Little Inferno’s gameplay is simple. You place items in a fireplace and set fire to them. On the face of it that really is all there is to it. Burning items gives you more money to buy more items in a virtuous circle.
And this circle is particularly virtuous in that when your combustibles are combusted they all give you back more money than they cost. This is a game that you literally cannot lose. You would be right to wonder at this point why you might want to play a game like that. We will come back to that in a little while after going into a little more detail about the gameplay.
All the items that you will be consigning to fiery oblivion are purchased from mail order catalogues. When you first get a catalogue only a few items can be purchased from it but buying those begins to unlock the rest. And so on.
Unlocking the next catalogue happens when you have bought at least one of every item in the previous catalogue and discovered a certain number of combos. A combo is burning two or more particular items in your Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace.
There are ninety nine combos to be discovered but you don’t have to rely on pure trial and error. They are all listed and the list tells you how many items make up each combo, while the combos name gives you a clue as to what those items are.
For example, the “Wake Up! Combo” consists of two items, those being the alarm clock and a cup of coffee. Some of the combo names are even more obvious, “Bike Pirate Combo”, while some will take a bit more thought, “Stop Drop & Roll Combo”.[drop]Unlocking new catalogues is not the only reward for finding combos, you will also get some stamps. What you can use stamps for is to speed up the delivery of the items you have ordered from the catalogues. And you will want to speed up the delivery of some items as the game makes you wait for them, with delivery taking between ten seconds and five minutes depending on the item.
If all the items themselves were inanimate objects that simply went up in flames it would be difficult to persevere with Little Inferno. Fortunately though a good degree of thought and humour, some of it surprisingly dark, has gone into the items’ behaviour when set alight.
A couple of examples. If your childhood was anything like mine you will be well aware of the varying reactions of aerosol cans and their contents to flame whether you are trying to remove a wasps nest or cause a loud bang. Both are present. If dark humour is more your thing then the toy bus, complete with driver and passengers, is an entertaining purchase. When set alight it drives across the fireplace, the passengers screaming in terror.
All of this can be controlled with either a Wiimote or by using the touchscreen on the GamePad, in which case you will not even need the TV on and this really is a game that suits the GamePad perfectly.[drop2]Time to revisit the earlier question of why play a game you cannot lose. In the case of Little Inferno it is all about the charming and thought-provoking story that unfolds while you play. The story is delivered via letters that you receive from the publisher of the catalogues, a little girl next door who is also enjoying her own Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace and occasionally other characters.
It is difficult to say more without starting to spoil the story and it is one, like Journey’s, that is at its best if you really have no idea about how it will develop beforehand. The story is the payback that makes working your way through the catalogue worthwhile. Little Inferno is a game that carries no baggage with it. There is no fluff, no filler. Everything feels very careful and deliberate.
That does however mean it is not a long game, rushing through for this review and finding about two thirds of the combos in the process took a little over four hours. That is not a bad thing but you need to factor that into your purchasing decision, especially when you see that the price on the Wii U’s eShop is £12.99.
The game’s style and presentation are delightful with one small niggle being a little slowdown at the height of some of the largest conflagrations. The resemblance to the art style of World of Goo is no coincidence as two of the three developers were behind that game. The more subtle palette of sepia tones and muted colours they have given Little Inferno works wonders for the game’s atmosphere.
- Charming style.
- Great storytelling.
- Affecting story.
- There is just something about burning stuff.
- Great for Gamepad-only play.
- Relatively short.
- Little incentive for a second play through.
- Price may put some people off.
This is a charming little game where the gameplay is almost incidental to the affecting story being told. If you are willing to take a chance on something a little bit different or simply enjoy watching stuff burn you are unlikely to be disappointed.
The game was reviewed from a promotional copy.