In life we are given many lessons, one of the strongest is that you should never play with fire. Fire is dangerous, it is wild, it can hurt you and cost you more than some can even imagine. In life you should never play with fire, but in case you have an inner pyromaniac you might want to find a healthy way to set it free and Little Inferno is that perfect way. This game allows you to unleash your inner Firestarter and set a multitude of varying items alight as we see them burn then slowly turn to ash in the bottom of our fireplace.
On the whole this is essentially the premise of Little Inferno, at the lowest level this game is all about burning things, it is about buying things and setting them alight, then buying more things and setting that stuff alight. In a sense this is a tale of consumerism, about buying stuff you don’t need to burn them so you can get even more money to buy even more things and burn more things. Little Inferno is a desperate look at life held to a solemn tone of life of death, of the need to buy things, of the need to keep warm, all to the need to own things for the sake of owning things and then burning them. On the other side there is also a powerful message about global warming seen throughout the experience, as we hear about all the people burning things in their fireplaces, sending smoke up the chimney making it impossible for the sun to come through as the citizens of a small city deal with the cold by burning things to keep themselves warm.
It is strange with this game, the simple premise about burning things is just that simple, but yet just like our character in the game who’s eyes are drawn to the fire, mesmerized by the flames, lost in the silly simplicity, so to was I. Once you start playing the game it is hard to put it down, the simple side of burning things and watching the flames lap them up is obsessive almost captivating. It is not to say that towards the end I was actually still having fun, it was a case of the obsessive nature of the game truly lost me its world even if I did want to look away.
This game is played entirely with touch controls either by the use of a stylus if you are playing this on certain mobile devices or on the Wii U Gamepad (the stylus is the preferred method of play), you can also just use your finger as certain devices will only work with this method (finger usage is the least preferred method). Touching the screen creates a flame as long as you are touching the fireplace which you can use to burn things, admittedly this idea works quite well and is extremely responsive, this is also how you do everything else from choosing toys to buy, to placing things in the fireplace works this way and really well.
Looking at Little Inferno in gameplay terms you simply work your way through a series of toy catalogs burning things as you go along, all so you can buy more from the varying varieties of items available for you to buy. The toys available to buy have a strong variety, from simple wooden blocks, to electronic games, to plush dolls, to an old lady (yes you can burn an old lady plushie), to just about anything you can likely think of. The variety available in this game is impressive, however some items did feel like they were there just to fill space and did not provide any actual important usage for the game as a whole.
Collecting random toys from the catalogs has its value, and throwing them all into the fireplace to watch them burn brings enjoyment and the previously mentioned obsession, but this excitement is short lived. The only part of the game that seems to last long and not burn up quickly is the way in which you unlock catalogs, as well as the constant cash flow which can be spent to buy more toys in which to burn, as well as buying upgrades to the amount of items you can have available in front of you at any time.
Every item takes a certain amount of time to arrive just with standard parcel delivery, and as you progress more items will become available each taking more time to arrive then the previous parcel. Cheap items to burn can take a matter of seconds to arrive, whereas more expensive items will take much longer to arrive, often a number of minutes. The second long deliveries are fine, and I had the patience to wait, but when I needed bigger items they never came fast enough, thankfully developer The Tomorrow Corporation did add a way to speed up delivery, you can spend tomorrow stamps to get items to arrive at that moment which certainly speed things up in a monotonous process.
Tomorrow stamps are earned by completing special combinations, while burning items you can occasionally stumble across two items that when burned together create a special combination, in some cases these can be references to real world events, literature, some are even almost cryptic. It takes a lot of experimenting and brain work to solve the puzzle behind each combination, though are a small selection that literally tell you the answer such as the bike pirate, which tasks you with burning the toy pirate with the wooden bicycle, this combination along with the other available reward you with these tomorrow stamps along with some bonus money which is never a bad thing. In total there is 99 optional combinations to perform each pushing your memory and brain power to the edge.
These combinations are slowly unlocked as more toys become available, so at the start you will only be able to perform a small selection from what you can get from the first catalog, most of which only require two items. Later combinations get even more tricky when you have to burn three items but still are just as tricky, it is nice though that you never get told about more combinations then what are available with the catalogs you have at the time. Sadly for actual game elements this about the extent of what Little Inferno offers.
There is a decent amount of humor that stems from this game, some is a bit over the top and adult but in other places there is also a strong amount of clean humor all discovered through the items you burn. The game provides a certain compulsion to burn everything, and in part this is simply to see what wacky and sometimes over the top animation plays when things are burned, this compulsion makes it easy to be glued to the screen for many hours, unfortunately the fun does die off rather quickly. Just as the game is about burning things, Little Inferno burns up itself a bit to quickly as it really notable just how fast this game turns to ash.
Reviewed on Wii U