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500-Word Indies

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Little Inferno - Windows, Wii U, iOS, MacOS, Linux (November 18, 2012)

by Sam Derboo - April 12, 2013

Title Screen

Little Inferno is the result of the creators of the acclaimed World of Goo teaming up with the director of Henry Hatsworth, and the game's aesthetics show a strong familiarity with the former. Yet it is a very different game - if it can even be called that.

Strictly speaking, it's simply a not-too ambitious physics toy, revolving all around burning stuff. The world in the game is frozen in perpetual winter, and thus all its inhabitants spend their days at home throwing all kinds of things into their Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace and incinerate them to kill time and keep themselves warm. And that's all the player does, with a very weird self-sustaining economy: Everything that's placed in the fireplace has to be bought first, burning it down by holding a mouse-click flame to it yields more money and the occasional instant-delivery coupon, enabling to buy more stuff at the store. In the unlikely event someone ever manages to run out of money this way, little spiders crawl the place, which burst into a coin when clicked at.

There is one puzzle mechanic to keep Little Inferno at least somewhat gamelike, and that are the Combos of two or more matching items burned together. They're all basically word riddles, because their trigger is hidden between more or less cryptic names like "Time Bomb" or "Easter Bunny." Triggering enough combos unlocks the next page in the catalog of things to buy and destroy. Some items yield special effects, and everything either behaves like one would expect or in some fantastic manner: There are multi-colored and pixellated flames, popcorn pops, blowtorches actually work, bombs explode, and some of the higher-tier items can even mess with gravity. Sometimes the items are rather adorable, and one would have to be quite cynical to not hesitate for a moment before letting someone's sad family photo, the cutest stuffed animals or a bug that's just hatching from its egg go up in flames - but in the end, one does it anyway. Buy and burn, buy and burn.

Occasionally the game does point out the vanity and the nihilism of it all in short animated scenes in a surprisingly grim manner, but most of the world building and the game's existentialist message comes through the mail "interactions" with the old lady who invented Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace, the weatherman with his bleak forecasts, and a little girl that's also sitting in front of her Little Inferno and somehow managed to get in contact with the player. She is somewhat deliberately annoying, but through light, child-like philosophical musings, the exchange of sometimes unique and personal items and a general good-heartedness, she should manage to win most people's hearts.

Little Inferno might seem like a pointless toy at first. In fact, the game itself states that "Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace was designed to not matter." All this, however, all the mindless burning and seemingly meaningless mail exchanges build up to a breathtaking finale. But is that worth ten bucks and three hours of mindless, unproductive pointing and clicking? Why yes, yes it is!


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Little Inferno (Windows)

Little Inferno (Windows)

Little Inferno (Windows)

Little Inferno (Windows)

Little Inferno (Windows)

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