Little Inferno is a game about burning things. You buy various little things from a catalog, things like pictures, magnets, batteries, dolls, and a horde of other frequently bizarre objects. The items arrive, and then you throw them into your Little Inferno furnace. Next, you lay down a line of fire with your finger, and watch ’em burn. This is a game someone actually made.
To be more precise, it’s the follow-up to the wonderful World of Goo. Little Inferno basically takes place in the same depressing world overrun by pollution and corporate corruption. In this case, the city the player resides in is so cold because of pollution that the number one product ever is the Little Inferno furnace from the Tomorrow Corporation. It’s dystopia told with bizarre cuteness and glee, and in a lot ways, it’s absolutely brilliant.
At first, there seems to be nothing else to the game at all, besides all this pyromania. Then you start getting crazy letters from other furnace lovers, and eventually the plot (such as it is) starts to thicken. Amidst all the burning of objects, there’s a modern parable about society and video games, but beyond that, there’s a sort of puzzle game here as well. The core of the game play is discovering all the burning combos. There are a ton of such combos that are performed by burning the right combination of items. Burn popcorn and a TV, for instance, for the movie night combo. The clever and frequently humorous combinations are fun to find, and require some trial and error to discover.
The more you burn, the more items become available in the catalogs. Burn all the items in one catalog and new catalogs arrive. Since burning things earns both money (coins) and stamps, there’s never any shortage of things to purchase and destroy. Items cost money and, once ordered, each item takes a certain amount of time to arrive. If you don’t want to wait, using a stamp makes the package arrive instantly. The whole shipping time element seems a bit arbitrary. It doesn’t add anything to the game play and sometimes you’re just waiting for things to arrive instead of actively doing anything.
￼Little Inferno is also notable because it first arrived on the Wii U and was one of the few truly worthwhile games on the system. We’ve played both, and can say that it feels more at home on the iPad. Concentrating on a single screen is just easier, but more importantly, the game looks better on an iPad than the Wii U controller. Either way, the touchscreen controls couldn’t be simpler– just drag your finger around inside the furnace and a trail of fire follows. It’s fun to flick burning items around (sometimes revealing more coins) and smash spiders that get into the furnace as well.
Skirting the line between crazy virtual toy and surprising puzzle game, Little Inferno won’t be a hit with everyone. It’s just too weird and the game play too simplistic– especially at first. For those who do get it, it’s a truly creative and engaging virtual fireplace. The developing plot is funny, creepy, and clever. There’s a lot of fun to be had finding strange combinations of things to burn, and the sheer variety of items available to burn is impressive. For those with a darker sense of humor who enjoy offbeat surprises, Little Inferno is a real treat.