Little Inferno is a strange little title all about purchasing things only to watch them burn. Being face-to-face with your own fireplace for the majority of the game is surprisingly engaging. It is an interesting take on fireplace simulators and, with the option to interact, satisfies the inner arsonist inside all of us. I’m not alone in that, right? The reviews of this game are all over the place, probably because it can’t escape the guise of “experience,” a descriptor that excites some and causes others to steer clear.
You are an unnamed young man who stays inside, like everyone else, because the alternative is heading out into an unending, relentless winter. The Tomorrow Corporation has just installed your very own Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace, the fad all around town perhaps contributing to the ever-black sky. Any and all other plot is revealed in letters from other people in town, all of whom are clearly missing screws in one way or another. All that exposition aside, you’ve got scorching to do! But what to burn? Thankfully, you have an array of catalogues from which you can buy tinder. By tinder I mean toys, electronics, books, robots, credit cards, celestial bodies, and much more. After making a purchase from one of the many themed catalogues, a package icon shows up on the bottom screen with a timer indicating the time until arrival. Once your items ship, you can stack them in the fireplace, touch them (on the touch screen of your choosing), and watch them burn. Each object is animated and has its own way of flaming, sometimes causing quite a ruckus before reverting to ash. Each thing you burn drops more money than you spent on buying it so that your shopaholic/arsonist tendencies can continue.
As you burn through items, you unlock more and more catalogues from which to continue this insanity. Special item combinations, hinted at in an achievement-like menu, will cause special effects on-screen and are necessary to progress in the game. Figuring out and burning these combos, along with unlocking more and more things to burn, is the crux of the game. This is simple tap-and-watch gameplay, but there is something that becomes addictive about doing so. I found discovering the correct combinations the most rewarding part of the game even though many are easy to narrow down. Waiting for packages, something you can only circumvent with the few stamps you’ll earn throughout the game, feels like a chore at times; the further I got into the game, the longer I would need to wait for high-priced items. I was compelled however to continue doing what would seem to some as a mundane task. In order to understand what the hell was going on, I needed to continue. At times, I came to desperately anticipate the next letter from someone outside my flaming microcosmic world.
The animation in the game provides is uneasy, as if something disturbing is about to happen, especially when lifelike dolls and other purchases screech and hiss in the flames. The sound design in the game put the tone in the same uneasy place, with the fire crackling gently or roaring. This all at odds with the overly happy catalogue music. What I’m not exactly sure about is the game’s message which ultimately left me confused, yet, at the same time, not saying much has left an imprint of the game in my head, as if there might be something left to discover in the fireplace-filled world of Little Inferno.
I was surprised by how much I wanted to complete a game wherein tapping on the screen and watching virtual fire is nearly all there is to do. It is difficult to recommend because as much as I liked playing, if it is a puzzle game, there is little to be puzzled about. In addition, it asks for too much patience between packages and, in that time, there will be no fire to watch nor anything to do. Little Inferno is a neat, creative, beautifully animated little game, but you’ll probably have more fun in front of a real fire, toasting marshmallows.
Vinny Orsillo | @VinnyOhGames