Have you tried… being an adorable, lost potion brewer in Little Witch in the Woods?

Likening any game to Stardew Valley is becoming almost as complicated as making Dark Souls comparisons because it’s easy to say, but difficult to pull off. However, Little Witch in the Woods is really challenging those seriously cozy gameplay vibes and the kind of ‘just one more day’ loop that made Stardew oh so moreish. But this time, with magic. 

You play as Ellie, a young apprentice witch who is en route to her placement working directly under a master witch along with her curmudgeonly hat, Virgil. But, bored of school and clearly looking for adventure, when the train she’s on gets stopped unexpectedly, a mysterious cat and a comfy bed mean she’s not on it when it eventually continues on its path. Of course, the bed she just so happens to curl up on is inside a witch’s hut, complete with a basement full of equipment for brewing potions and other spells. How… fortuitous. 

And thus, your adventure as the titular little witch in the woods begins. 

Gorgeous pixel art slice of life sim Little Witch in the Woods

(Image credit: Sunny Side Up)

Aesthetically, Little Witch in the Woods is another glorious pixel art affair but complemented by more graphically detailed character art for dialogue exchanges. While Ellie and other wizarding folks you’ll meet are human, the majority of the ‘humans’ you’ll encounter are anthropomorphic, including the most darling tiny fox. That makes for some stunning artwork, and intriguing narrative questions about what the heck is really going on in this magical place. 

Your local neighborhood wood witch

Gorgeous pixel art slice of life sim Little Witch in the Woods

(Image credit: Sunny Side Up)

Instead of trying to get back on track for her apprenticeship, Ellie instantly takes a liking to living in the forest, helping the few residents that are left rebuild their dilapidated village. With just a pub, a single home, and some rubble remaining, there’s a lot of work to do. And yet, it neither phases Ellie nor me. Between the errands, you need to run to help the villagers, and the jobs you can take on for the witches guild and a wandering traveler, there’s always so much to do. This means it’s got that same gameplay loop of wanting to maximize every day as Stardew Valley. 

You’ll spend your time studying the local flora and fauna scribbling away with a feathered quill to fill out your Encyclopedia, which lets you craft ingredients for potions and candies. Although the gameplay loop similarities to Stardew are there, there isn’t actually any farming. Instead, you’ll spend your time trying to figure out how to find the ingredients you need. You’ll find bunny-like Squishychub and vine-covered Pumpkin Terriers but initially have no idea how to get their fur, and discovering how to pluck a tail feather off the cheeky Pompom bird is an entirely different beast altogether. But, that’s just part of the game’s charm. It’s Bugsnax meets Wytchwood, and it’s fantastic.

Gorgeous pixel art slice of life sim Little Witch in the Woods

(Image credit: Sunny Side Up)

That’s taken further by the fact you’ll then have to take your raw ingredients down into your basement to grind up, melt down, and otherwise process into the things you can actually craft with. Brewing potions is simple, but has you flipping through your Encyclopedia to find out what temperature to set your cauldron to and what direction to stir in. Getting the friendly ghost face whenever you successfully create a potion or candy is never not satisfying. 

There’s also a surprising amount of depth to the game’s puzzles, with just enough handholding that if you get really stuck the game will give you a polite suggestion on what to do next. But, realistically, there’s just enough challenge here to make you feel smart without having you reaching for the next prompt. 

Although Little Witch in the Woods has launched in Game Preview on Xbox and in Early Access on Steam, there’s already plenty here to enjoy. The developer, Sunny Side Up, states that this initial release contains around five hours of content, I’m some eight hours in and it’s only just told me my time is up. With more content expected to drop throughout this Early Access period, Little Witch in the Woods is shaping up to be seriously promising. So if you’re looking for a slightly spooky Stardew to tide you over until Witchbrook arrives, then you absolutely need to check in with Ellie and Virgil. 

Little Witch in the Woods is out now in Early Access on Xbox and Steam, and is also available via Game Pass. When you’ve finished that, why not check out our picks of the other best games like Stardew Valley?

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