System(s): Windows (Also Wii U)
Release Date: November 18, 2012
Publisher (Developer): Tomorow Corporation
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for Drug reference and Crude humor
Little Inferno is a hard game to describe. There’s not one genre you can stuff this game in other than the cover-all ″indie″ label that small-company experimental games are assigned, and that label alone isn’t very helpful. The best way to describe Little Inferno is an interactive Yule Log simulator with a storyline.
This quirky game comes from the minds of developer Tomorrow Corporation. A small outfit of former EA employees that jumped ship to make games like Little Inferno. Notable names in Tomorrow Corporation include Kyle Gabler (World of Goo) and Kyle Grey (Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure)
You play as the new owner of a Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace, trying to keep warm in a city in a state of endless snowfall. The basic gist of the gameplay is to burn things to earn money, which can be spent on buying more things to burn from Tomorrow Corp Catalogs.
Progression through Little Inferno is measured in two forms: catalogs and letters. There are six catalogs full of stuff to burn, and you progress through the game by burning everything in each catalog. There is a lot of stuff to toss in the fireplace, ranging from defective toys, flaming chainsaws, leprous leprechauns, and other landfill fodder that keeps the fire going. Some of them have some obvious properties: batteries and fireworks explode as they should, anything made out of wood slowly burn into cinders. While others have very unexpected reactions.
I won’t spoil anything here, but I will say that a couple of the food-related items shocked me when I set them aflame. There’s a set delivery time for each object, ranging from 10 seconds to five minutes, which slow Little Inferno down and keep players from finishing all the catalogs one sitting. Players also need to discover a certain amount of combos before being able to buy the next catalog. Combos are combinations of 2-3 items you burn together to get stamps, which are used to expedite the delivery of your items. People get a list with the names of different combos, which are either very easy to figure out (The Bicycle Pirate combo is where a pirate and a wooden bicycle and a pirate doll are burned together) or really really obscure (Meta Combo, which I still haven′t figured out)
There is also a story that takes the form of letters that appear in the inventory in seemingly random intervals. You receive letters from only three people in the game, Miss Nancy, a representative of Tomorrow Corp that mysteriously hints at the game’s ″end″, the weatherman, who reports on the weather outside from a helicopter (snow) and Sugar Lumps, a hyperactive little girl who gives you presents and drops vague hints of her story through the game. Considering that Miss Nancy exists as a corporate entity, and the weatherman is just doing his job, Sugar Lumps is the closest thing to a friend in this lonely game. Sometimes you have to buy Sugar Lumps a certain item. While it might seem like a pointless endeavor at first glance, but after a while you realize that it’s the only part of this game where you have to buy something that you don’t burn.
The Grand Experiment
Little Inferno is the kind of game that big name developers would shy away from. It’s the kind of stuff that you wouldn’t think would be marketable because of how absurd the concept is, but it works. Everything from the letters to the catalogs, develop an entire world, cast of characters, and story without ever turning away from the fireplace.
It almost feels that the gameplay was meant to be monotonous on purpose, in order to highlight the smaller things that are normally skipped by your average gamer. When I play games, I tend to skip through story-lines and dialog so I can blow stuff up, but that’s not so with Little Inferno. In this game, exposition and dialog are the only light in this lonely game.
For example, each letter is followed by it’s own theme music that lingers after it’s read, fading away like a flame, until it disappears completely, leaving you alone in silence once more. It’s these fleeting moments that make Little Inferno unique. The lack of gameplay elements create an atmosphere where anything, a written letter, a photo of a friend, or an unexpected explosion, pop out.
That being said, Little Inferno is not for the impatient, or the easily bored. Setting things on fire is fun, but four hours of burning, buying, and waiting can wear down someone who’s not completely invested in this game. The pace slows down as you get to the later catalogs, with wait times for packages lasting as long as five minutes. At one point, I was dragging the ash from the last fire across my fireplace out of nothing better to do. If you’re used to games throwing all sorts of stuff at you at all times, you may want to look elsewhere.
A Heartwarming Fire
What makes Little Inferno unique is not necessarily its gameplay, but the experience it provides. There’s a surprising amount of emotion in this simple game, but like a story told on more traditional mediums, those emotions are grown over time. There is little instant gratification in this game, but if you stay in for for the long run, you’ll find the ending to be immensely satisfying.
Site [Little Inferno]