From one of the makers of World of Goo comes Little Inferno, a game about setting toys on fire just to watch them burn. As a new recipient of the Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace, along with Tomorrow Corporation’s plethora of catalogs, it’s up to you to stoke the flames. Whether it’s a pile of blocks or a gaming tablet, a fluffy bunny or a toy school bus, the final destination for all of your things is directly into the fireplace. It is there that they will burn, explode, freeze and rain. And when you’re all out of things to burn, with the fire slowly reducing your material possessions to ash, you buy some more toys to fuel the fire.
Almost the entire game is spent sitting in front of the fireplace. There are no alternate fireplaces. There are no fireplace expansions. There is no clear objective as to what burning all of your toys is meant to accomplish, aside from staying warm and passing the time. The only actions you have available to you are to upgrade the amount of things you can possess at one time, speed up the delivery of the things you order and unlock new catalogs, each featuring a new set of toys to burn. And, of course, the ability to throw these toys into the fireplace and set them on fire.
But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. This is merely a simple game about throwing things into a fireplace. No need to rush ahead of that. Like how Hydrophobia depicted realistic water collision, Little Inferno approaches its subject with much more consideration than you might expect. The fire, as it spreads from toy to toy, feels real. No two items necessarily burn the same. Toss bricks into the fire and they catch slowly, burn slowly. Toss some of the mail you’ve received and they’ll burn up quick, reduced to cinders in mere seconds.
This doesn’t take into account the various special items you can burn. Everything from mini-nukes to school buses to replica moons, complete with their own gravity fields, are available to you. There’s a fan that will blow out the fire. There’s a fan that will suck in the fire. Toss one on the left side of the fireplace, the other on the right side of the fireplace and you’ve got yourself a funnel of flame, coursing over everything in between. Not happy with how everything turned out? Accidentally froze your fire over? Drop in a mini-nuke and scour it clean with a single blast.
You won’t have all of these toys available to you at once. In order to access the catalogs you have to do two things. First, you must use all of the toys available to you in the current catalog. It’s a little forced, but I can see why that’s a requirement. It’s in this manner that you’ll know what happens with every toy when they burn. Secondly, you must achieve a certain amount of combos.
A combo in the case of Little Inferno is when you burn two or three like items based on a list of clues. The clues, and the solutions, are relatively simple. The only trick is digging through your growing library of toys to discover which toys are more applicable. Such as, one clue might call for a Sorority Party. Throw in the Low Self-Esteem Action Doll with the Balloons and you’re one step closer to unlocking the next catalog.
When you purchase an item from the catalog, it doesn’t immediately appear in your inventory. It takes time. The post office doesn’t react instantaneously, even in this world. Things may take anywhere from 20 seconds to several minutes to arrive at your doorstep. Don’t want to wait? Stamps are available to rush delivery, but they are not infinite. There will be times when the only way to proceed is waiting, sitting in front of the fireplace.
Somehow through all of this there is a story. There is a lengthy epilogue that provides a surprisingly satisfactory conclusion to the game. It’s the kind of ending that encourages you to look back at the few hours you spent in front of the Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace. It’s a strange sort of irony that asks you to question the lack of meaning in something meaningless, but give it time. Think about it some more and you might see how far the metaphor stretches.
And then, when you’re all done, what’s there left to do? There’s not much of a reason to play it after you’ve beaten it. Once you’ve set fire to all of the things, all that’s left is to fill out the checklist of combos. And once that’s done, there’s just the never changing fireplace and your catalogs of toys. They may burn brightly, explode in variable screams, changing the colors of the flames into something truly radiant. Then the flames die out, and there’s nothing left to do but buy more toys and set them on fire again. And again. And again.
Seven out of ten