In the age of Stardew Valley, I imagine most farm sims still quake in fear of the undisputed king. Even big-budget competitors like Story of Seasons and Harvest Moon pale in comparison to the indie juggernaut. Littlewood’s approach to the time-honored farm sim is to scale it down. Way, way, down.
Everything about this game is decidedly low-fi. Looks can be deceiving, though. Despite the charming scaled-back visuals, just about every facet of the game is surprisingly dense. The story takes a funny approach, making you the hero of the land Solemn. You’ve defeated the Dark Wizard before the real game even begins, but unfortunately, you lost your memory in the process.
So starts the long and arduous process of learning everything again. You begin your new adventure in the small hamlet of Littlewood. There’s a certain pattern that you fall into from the start. New villagers arrive in your town. After building them a house, you unlock more things to build, which help you unlock new skills or improve current ones. Like in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you are effectively the Mayor, so you have the last word on how your town is designed. The build mode is intuitive and easy to use, and allows you to personalize your town at will, and more importantly, quickly.
Like any farm/life-sim, you plant produce, trees, and flowers, chop trees, mine rocks, and ore deposits, and use the fat of the land to craft. What is interesting is how weirdly automated everything is. Just about every action is done by pressing A and requires little to no precision. This…this I dig. I can’t tell you how many times I accidentally swung an ax in the wrong direction in Stardew Valley.
Stamina works in such a way that it’s tied to the passage of time itself. You could feasibly run around and explore your town and surrounding lands and make a day last forever. The second your hero starts to feel exhausted is when the sun starts to set. Weird, but not altogether a bad idea. Especially since some important matters, like developing relationships with villagers, expends no stamina. You have no excuse not to check in on everyone in your community every day!
I think what Littlewood understands better than most other games in its genre is pacing. Every single new run of Stardew Valley or Harvest Moon makes me feel like a lazy slob if I don’t gain a certain amount of money by the end of my first spring. And it’s rare for me not to have a wiki open on my tablet as I play. There’s a wholesomeness to being able to spend entire days exploring the various lands, finding new resources, and unlocking more characters to spice up small-town life. There are these charming little cutscenes that happen every so often that are always a delight to see, even if they do put a speed bump in the gameplay.