With all the big holiday releases coming out over the next four weeks or so, it’s hard to find the time to check out all the games you really want to play. We’re taking a quick look at two little indie gems that have just come out here in a quick roundup of Autonauts and Little Big Workshop.
After a very successful early alpha on itch.io (which was downloaded over 330,000 times), the full release of Autonauts by developer Denki is out now on Steam. It’s being published by Curve Digital, who has labeled the game as their most wishlisted title so far.
Autonauts is a hybrid game, one that mixes elements of farming, (city) building, colonizing and, above all, automation. It’s a laid back experience that doesn’t require any programming knowledge, but it does gently introduce and work with core elements of automation to help you gain resources and expand your little society.
Using a visual programming language, you set little robots off to do your bidding. In that sense, it’s a little like your typical real time strategy game, only you get to determine a robot’s purpose through automation. Want to program a robot to cut down wood for you? You can do that. Want another to transport the wood from A to B so the first robot doesn’t have to keep delivering stuff? You can do that too, or just program a single robot to do all of the above.
Despite the use of robots, there’s a bit of evolution thrown in as well, as you land on a desolate planet and have to develop your little community by first working with stone and wood and evolving from there. It’s something we’ve seen in games like Civilization and Populous, and it works well here too.
Autonauts is a fun and casual experience that has the ability to program your units as its unique little catch. As such, it may be familiar in parts, but does offer a unique element that is almost educational in nature – where logical thinking can help you shape the way your processes work for you. It’s a bit like LEGO Mindstorms in that sense, and fun to play with a younger family member as you figure out how to make your bots do your child’s bidding.
Little Big Workshop
Like Autonauts, Little Big Workshop is also a sandbox-like experience, but in a very different setting. In this particular game, developed by Mirage Game Studios and published by HandyGames and THQ, it’s all about running a factory and the logistics that surround it. We’re talking materials, blueprints, assembly lines and factory workers, and it’s up to you to manage it all.
As the name perhaps suggest, Little Big Workshop looks fairly cute, but underneath that exterior lies a pretty serious “factory tycoon/sim” game with inner workings that can get as complex as you make them. A lot depends on your business choices in that regard, and what you want out of your time as a business owner.
Do you expand your production to include new wares? Cut costs on the materials you use in order to spend more on employee satisfaction? Or do you wring them out for all they’re worth in order to become a true capitalist success story at the expense of the moral value of your business?
Even a single part of your total business process can look complex at first, but the game does a good job in making things easy to navigate. Take the blueprints you have for making an end product – Little Big Workshop will present flowcharts that showcase which components go into it, how they’re made and where you might upgrade or cut corners – all in a single screen.
Funnily enough, that makes Autonauts a game where you work so that it becomes a hands-off experience, whereas Little Big Workshop is a very hands-on game where you can modify even the minutest of details of your business. There’s a lot of fun to be had messing about in either scenario.