Years ago, I was almost a purely PC Gamer. We are talking all the way back before the turn of the century. While I was playing games like Doom and Duke Nukem 3D, I was also playing a lot of strategy and simulation games. Games like Theme Hospital and Detroit filled many hours of my time. But since switching to consoles, the number of simulation games is a bit lacking, or the interface is difficult to navigate with a controller. Mirage Game Studios has recently released Little Big Workshop to consoles to try and fill this gap.
You are the owner of a brand-new factory, and it is your job to make sure the business flourishes. You will do this by checking the market for high demand items, outfitting your factory to build them, purchasing materials, hiring workers, and ultimately sending those items to be sold. As in real life, the market fluctuates, so you have to watch for trends and make sure you don’t over build.
The game has a good tutorial that will walk you through all the basics of the game. You will start out with a small order from another company. The game will then walk you through how to plan and execute the job. You will have to pick materials that will match the specifications of the job in order to start production. If you don’t complete things on time, you can sell a partial load, but any extras will be scrapped. Once the tutorial is over, you are free to try and advance your factory how you wish.
As you progress you will unlock new skills, and new machines that will allow you to create better products in a more efficient manner. You can also have your workers specialize in certain jobs to improve their abilities. Planning a job does get involved. You pick the type of material, which workstation they are processed on, and where items are stored. The one thing you can’t do is assign a specific worker to a job. You have workers, haulers, and specialty crews, but you can’t say that Charlie will paint each of the rubber ducks. This means that you can, and will, end up with employees just standing around when there is work to be done.
Soon you will outgrow your starting factory, but don’t fret. You can expand your building to add extra rooms, and if that isn’t enough you can also purchase new parcels to expand even further. One of the easiest ways to go bankrupt and lose the game is to try and expand too quickly. Luckily, you can sell back equipment, but if you bought lots of supplies for a big job you may make only cents on the dollar. You will also have to plan your jobs accordingly. If it looks like you are going to miss a deadline, you can shift all your production to that item, but if you don’t finish it, you will eat the cost of the items you don’t ship. Even if you get another order for the same product, it has to be made from all new items, not stock you have.
The game has a bit of a cartoon like graphic style. Your factory is actually built on a drawing table, like someone decided to play while at work. Your characters are cute, but not overly silly looking. It is pretty easy to differentiate between each worker, until you get a bunch of them working in close quarters. Then they get all jumbled around and trying to keep 20 employees straight is a bit difficult. The design of the menus is pretty intuitive, and you can see the differences in the materials you have to pick from. There are a bunch of ways that you can personalize your business that will make it stand out from other players shops.
The gameplay is very smooth. The menu design works well on consoles and isn’t too small for you to navigate with a controller. As you progress through the game, even though the planning gets a lot more involved, it still follows the same basic formula. Expanding your factory and making sure that your workers are happy is also an integral part of game play. Build a break room with all the amenities, make sure there are clear paths for them to walk, and don’t overwork them. Placing machines that do similar work near each other will also help efficiency and allow you to complete jobs quicker.
Little Big Workshop is available now on Xbox One, Play Station 4, Nintendo Switch, and Steam. For around $20 you can grab the title and start your own manufacturing empire. Will you be a mogul or end up bankrupt? This is a fun game, especially if you are a fan of simulation games. If you are new to the simulation genre, this is a good gateway game.