Little Big Workshop has nothing to do with Little Big Planet or the excellent Little Big Adventure, unfortunately. Not because of its quality, I just miss that series. It’s a business sim, similar to the recent Two Point Hospital or even city builders if you’re into those.
You’re put in charge of a new factory with nothing but a few empty rooms and a couple of workers to start out with. The tutorial will set you on the right track, teaching you how to buy different workstations, set up a break room and accept jobs. These will just be the basics and you’ll be left to your own devices on how to grow your business. You can accept jobs from others which will have a strict deadline but will also result in relationship growth that will benefit you with better paid jobs in the long run or you can keep an eye on the market and produce whatever you fancy to sell.
Producing goods is not as simple as selecting a product and then a bar fills until it’s done. Each product it made up of components and each needs to be constructed using the right workstation. For example a chair will have a seat, a back and some legs. Depending on the quality you’re going for those parts will be made of different components, so each could be made of wood so you’ll need a workbench to cut wood in a straight line, maybe one to cut a curve, one to bend wood and so on. Maybe you’ll need a sewing station to create a more comfy seat or perhaps certain elements will need to be made of metal. Not only will you need the workstations but the workers to man them, some requiring specialists but you’ll need to hire more staff the larger your factory becomes regardless.
You’ll gain experience and skill points as you complete jobs allowing you to choose R&D upgrades that’ll let you get better machines, hire more skilled workers or get advantages like longer time limits on jobs or simply having to pay less rent or wages. The upgrades can be quite powerful so unlocking them is always something to work towards and look forward to.
Balancing your expansion with your income is key as overspending too quickly can lead to a game over if you drop too far into the red. There aren’t different scenarios here like in Two Point Hospital, you have one factory to concentrate on in your attempt to become the most successful company, overtaking Nemesis Inc. It does impact the replayability a bit, but there’s a decent amount of game here if you intend to max out your factory, for a decent price.
There are also little mini-games that occur at times. These can be gnomes infesting your land (like moles basically) and you need to place a machine to stun them and then click on them to get rid of them, or there may be spies in your workforce and you have to observe and identify them by their actions. They were interesting the first time but after that I felt they got in the way of what I was trying to achieve and luckily you can turn these off in the options menu (the serious business option) so you can concentrate on the business side of things.
Unfortunately, as with a lot of ports of these types of games from PC things haven’t necessarily gone smoothly. Control-wise things are actually decent. The nature or the game means that putting the mouse pointer on the left stick works well with speed and accuracy not really being an issue. Menus are opened through two radial menus on the triggers so getting access to that stuff is easy. Moving through some of the menus isn’t as natural as using a mouse but it doesn’t take long to get used to it.
Visually things are fine as well. There’s the odd pause every now and then but things run smoothly otherwise and the aesthetic of a model on top of a table with little figurine type characters doing the work is well realised.
It’s more in the technical aspect where things go awry. I’ve had it crash numerous times, including hard locking my console twice whilst trying to overwrite a save. Luckily nothing seems to have been damaged. Projects slow to a crawl as rather than use all the workstations everything gets queued onto one or two for some reason and I’ve had to go into it manually to move things around. I’ve had all my workers just stop part way through a job for no reason. The info pop ups break so the picture doesn’t display and I can’t interact with them. Sometimes it’s very slow to load or save. It also doesn’t autosave often enough, especially for how regularly it crashes. I’ve lost hours of progress altogether, no question.
Basically there’s lots of little (okay, some quite large) issues that take you out of that business sim zone that can usually keep me playing for a whole day easily. Whilst things are running smoothly, if you’ve enjoyed this type of game in the past, then Little Big Workshop scratches that itch quite nicely. As I’ve said I’m not sure how much replayability there is, unless you do just specialise in one area as a factory rather than spreading yourself out. You get plenty of experience to unlock all the specialisations so it’s not like you need to be choosy there eventually either.
Hopefully with a few more patches things will smooth out and Little Big Workshop will be another enjoyable business sim on the PS4. As things are it’s still fun but the odd glitch takes you out of the business mindset and hard locking your console is very worrying. Still if you can deal with these faults or come to it later when things are fixed up then there is enough here to keep you playing for many evenings.
+ Upgrades are super useful
+ Controls work well
- Not a lot of replay value
- Doesn't autosave often enough for how much is crashes