2021. It has been what some call “a year”. To celebrate this collection of sun rotations, we’re looking at the best games of 2021. Next up: Littlewood.
The farming sim/city builder genre of game has had some big hits lately, with Animal Crossing: New Horizons shepherding plenty of us through the start of the pandemic, and Stardew Valley serving as a gateway into gaming for many first-time players. Littlewood, created by solo developer Sean Young, builds on what came before and sharpens its familiar elements into one of 2021’s sleeper hits.
In broad strokes, Littlewood plays the hits: your main character can grow crops, fish, catch bugs, and do favors for the locals, including decorating their houses, getting them gifts, and eventually smooching them. You can also terraform your town and design its layout from the ground up. What sets Littlewood apart from its peers is how quickly you get the power to be a landshaping god among mortals. Within a half-hour of starting Littlewood, you’re able to build mountains and dig rivers. There’s no grinding up the basics, scrounging over breakable tools or struggling to pull weeds for your first few days of play — why wait for the fun part?
Contributing to this general design principle of getting players in control as soon as possible, Littlewood is stuffed with other mechanics to keep you invested. There’s an entire competitive card game, cooking, and woods and mines to explore. The world is vibrant and colorful, with a memorable cast of townspeople that include the usual stock characters such as “stuck-up rich person,” “girl with glasses,” and “childhood friend”. Littlewood’s loose fantasy setting elevates these usual archetypes by making your snooty neighbor into a talking bird, ogre, witch, and/or catboy.
Praise the Harvest Moon series all you want, but you couldn’t take your orc neighbor out on a fishing date.
Littlewood is a game that, like a goldfish, grows to fill however much space you have for it. Only want to play for a few minutes? That’s fine! Days only pass when you use a certain amount of energy. You can knock out a day or two on a bus ride or during a commercial break. You can also hunker down and dig into a long-term upgrading project if you prefer. Either mode works, and no matter how you play or what you want your town to be, Littlewood will rise to meet your needs and exceed your expectations.
Some players might object to the thorough amount of streamlining Littlewood does to its core gameplay rhythm — you have unlimited pocket space, you can’t break your tools, and you don’t have to manually swap through all of them any time you need to do something different. Littlewood is a different kind of power fantasy, one of convenience and care. When you play it, you’re not struggling to get something off the ground, and you’re not scraping to make ends meet. Littlewood knows that players enjoy these kinds of games for the sense of accomplishment, so it starts you with a ton of options and builds outward from there.
Littlewood flew under a lot of people’s radar this year, but it’s still ready for people to discover it in their own time. With so much possibility at your fingertips, why wait for the good part, but also why rush to push through it? Littlewood’s ready when you are.
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