If you’d had given the pitch of a game where you can set things on fire, watch as items burn slowly and give coins after they demise, to a boardroom ten years ago, the executives in there would laugh you out of the room, claiming you were crazy and that it’d never make any money in a million years. Little Inferno is just that, but has been released in a time where it can be truly appreciated with the current indie renaissance. It’s a premise so crazy, you’d be surprised that Tomorrow Corporation could even make a game out of it, yet alone one with an intriguing and cute story.
You start off as the game means to go on: in front of a fire place called little inferno, sold to you by the Tomorrow Corporation (an in-game company that makes products of all shapes and sizes). Using coins collected from burning items, you can in turn buy more lavish items, creating different effects every time. It’s a perfect feedback system, which doesn’t require much thinking on the users part: you just spend the money, and watch the new animation/flame dynamic take place.
There is a story and a point to all of this burning though, which will become apparent the more you progress through the game. The world is freezing, with a Winter that hasn’t ended for years, and with no sight of it ending, everyone stays at home burning precious items to keep themselves warm. Notes will be delivered every now and then, giving context to whats happening in the outside world at that given time to ensure you remember there is a world beyond the fireplace. The notes are only a one way dialogue though, as you never get a chance to respond or reply, with your only feedback being to burn the letter itself, so expect quite a few jokes and childishness throughout this pleasant story.
For a game based around burning house hold items, oh boy do they make the burning a joy to behold. The game could have been sold as a virtual screensaver years ago, with flames dynamically dancing across items in realtime, giving a different effect every time, leaving you with nothing but charred remains of what used to be a usable item.
The real beauty is in how Little Inferno manages to keep the game engaging after 4 hours of a main story. The answer is Items. Yes, all the items you can buy are all unique in their ability to burn. Some will statically burn, causing your flames to increase in size, whilst others will grasp for your attention, screaming dolls or coffee will always make me chuckle, but items that make your flames change colour or extinguish them altogether are certainly noteworthy.
The game gives variety in how you play it by challenging you to find different combinations of objects to burn together, with hilarious consequences in most cases. Burn someone else’s credit card along with someone else’s family portrait and you’ll get the someone else’s combo. Get more of these combos to unlock more books and in turn, more items to burn. It’s a never ending cycle, one that could have been easily monetised like most games these days with a simple game mechanic, but I’m thankful Tomorrow Corporation haven’t. Burning combos also gives you stamps, which you can use to get instant delivery of the items you’ve just bought. This gives you an incentive to continue with your hunt for the combo’s, as it helps the speed at which you can progress in the main campaign.
Little inferno kept me hooked for hours, pushing me to ignore everyone and everything around me, instead focussing on burning as much as possible. In that sense, it made me a pyromaniac in the short time I invested into it. I wanted more, and even when I had burnt everything in the game, I would still go back in just to burn some more marshmallows or coffee (seriously, it’s hilarious to see them scream). I showed friends and family how cool I thought Little Inferno was, but unfortunately, it hasn’t caught on. This may be because it has a price tag, and although the gameplay accommodates and mimics free to play stereotypes, the price tag puts off a lot of potential customers. I respect Tomorrow Corporation for sticking to their guns and keeping the game focused with a traditional piecing model, but at the same time they may have shot themselves in the foot in doing so.
I applaud anyone who goes out of their way to purchase little inferno. It’s pitch sounds ridiculous, and insane, and would have been laughed at by anyone in any business. But in todays market of casual and indie games with laser tight focus, Little Inferno strives with it’s hilarious and witty humour, along with addictive gameplay.