What happens after “happily ever after”? It’s a question few fairy tales deign to answer. If real life is anything to go by, the bit after a happy ending involves a honeymoon suite and a sleepless night, and eventually babies, mortgages, and the mundane minutiae that comes with living a life together. But what about a happily ever after in a game, where the evil has been vanquished, and the world has been saved? Does it stay saved forever, or does some other evil pop up, like in a Marvel movie?
Littlewood tries to answer this question, and, as it turns out, life after defeating the evil is a sedate farming simulator. It’s a promising pitch that spices up a formula we’ve seen hundreds of times before in Stardew Valley, Harvest Moon, Story of Seasons and countless other games too numerous to list, but does it work, or does it just make us feel like we arrived too late to enjoy a bombastic adventure?
The game begins by letting the player know that they were the Hero of Solemn who defeated the Dark Wizard, but that they lost their memory after the battle. Everyone else, including your companions, knows who you are, and what you did – and now, having trusted you with saving the world, they want you to build them a town to live out a peaceful, retired life together.
Littlewood has a ton of features that support the town-building aspect of the game, with mining, woodcutting, fishing, farming, gathering, and bug catching all being required activities if you want to keep building houses to attract new villagers. It’s a lot like Fantasy Life in that regard – there’s a lot of foraging and resource-gathering, and each activity comes with its own level. There are also stations that allow you to craft new materials, cook meals, and fulfil quests for both the villagers and yourself. You can upgrade these stations slowly throughout the game with the resources you’ve gathered, unlocking new skills, new features, and even new locations.
All of this funnels nicely into the game’s various goals: attract new villagers, increase the size of your town, and eventually find someone to settle down with – which can even be the Dark Wizard himself, if you’re into bad boys. The system of gathering, crafting, and building makes for a satisfying game loop, but – like many similar games – it becomes a slog in the late game, when increasingly rare materials are required to make progress. If you (like us) didn’t realise these materials were rare and sold them all in the early game to make money – well, tough luck.
Still, Littlewood has a surprising amount of depth, so you’ll probably find something to do while you wait for those rare items to come around again. You could fill out the game’s museum with the fish and bugs you’ve caught, although don’t expect it to be quite as fleshed-out as Blathers’ pride and joy in Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Littlewood’s museum is just a bunch of pedestals in a row. You could take on decorating your villagers’ houses with various furniture items that they request, a task that’s secretly pretty vital to progression, as they reward you with important tools like a watering can and shoes that let you jump over obstacles.
You can even focus your efforts on making your town look as picture-perfect as you want, with a surprisingly robust set of terraforming and decorating tools that you could easily spend hours with – but this won’t actually pass the time, as Littlewood uses a system where time and energy are one and the same. Each day, you have a finite amount of stamina, which is spent by doing… pretty much anything, except talking, terraforming, and placing furniture and decorations.
You can slowly increase the amount of stamina you have with Town Wishes, a feature where you get to buy new abilities for your town and your character that refresh twice a week. To begin with, though, stamina is in short supply, and must be spent carefully each day to maximise profit and progress. It’s a clever system that asks the player to strategise their priorities but never punishes them for socialising. You can even take a villager with you to explore the world, increasing your relationship for free (and getting whatever they pick up as you run around) – a sweet little addition that brings the characters to life a little more.
As a result, Littlewood is a game that you can play for many, many hours and still see new content. Some in-game days will be spent doing nothing but collecting wood for a new house; others might be spent on a date with your beau, or interacting with of the many festivals and events on the calendar, or even playing the meta-game Tarott Monster, a sort of simplified Hearthstone card battler, with new cards hidden all over the world of Solemn.
But it’s a little disappointing to be the Hero that saved the world when you can’t even defend yourself from monsters in the mines, and when people are constantly telling you about how much of a badass you were, it would be nice to… be a bit more of a badass. Littlewood doesn’t want to be about fighting and threats to civilisation, though – so it never raises the stakes any higher than Wompers, the randomly-wandering mine monsters that can kick you out of the cave if they hit you.
But that’s it, really; it’s meant to be relaxing, so there’s no severe punishment for anything. Even passing out will just give you a bit less energy the next day. There’s no angry Resetti, there’s no death or decay, and the beautiful, tranquil town you make will always be just that. If it’s a relaxing game with an addictive core you’re looking for, look no further.
For people who loved the collect-craft-combat loop of Fantasy Life, this game might scratch that same itch, and it’ll certainly take up a fair few hours – even if the “combat” part is missing. Littlewood is an incredibly impressive game for a solo developer, and though none of its ideas go particularly deep, it more than makes up for it in breadth. Fans of the life sim genre should definitely seek this one out.