Developer 2D Boy found great success with their first release, World of Goo. The game received high praise all around and won numerous awards. Their latest release, Little Inferno, may not turn quite as many heads, but it does give you an experience you’re not going to find in any other game.
The first that should be noted about Little Inferno is that it’s a bit of a stretch to call it a game. Yes, there are puzzles of sorts to solve and there is an ending to reach for, but Little Inferno feels more like a digital toy box than an actual game. The ‘gameplay’ consists of burning items to receive money to buy more items to burn; while the occasional narrative bits jump in while playing. There are a number of combos to find which involve burning certain items together. These combos are only hinted at by there names (early example: the combo “Spring Time” has you burn an alarm clock and a packet of flowers together.) While the premise of the game may seem boring to some, it’s the mixture of simplicity and 2D Boy‘s visual style that make Little Inferno something worth checking out.
The story behind Little Inferno introduces us to a world that is experiencing the start of some sort of ice age. It’s getting colder and nobody knows why. As society begins to decline, many people are left with no other option but to burn their belongings in order to stay alive. Rather than trying to find a solution, Tomorrow Corporation, uses this situation to market their latest children’s toy: The Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace. As the jingle says “The world is getting colder, but there’s no need for alarm. Just sit by your fire, burn all of your toys and stay warm.”
Playing with your new Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace is quite simple. By dragging items from your inventory at the bottom you can set up formations of different items to have them burn more effectively. Once you have your items set just click and hold anywhere in the fire place and set your toys ablaze. After each item is thoroughly burned you are awarded money to buy more from your catalogs as well as Tomorrow Tickets that help speed up the delivery process for your items. It’s this simple and basic gameplay that make Little Inferno easy for anyone to pick and and play.
2D Boy‘s art style is really only comparable to that of a disturbed child. While at times they can create nice colorful landscapes, it’s true character shows with it’s stark and gritty simplicity. It’s this style that creates a sort of feeling of ambivalence as these faces stare at you with a smile that is anything but genuine. This visual style also works well when it’s used in a game about setting things on fire. Other than a scene at the conclusion of the game, you spend the entire time staring at the fireplace, so Little Inferno is far from the varied sceneries from World of Goo. Instead, you get around 140 different items to play with, each having there own personality (Though you typically don’t get to see any of it until they are a few seconds away from being a pile of ash.)
The visual effects of the fire itself is something noteworthy. This is easily the biggest pull of the entire game. After you have set your items up, the only thing left for you to do is to burn them up. Once the fire catches, all you really need to do is sit back and watch. So many other games out there try to make realistic fire in their games and some do an admirable job, but I have yet to see a game that made fire that looks this realistic. It’s this focus on something as simple as realistic flame physics that make this game really worth playing around with.
Of course, the fire wouldn’t quite feel as real if it didn’t have proper audio effects. Fortunately, the crackle and seething of the fire matches almost perfectly to help further the realism of the fire. On the other end though, the sounds of the fire is really the high point of Little Inferno’s soundtrack. While playing with the fireplace, you have no music other than the muffled noises coming from outside of your house. The only times you get to hear any tunes are when reading mail or ordering new items from the catalogs. It is a shame, 2D Boy does have a good taste in music and the few songs that are in the game are decent (with the main menu screen music being really good in this writer’s opinion,) but they are just few and far between.
Overall, Little Inferno is a fun and often relaxing experience that only really suffers from a lack of content as well as motivation. The game is quite short and can be completed in under 3 hours. You can spend more time trying to find all of the combos but there isn’t really any payoff in doing so. The ending to the game is interesting but getting there does require a lot of repetitive gameplay. Having said that, anyone out there who may have been or still is a pyro should find this to be a nice and safe alternative.