“Your Little Inferno is not like other games… There are no points. There is no score. You are not being timed. Just make a nice fire… and stay warm in the glow of your high definition entertainment product.”
Such explanation, as provided in a letter sent to you by in-game character Miss Nancy, is perhaps the most accurate description of Little Inferno, a launch title for the Nintendo eShop on Wii U.
This is the latest from Tomorrow Corporation, the designers of the much-plauded World of Goo and Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure. On the surface, it’s a game in which you buy junk from assorted catalogues and bask in the glorified opportunity to incinerate it at will. Yet this masks darker undertones, satirical jibes at corporate consumerism and compulsive purchasing that so readily occupy our daily lives.
Perusing available catalogues, ordering items, awaiting their arrival and then immediately burning them is the game’s immediate pull, and once you find yourself drawn in it all becomes worryingly enamouring. Items reduced to ash or cinder reward you with further coins to spend, and stamps that allow you to expedite delivery of items.
Progression requires the player to not only destroy all items currently available to them but to also complete hidden combinations. It’s the game’s equivalent to solving riddles, the clues provided by short combo names that hint at which items must be burnt together. For example, early combos include ‘Springtime,’ which requires the player to burn the Alarm Clock and Instant Seed Packet together, and ‘Movie Night,’ for which the Television and Corn on the Cob are needed.
Successful completion of these soon rewards you with new catalogues, in turn granting access to increasingly inventive items. Miniature planets that provide a gravitational pull, Freeze Bombs and Unstable Ordinance that obliterates your fireplace into smithereens, are but a few examples.
Such devastating items showcase the game’s astoundingly realistic physics, as well as the illustrious beauty of the fiery visuals, each proving a stark contrast to the otherwise cartoonistic appeal and chirpy 1950s soundtrack that accompanies it.
Your time with the game feels more personable through letters that you receive from your neighbour Sugar Plumps, as well as The Weather Man, who notifies you of the cold, harsh conditions that keep you firmly sat in the glowing embrace of your Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace.
Sadly the entire experience will only last you four hours, approximately. This will, therefore, place hesitancy over the game’s £12.99 (€14.99) price, and it is here that my opinion becomes divided.
On the one hand, you have an exquisitely crafted experience that is poignant, evocative and genuinely moving at its conclusion, which proves well worth the price of admission. Yet, at such a cost, you would perhaps expect it to last far longer, and once you’ve completed all 99 combinations little replay value remains.
In Little Inferno, we encounter a truly heartwarming tale, and in Tomorrow Corporation we can be thankful for delivering an unforgettable experience so early on in the Wii U’s life cycle.