Put a piece of wood in front of a carpenter and watch their mind go through its thought process on what can become of this simple piece of timber. In Little Big Workshop, you can put the same slab of wood in front of your army of workers and they will mass-produce garden gnomes for the next fortnight.
Little Big Workshop by Mirage Games Studios has you planning, managing and distributing on top of a living room table. Launching into the game, It may remind you older generations of how Micro-Machines was laid out all those years ago. You can see the foundations of your factory surrounded by daily household objects as pieces of environment.
Starting a new game, you are taken straight into the tutorial. A simple yet effective way of setting the scene on what is needed ahead. You are introduced to the presence of the phone. A big purple phone that will ring occasionally with persons of interest for you to speak to.
Once you have set up a basic factory. The phone will ring for your first client. Crazy Steve asks you for a handful of garden gnomes to be created at once for his store. At this point, you are then introduced to the planning mechanics of the game.
The planning blueprints are very important in Little Big Workshop. You can have a very basic blueprint for the above garden gnome request, but the complexity of later items in the game can have you scrolling from left to right, just to make sure you have everything covered and prepared.
What you need to consider at this stage of the planning phase, is that you are not overcompensating on equipment. For example, if you have one workbench, you don't want to be putting all of your manual production on that single bench, you will need to add some more.
Another important thing to consider while planning is that the item you are creating needs to hit certain quality checks. To achieve this, you will need to change out certain materials. Instead of using a cheaper wood, you might want to put in a more harder darker wood that makes the quality much better. Obviously, using more expensive materials will make you end up with somewhat of a lesser profit margin.
When you have set your materials up and workbenches are ready, its time to execute the plan. You workers will then start to bring in the materials from the lorry out front. Running around like an orchestrated workforce can be a bit tiring and they will start to wear out and this is where it becomes a bit difficult.
Looking after your workers is important. Losing a single member of staff when you have a deadline to hit can be a maker or breaker of that deal you have with the client. Creating a staff room nearby for all that running around can help. This gives the workers a place to chill out and ponder on the day's activities.
Sounds simple enough, right? Receive order, import materials, plan, manufacture and then export. Not quite. The complexity goes further and further. There are numerous workbenches that can cut straight lines, bendy lines and boreholes. Not only that you will need benches that can compress, flatten and mould different materials other than wood as well.
With different types of materials specialist workers are needed. They are the ones that are called upon when needed the most in the manufacturing stage. They are quicker and more efficient with their work. And just to make it clear, that all the workers can operate different types of machinery. The issue is, however, if they are not a specialist for that type of material, they will become exhausted quicker making production slower and damaging your workbenches.
Specialists are available from the research and development screen. Not only can you create specialists, but you can unlock other materials, better deals with clients and unlock the next tier to production. All of these are vitally important for letting your factory and workforce grow.
Unlocking these benefits requires research points. This is done by achieving the goals that are set out for each stage. Goals have a bronze, silver, gold and platinum tier and are clearly explained once unlocked from the tutorial stages. As your workshop grows, it really does set you an enjoyable challenge to sink your teeth in while you expand further into the game.
Keeping as competitive as possible, you will be pitted against other companies. As much as I say competitive, I found in my playthrough that only one company really challenged me throughout. This was Nemsis Inc, which I assume is the antagonist to our beloved workshop. Their CEO will ring occasionally to disrupt your play and sometimes alter your production by sending spies or manipulating the market.
Apart from the distractions of the opposing CEO. You will come across other activities to throw you off your game. It could be trying to rid of a pest hazard or stop a production ending brain bug. The game will put these in randomly and at times, they are a bloody nuisance. I found trying to create a highly efficient workshop was hard enough while trying to keep a positive balance. You can simply remove these additional headaches from the options menu.
I think the game is brilliant. My very small issues with the game are that the tutorial does a job for the then and now phase at the start of the game and that is the last you will see of any help and guidance unless you go to the help section and read about any issues you are having. With a stop-start approach to playing, it may frustrate a few gamers who just want to learn on the go and just keep playing.
Another point to make is that the workers collapsing on the floor even when making plenty of breakout rooms to relax in, literally next door, yet they can't make it to the numerous coffee machines I have placed for them and made the room pretty with decorations about. Probably the biggest annoyance I had with the game was this.
When you think you have everything in control, you can really see yourself losing it all in one or two production cycles. But I would assume with more and more playthroughs, you would master the art of balancing everything out and really seeing the fruit of your labour.
With these few points aside, I found no issues with how the game ran. smooth and error-free when playing and I just love the art style to the whole thing. A game that you could chuck on your headphones, play some music and work away. It is incredibly enjoyable and doesn't take its self too seriously. A game that would stay in any management genre lovers library.