Little Imps Preview: A Dungeon Builder

This title is currently exclusive to PC, and was previewed as such.

Little Imps is a dungeon builder that utterly fails to engage with the player. In this game you are the (apparently) dark overlord of a growing horde, and you must develop your dungeon base and entice new monsters into your ranks by growing your ‘glory rating’. There is a surprising amount of detail and a wide range of items to be collected, rooms to be built, and different types of monsters to collect. But whether or not you’ll actually have the time to do so is a different matter.

My first impression of Little Imps is that it was designed to be a simple, relaxing management game – unfortunately while I can tell that the devs have aimed for chill, they’ve sadly missed the mark and have instead landed firmly on boring. Unlike some other building/management games designed for PC (such as Zoo Tycoon or The Sims), there is no easy option to speed up time in game – instead, every action that your monster underlings take occurs in real time, and oh man, do you feel every second as it slips on by. This is of course, unless you spend in-game currency to automatically accomplish your task – so once you’ve emptied your in-game wallet, you’re stuck waiting with the rest of us peasants.

While the game itself is decent and there is a certain mind-numbing satisfaction from completing simple tasks and building things and selling items (as anyone who survived the Farmville Frenzy of ’09 can attest) I think the devs of this game have made an error in judgement regarding which platform this game should be available on. Due to the base gameplay mechanics, it’s my opinion that Little Imps is inherently better suited to a mobile device; even ignoring the mobile-esque elements to this game (such as the in-game currency to insta-complete tasks) the whole thing just feels like it was designed for mobile and then, for whatever reason, was released on PC instead – and it just doesn’t work.

This the kind of game that you should be able to use to fill in a spare couple of minutes, where you can pick up the game and catch up on what your monsters have done while walking to work or while on the bus. Instead, the game being on PC and the ‘real time’ timers mean that you spend the vast majority of your time sitting at your computer waiting to actually play the game; it got to the point that I was keeping Little Imps open but minimized so I could start writing this review while I was waiting for my monsters to hurry their butts along and complete their jobs.

Visually, Little Imps is solid – it has a well-designed cartoon style and though it’s not going to win any awards for aesthetics, it’s fun, it’s cute (or as cute as this horde of monsters is going to get) and the visual style suits the game down to the ground. Sound is decent as well, though it is fairly simply and at times very repetitive (the monotonous clank of pick axes is still ringing in my ears). I did enjoy the sound effects of your monsters when you grab them; the goblin’s cackle in particular was hilariously delightful.

Overall, this is a game that has been let down by the founding mechanics; the devs need to either allow for in-game time control, or move this game to a more appropriate platform (hell, I think this might just be the first time I’ve ever advocated for a game to be made into a mobile game… I feel slightly dirty) so as to better account for the time that the person playing the game is having to put into it for the amount of gameplay they’re getting in return. Though there are no doubt people out there who would find Little Imps brilliant as it is on PC (I’m reminded of my cousin who would set an alarm for the middle of the night to harvest his crops on Farmville on his computer…) in my opinion the devs need to decide this is going to be a PC game or a mobile game – because straddling the line between the two just sadly isn’t going to work for the vast majority of gamers.

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