Little Big Workshop is a factory tycoon management sim that puts you at the helm of your very own tabletop factory, in the most literal sense. As the camera pans down upon loading in, you are greeted with a large table covered in all manner of things. Little trees, pencils, coffee cups, and more, and in one small section lies your little workshop. And it is from these humble beginnings that your rise to business mogul will start.
Your first foray into the business world starts with a tutorial that walks through the basics of how to accept orders for items, buy and place workstations and storage areas, and then build and deliver the goods. This tutorial boots up at the beginning of every new factory you make, but can be skipped once you no longer need it. That being said, Little Big Workshop goes a little more in-depth with the item creation process than most games do, and optimizing that process is key to success.
Each item you build will be broken down into its individual parts, so when building something like a chair, it’s not just one workstation building it. One can work on the legs, another on the seat, one on the backrest, and then a final one that has to put it all together. Each different material will need its own workstation and all of them are operated by little figurine people that drop out of the sky to help you.
This is where planning and strategizing comes in. Workstations can only be worked by one person at a time and stations are again limited to specific materials. There are woodworking stations and metalworking stations that will allow you to work on anything wood and metal – big surprise. But there are also forges, sewing stations, injection presses, and more that allow you to actually make the metal, sew together fabrics, and make plastics. Later into the game, you can start purchasing machinery that works a lot faster but is also much more limited.
Each machine and workstation has its role to play, and figuring out when to buy one and start incorporating it into your projects is only half the battle.
The other half is making sure your factory is organized enough so all of the machines fit, there is enough space for materials, and workers can get where they need to be without tripping or passing out from exhaustion. The workstations and machinery also need to be periodically repaired or they explode in a ball of fire, leaving the poor worker who is assigned to it to run around screaming until it subsides.
Workers will also need to take regular breaks or they risk collapsing on the floor, and you will have to wait a considerable amount of time for them to feel energized enough to get back to the daily grind. I guess sleeping on concrete floors in the middle of a busy factory isn’t the most relaxing thing. But all of these elements come together to form an experience that is crafted around making things run as smoothly as possible.
For fans of management sims, Little Big Workshop is probably the perfect game… when it works.
Unfortunately I encountered a rather annoying issue when I was playing which made it nearly impossible to make any real progress. During my playthrough, my workers would suddenly refuse to do any work. I was confused because they were rested, the factory was wide open, and I was almost done with my table-making job. Only a few were left and the resources were right next to the machine. So I decided to zoom in and see what was going on.
It turns out the wood planks my workers needed were floating above the designated storage space. At some point there must’ve been a glitch where the workers either put the items in the air or they had accidentally pulled from the bottom of the stack instead of the top. Since there is no way to order additional resources for the project I tried canceling it and having the items thrown out. That didn’t work either; all I did was irritate the company I was selling the tables to. So not only did I lose the money and time from that, my reputation was hit and I was stuck with floating planks in the middle of my factory.
With no other options left and only being an hour in I decided to restart and see if it was a one-off thing. Well, another hour or so into a different factory and the same issue came up. Then I tried it a third time and, lo and behold, it happened again.
This was the only real bug I was running into but it is such a critical issue that it immediately sucked any enthusiasm I had. The mechanics of Little Big Workshop are fun; managing the factory and climbing up the corporate ladder while investing in new machines and acquiring skills that would’ve let me build and expand my factory all sound great. But I’ve been left unable to make it any farther than a couple of hours into a playthrough because every time this bug would come up, leaving me with nothing to do. This sucks because without that Little Big Workshop could have easily been a must-buy for management sim fans.
The lovely art style, the easy to learn but hard to master building system, the ability to expand and fully customize your very own factory, all of these things are great, and they work well. But you can’t make any progress if all of your seed money vanishes because the resources you need become inaccessible.
I did have one situation where the game glitched like this, but I backed out and booted back up and the resources managed to reset themselves and I was able to continue. But at that point I had lost so much money while trying to figure out what went wrong that I would’ve had to sell my workstations to start another job, handicapped from that point on.
Little Big Workshop on Xbox One is fun, first and foremost, and if a patch is released that fixes the issues in place I would definitely recommend picking it up. But until then, if you are unfortunate enough to encounter progress-halting bugs then you will most likely be forced to restart. And it doesn’t matter who you are, losing all of your progress to glitches isn’t fun.