aim is to manufacture products for a range of clients, which is achieved by taking on contracts to fulfilling them. Initially, you work based on client requests but it’s not long before you can access the market, which offers a view into product demand and estimated costs. Requests range from wooden shelves to electric guitars, so you’ll need to invest in specialised machinery and workstations for different projects.
Requests can become complex and often require certain attributes - such as a specific material - as these affect product durability and style, but the complexity is rewarded with a higher pay-out. You can choose which projects to prioritize once multiple contracts start coming in and the game allows you to put workstations into overtime, meaning a quicker completion rate but causing 50% additional strain to the workstation. They require frequent maintenance, so you must ensure this is managed before the workstations break down and cause project delays.
As you continue to complete contracts, your business relationships grow, meaning they’ll pay a better rate for your services and offer more work. There’s no campaign to complete and no final objective, so Little Big Workshop will continue as long as you keep manufacturing. Instead, the game provides milestones for motivation. These unlock further gameplay options and research points, which can be used to upgrade the factory. The upgrades include developing material proficiency, increasing your number of workers, factory expansion, improved negotiation skills and more.
Contracts will need delivering in a set timeframe, so once a request is received you’ll enter the planning phase, creating a blueprint to satisfy the client’s demand. This involves ensuring the correct materials are selected, that manufacturing overheads are within profit margins and that your factory contains suitable workstations for production. There’s no need to stockpile materials as you order them in when required and you can also get estimates for the operation time. But as in real life, these can’t account for everything, so approach these with caution.
Looking out for your team
Workers will carry out their duties for 24 hours a day but you’ll need to ensure they have a functioning breakroom to recharge their energy. Otherwise, they’ll collapse and become unusable until they fully recharge. Initially you only have “operators” that carry out the manufacturing but you can hire “haulers” later on. Haulers have a higher salary and move slower but prioritise loading finished items into delivery vans, increasing efficiency. Workers’ productivity is also affected by the room’s mood, which decreases when you overload a room with machinery. However, this can be countered by decorations like plants to boost morale.
It’s clear that Mirage Game Studios have put the effort in with the game and Little Big Workshop has a lot of depth to it but for a game designed as a beginner-friendly experience, it’s not as accessible as you’d expect. Workers aren’t under direct control by the player, meaning their approach to tasks isn’t always logical and there’s a heavy focus on micromanagement, which can be daunting. It’s not an unforgiving experience but players willing to take their time with Little Big Workshop will find it to be a very addictive experience.
Visual presentation is one of the game’s strongest features, utilising a vibrant cartoon style. Factory workers are styled like miniature toys, whilst the factory is set on a living room table, surrounded by large household items such as a calculator and telephone. It’s a style reminiscent of Ant-Man and proves to be aesthetically pleasing. It’s also accompanied by a set of acoustic songs for the soundtrack, providing a more relaxed element to factory life.
Hard at Work
For a game designed to introduce people to the genre, Little Big Workshop mostly succeeds. It proves more complicated in places than you’d expect for a beginner friendly title and the smaller scope of the game does constrict its potential. But what we have here is a solid introduction to the simulation genre - one that’s a lot of fun and proves to be quite addictive. It’s a labour of love from Mirage Games and an experience that comes highly recommended.
Vibrant art style, Highly addictive, Gameplay holds a lot of depth
A lot of focus on micromanagement, Confusing to navigate