It ain't much but it's honest work.
In the genre of “city builder” or, to a more micro degree, “town builder,” it's hard for a new IP to get noticed with such heavy hitters already dominating the space. Many would consider Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley to be kings of their respective hills and tough to dethrone. Enter Littlewood: a town builder with a whimsical coat of paint and simplistic design that marries elements from both games. Can it stand shoulder to shoulder with the greats?
The first thing you'll notice when you boot up Littlewood is its visuals. Sporting an 8-bit style pixel art, it immediately feels nostalgic. Adding onto the nostalgia is the almost storybook JRPG setup that occurs when you start the game. You, the Hero of Solemn, recently vanquished the Dark Wizard but are suffering from a form of amnesia. You have no recollection of the journey or the friends you made along the way. It really makes you feel as though you're playing the new game + to an old Nintendo RPG classic.
After the brief set-up from old adventuring buddies Willow and Dalton, you'd be right to feel impressed by the amount of customization you have at your disposal right from the get-go. Your town starts with your house, Willow's house, a lumber mill, and a forge to refine harvested materials. Anything can be moved in town at any time. Pressing the B button brings up your build menu, which gives you the ability to raise/move, lower/destroy as well as options to build/place plants, buildings, and flooring, should you have the item or the recipe with the associated materials in your inventory. Initially, the most notable selections are raise/lower. This is essentially my personal favorite mechanic from Animal Crossing New Horizons: the terraforming. You can construct platforms up to two levels and turn the lowest level into ponds right from the beginning of the game. It's quite a freeing experience initially.
The start of the game is straightforward enough. Meet a villager; build their house; receive a new blueprint a period of time after they've moved in. These blueprints range from the town square, market, and museum, among others. Eventually, you'll be presented with the hot air balloon platform blueprint and this is where the game begins to stretch its legs and give you additional locales to explore and resources to acquire that aren't available in your town. These locations consist of the Endless Forests where you can find exotic lumber and the Dust Caverns where you can mine rare ores. Upgrading the air balloon unlocks additional areas. Of course, most structures can be upgraded to allow for more inventory or crafting bonuses, for example. Unfortunately, these upgrades don't change anything visually and I found no means of upgrading my personal home.
Every action outside of speaking with townsfolk or anything done within the build menu costs stamina and in return grants experience for the specific skill. Those being woodcutting, mining, gathering, bug catching, fishing, farming, crafting, and lastly Tarott Monster (a fun deck-building minigame you eventually unlock). Improving these skills as well as upgrading buildings with harvested materials and continuously speaking with townsfolk is the means of progression and unlocking new content.
Littlewood has a bevy of customization options, from your town layout and decor to even the interior furnishing of your home as well as those of your townsfolk, who seem a bit inept at taking care of themselves. Your favorite new villager Bubsy is going to be camping out on the floor of his new home until you build him a bed, so don't neglect him! You can even build a desk that has unique furnishing requests for each villager in their home in order to align their decor with their personal taste. After interacting with some villagers you may even decide one is to your liking. Littlewood gives you the option to romance and eventually marry any villager that moves to your town. Some are quite eager and flirtatious, which created an odd juxtaposition between the gameplay and its art style.
The simplicity of some of Littlewood's mechanics seems to be to its detriment as the presented gameplay loop can become a little dry; progressing to the next day often lacks the excitement you'd get from similar titles. Gathering items isn't nuanced or rewarding. Seasonal changes don't seem to affect much gameplay-related other than new calendar events—which are often lackluster and usually just a unique vendor—as well as new fish and bug spawns. Personally what the game boiled down to for me was an enjoyable enough toybox to customize that was gated by talent levels that felt unnecessary and progress that was never all that exciting.
Decent writing and a good art style keep this game above mediocrity and toying with the town building mechanics is enjoyable. But unless you're specifically looking for another entry in the town sim genre, it's hard to recommend this above other options already available on Switch. Then again, if the more simplistic approach is what you're looking for and the ability to change your town layout on a whim sounds appealing, there are things to enjoy in this quaint Littlewood.