I have loved the Harvest Moon series since I played it Harvest Moon 64 many years ago. Its twee and relaxing and fun but with just enough strategy and planning involved that I don’t get bored. I ate up Stardew Valley, playing through that story multiple times on both PC and Switch, so when I saw Littlewood on Steam last month, it appealed to that part of me that is always desperate to get back out on the farm.
You start off, like so many stories do, by waking up on the floor of a house you don’t recognise. Quickly, you’re informed that you are a great hero who slew the Dark Wizard and saved the world. The battle seems to have wiped your memory clean, but you still have your friends and have been named the mayor of your own town as a reward. Seems fair to me.
Littlewood pulls a lot of inspiration from Stardew Valley (and, by extension, the Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons series) with a dash of Animal Crossing and a few JRPG story tropes thrown in for some extra spice. The art style and gameplay are very Stardew, though without the combat elements in the various mines. The world is populated with little pixel people who run the gambit from elderly fisherman to retired queen to cat-boy, each with their own likes and personalities to contend with.
You build up relationships with the people who move to your town by talking with them or hanging out as you go about your daily chores. Once per day you can compliment or flirt with any resident, which can eventually lead to dating and marriage. Each person only gives a line or two of dialogue per day, but it is all endearing enough to give them distinct personalities. Lilith is a mage who can’t control her powers. Bubsy is a bird-folk foodie with a superiority complex. Terric is the most enthusiastic knight you’ll ever meet. All of them have just enough depth to keep you from getting bored but not so much that they become the focus of the game.
The biggest innovation is the way you are able to build the town of Littlewood. You can control every aspect of the town from the very beginning. Don’t like where the town square is? Move it. Don’t like that lake? Fill it and make it a field for your crops. Not a fan of that hill? Flatten it. You can do it all from the start of the game, which explains why my town quickly grew a series of phallic-shaped lakes dotted around.
Look, just because the game is sweet and innocent doesn’t mean I am going to be.
My biggest takeaway from playing Littlewood is how simple yet effective it all is. The characters fit into simple tropes yet have enough personality that I genuinely care for them. When my favourite half-orc girlfriend put in a request to accompany me on a fishing trip, I didn’t want to let her down. You believe that this group of misfits have all come together after the world nearly ended and are just trying to live their best lives.
Each resident has different requests about where they want their house and what they want inside it. Playing town planner is a major part of the game. Littlewood expects that you’ll enjoy the puzzle of figuring out where to put everyone and how to balance the sometimes conflicting requests that come in, so that’s a big way that it separates itself from games like Stardew Valley and Story of Seasons. You explore locations just to get more materials that you can then use to add onto someone’s house or sell to pick up the blueprint for that fishtank someone has been asking for.
Littlewood is unapologetically positive and cheerful, which was something I didn’t realise I needed until I loaded it up. If the open sandbox of Animal Crossing: New Horizons didn’t do it for you like you hoped but you want something a bit more focused on town planning than Stardew Valley, Littlewood is a sweet, upbeat game to relax to.
Littlewood is out now on Steam.
Littlewood Review Verdict
Littlewood is a sweet, fun game that has a lot going for it. If 2020 has you looking for something a bit more wholesome from your gaming experience, then it is absolutely worth checking out this one.