Failing to fan the flames.
Christmas is fast approaching now and with it comes the harshness of Winter. Some countries experience the chill a lot more than others. Depending on where you live, Winter can just be a cloudy day, yet to others it can be frost clinging to your face as you wait for your bus. To escape those Winter blues, it would probably be best to stay inside where it is warm and cozy and settle down with a good game. That begs the question, though – what kind of video game can help you emulate the warmth you wish was wrapping around your body to keep out that cold chill? Little Inferno might be that distraction, though sadly you might find it over before you could finish your cup of tea.
Little Inferno is a bit of an odd title that is hard to define into a solid genre. It comes across as a puzzle based time waster almost bordering on a fire starter simulator. You as the player are always fixated on your fireplace, AKA your Little Inferno, and to stay warm you must burn things in that fire place. All ready burned all of your precious worldly possessions? Never fear, as Tomorrow Corporation are there to send you catalogs to order more items to burn. Other than the quick satisfaction of something smoking up and ceasing to exist, burning items gives you coins that can be used to…you guessed it, buy more things to burn. It ends up becoming a bit of a repetitive never ending cycle at first – buy, burn, and collect then rinse and repeat. This is somewhat rectified, however, by giving you another reason to burn these precious items in the form of unlocking combos. If you manage to burn certain items together, you will unlock a combo in your list. Achieving a certain amount can give you rewards such as tokens that reduce the cost of shipping your items to you as well as sending out new catalogs to you to buy more stuff. While the game insists that there are no high scores and no time limits, there is an end goal objective that isn’t shoved into your face. Complete the list of combos, and you will pretty much reach the end of the game – simple as that.
Attempting to even discuss the story is a little bit difficult, though. In this world, some unforeseen event has caused the outside to be trapped in a perpetual Winter, though no proper explanation for this is ever given. Climate change and pollution are tossed around as if that would distract us from this, but it still makes you wonder how exactly that made everything freeze as opposed to melt. With it being deathly cold outside, all of humanity has been reduced to holing themselves up in their homes and burning what little they own to stay warm. Wanting to make a profit from this, Tomorrow Corporation seems content to a let a bad situation get worse by funding your need for warmth. Other than that, we don’t get a real idea of how the rest of society is functioning, since the player never turns away from their fireplace. The only conversation we have is with our strange neighbour named Sugar Plumps and brief advertisements from the head of Tomorrow Corporation, Miss Nancy. Their letters will drop in from time to time with your mail to nudge the plot along and remind that, yes, this game does indeed have a story, even if you forget it’s there. It sadly doesn’t have that charm of being subtle, as it is barely referenced to the point of feeling it was only included to give the game a bit more longevity. The inclusion of the combo system also feels like it was another attempt to make the game last a bit longer, but it’s easy to say that you can certainly blast through this game with ease. The only thing making you wait longer would be the delivery time on your catalog items and watching everything you’ve bought slowly burn to ashes.
Usually with these short little games, there is something that at least makes it stand out, such as the art style or the soundtrack. It’s hard to judge either of these. The soundtrack isn’t very extensive, since you are mostly left with the ambiance of burning materials. You sometimes get little snippets of music when you open up your catalog or receive a new letter from your strange neighbor, but other than that, there isn’t a lot of variation in the soundtrack. The art style of the game is also a bit difficult to talk about. You are left staring at the titular Little Inferno for the majority of the game; all that can be said about it is that it…has a very cute smiley face engraved on it? Joking aside, the brief glimpses of the outside world highlight the peculiar art style that seems very reminiscent of Tim Burton. That would be because this game comes from the same people behind World of Goo, so that may be why the people look a little uncanny. While the fire does look lovely while it fills your screen and destroys everything you have purchased, it sadly doesn’t seem to linger for long enough, and before you know it, you are left with nothing but some ash and a spider crawling into your space, judging you silently. That is before you set that on fire as well.
Over all, Little Inferno is a basic puzzle time waster that you can literally burn through in, say, an hour. It is quirky and fun, but its mechanics can get old really fast. While some of the combos are fairly obvious by their name alone, it can sometimes get a little bit frustrating when several items share the same material they are made of, and, therefore, you waste a lot of your coins due to trial and error. We highly recommend, though, that if are feeling the chill of Winter, you do not burn your precious possessions. You will not be sent magic coins for doing so.