I've lost count of the number of times I've been asked to save the world and succeeded. Stopping explosions, quashing evil corporations, defeating supervillains. We've all been there - we know the drill. But, have you ever had to put the world back together after the big finale? Ever been asked to clean up all the mess? Well, that's exactly where Littlewood starts, in the days following a huge battle against an almighty dark wizard, in a small village that's been practically flattened by the chaos.
Thankfully, it's not just a pile of rubble though. The ground is clear, but there's plenty of work to do in Littlewood to bring its community back together and make it a thriving place to live once more. It's all up to you though, with a little help from a merry band of villagers, to rebuild it all. And just to make things more fun, it turns out you're actually the hero that saved the world - you just can't remember anything.
Either way though, it doesn't really matter. It's not about trying to save the world anymore in Littlewood, it's just about trying to exist and make the people around you feel happy and safe - which feels very much like a message for the entirety of humanity in 2021.
Doom and loom
Fear not though, Littlewood is anything but doom and gloom. It's an adorable, colorful little romp in a pixel art style not unlike its inspiration Stardew Valley, which exudes charm from every single pixel and is almost too cute at times - the in-game currency is dewdrops for example. Your companions all have their own unique personalities, which are enhanced by regular Special Moments that play out randomly at the dawn of a new day. These cutscenes let you grab a window into the lives of your villagers' lives whilst you're busy elsewhere, with my favorite of these being two of them cooing over the arrival of a Catfolk resident and wondering what the 'petting protocol' was for a humanoid feline.
Of course, there's a lot of days you do spend away from your villagers busying yourself with getting the town back up and running. You'll start with simple things like homes, or a marketplace. But later you'll be building shops, and even a hot air balloon station for traveling to the Endless Forest and other locales. It's here that you'll start finding rarer resources as you exhaust the mining and foresting options back in Littlewood, and find ingredients to make the meals you'll have to craft in the tavern to feed your crew.
The gameplay loop is just as satisfying as the likes of Stardew Valley, but without some of the inherent pressures that make completing a day in Stardew occasionally a frustrating experience. For example, crops will grow all year round and never require watering. The seasons will change some of the fish and bugs available, and introduce different seasonal (and regularly brilliantly silly) events, but little else so wasting a day crafting loads of wooden planks won't feel as disruptive.
There's also an additional rewarding feeling in that you're constantly leveling up each of the things you do, and with every level comes a reward. Waking up every morning in your own home will no doubt mean you'll find your mailbox filled with congratulatory notes from your villagers on reaching level five of farming complete with little presents. Combine that with the option to give yourself a title and you'll quickly feel as worshipped as the hero that did indeed save the world - speaking as the self-proclaimed Queen of Littlewood here.
And as Queen, most of my focus is to make Littlewood shine again. As well as aping Stardew Valley, Littlewood also takes cues from Animal Crossing: New Horizons in the way you can design your town. Your villagers may have a preferred locale for their home - near the market, away from the smelter - so you'll need to rejig your village if you want to make everyone happy. But there's a decoration bonus to unlock, statues to place, farms to build, new rivers to carve, platforms to raise… it's easy to get lost in making your Littlewood quite the destination.
There's also a dash of mystery in this little world-builder sim. In amongst the loops of farming and crafting, mining, and tree chopping, there's the hint that the darkness may well return. It makes you want to poke and prod for more information from your villagers as well as flirt with them. Maybe it'll come to nothing years of gameplay later, but that little lure of something sinister, combined with endless, compelling checklists, and it becomes incredibly hard to tear yourself away from Littlewood.
Littlewood is out now on PC, and is coming very soon to Switch.