This game tells us one simple truth that has been passed down from generation to generation; playing with fire is fun.
Little Inferno is the newest game from the masterminds behind indie hit World of Goo and the links are obvious right from the start. It employs the same Tim Burton-esque art-style (this time much creepier however), similar musical score and even a similarly strange but wonderful story. However, with what World of Goo did for physics based puzzling, you’d expect Little Inferno to marry the same kind of fantastic gameplay with brilliant art-direction; it does not.
Little Inferno in fact is almost devoid of gameplay. You buy items, drag them up into the fireplace and then burn them, getting money from them (more than you spend on them) that you can spend on further items. There are a few catalogues of items to burn through, each one containing many different things to burn, while some things burn in the standard manner, many items when burnt do strange things like shoot fire, explode, freeze the surroundings and make music. Seeing how every different item will respond to being set on fire is pretty fun, but ultimately, you are just watching things burn.
Each item comes with a small description, each one pretty funny. The items range from the mundane (like sunglasses), the utterly bizarre (a factory that grinds up whatever you throw into it) and the self-referential items that poke fun at the game industry; take the zombie’s description for example: ‘because a game isn’t complete without one’.
In order to shake things up however, Tomorrow Corporation (the developers and the name of the company in the game) have included several things to make the game more than just a glorified interactive fireplace. The game employs a waiting list system, in that you must wait for your items to arrive before you burn them, to get around this waiting you can use tickets to get the item instantly. To get these tickets you must perform combos, there are ninety-nine combos in total to achieve, but they are not made very easy to perform. Each one is given as a clue, and it is left up to you to choose the two or three items to burn in order to achieve the combo. These combos really do enhance the overall experience of Little Inferno as a game very well, but to be honest it is the game’s story that really holds the whole thing together.
The narrative of the game is told through the occasional letter (mostly sent by Sugar Plumps), each one giving that little more insight into the world and story of Little Inferno. This system of drip-feeding information works well as a narrative hook and you will be wondering why the world has gone cold and why people need the Little Inferno fireplace. Luckily then, the end of the game is really rather good. I do not want to divulge too much information about the endgame, but suffice to say, it is one of the best I have ever experienced in games after playing them avidly for around fourteen years. Yes, the pay-off from around five hours of playing with fire really is outstanding.
However, the majority of the game is spent burning things and although it has been made as interesting as it could be, it is hardly the most exciting game. It is quite fun to experiment with burning different things together and just messing around, but there is only so much you can do. This is where the short length of the game is beneficial, if it took longer to finish the game you would just get bored.
Luckily, watching is something this game can get away with as it looks lovely. The fire physics are wonderful, and the games art-style translates beautifully with the HD graphics of the Wii U. It is one of the nicest-looking indie games I have ever played and it ranks up there with World of Goo, LIMBO and Trine 2 in terms of visuals.
In terms of what to play Little Inferno on I can only recommend the Wii U version (not only by the fact that it is the only version I’ve played). It seems like the game was made for touchscreens, but for me the Wii U version seems like a better choice than playing on the iPad for one reason: the TV. Little Inferno played on an HD television truly is a sight to behold and the creepy aesthetic of the game (particularly in the final sequence) really pops from the screen.
Little Inferno is a strange yet wonderful experience. As a game, it is not very exciting or hard, it is not as easy to recommend as World of Goo, indeed, it is not the masterpiece of puzzle design as that game was (not even a puzzle game really), but through it’s beautiful visuals, good sense of humour, infinitely charming narrative and incredible ending Little Inferno is at least a great experience.
Underneath the creepy exterior lies a heart of gold that you will want to burn.