Fire is an element that many of us can identify with: it looks beautiful, its powerful, you’ve probably burned something with it, and it has different meanings. Let’s face it, there is something mesmerizing about watching flames burn, whatever they’re touching.
Fire in gaming is no different, we’ve seen it used in various ways, but what about a game where all you do is burn things – cute things, for that matter. This is exactly what Little Inferno is like. Granted, burning things can be fun at first, but in a game where all you do is burn things for the sake of burning things, Little Inferno leaves a little to be desired.
Little Inferno was created by some of the staff behind the popular indie title World of Goo, but unlike World of Goo, Little Inferno grants gamers the ability to sit in front of a fireplace and burn different kinds of items until they are nothing but ashes.
These burnt items give you money which you can then spend on new items that become available to you as you buy more items. That’s Little Inferno. Buy something, burn it, get money for burning it, buy something else, burn that, too.
If that sounds like a stale experience, that is because it is. Don’t get me wrong, burning clocks, TVs, and other cool toys can feel empowering. Watching the flames you control consume whatever they come in contact with can be fun at first, but at one point, burning objects over and over again becomes a chore.
When I first sat down to review this game, I didn’t know what it was about, I didn’t know what I would be doing, I didn’t even know what genre this game falls on – I still don’t. I wasn’t expecting a game made for pyromaniacs, though. Okay, maybe that is a little harsh, but at first, the game seems to speak to you inner pyromaniac in one way or another. Even the cute little notes you get sound a bit creepy.
Pyromaniacs aside, once you burn a few items or buy everything in the first catalog, you’ll discover one important component of Little Inferno: the combo system. Turns out, Little Inferno is a puzzle game of sorts.
Revived by the combo system, Little Inferno becomes a little entertaining again. Suddenly you have a game that asks you to decipher some rather easy phrases by burning two or more items at once. As you discover combos, you are given access to more catalogs which contain, yup, you guessed it, more stuff for you buy and burn. In turn, you also unlock more combos. This gives the game direction and it also gives the gamer a reason to keep burning things.
Sadly, the little combo phrases are not that difficult, so solving these “puzzles” can become yet another chore instead of a gratifying game mechanic. Some can be gratifying, though. Not all phrases are easy, but you could finish this game pretty fast if you don’t get bored after burning through your first catalog.
Another thing that cripples Little Inferno’s gameplay is money and the delivery system. Money in Little Inferno is redundant and so is the delay caused by the delivery system. You see, when you burn items, you get most of your money back, so why have that system at all when you are almost guaranteed that you will have enough money to buy what you need?
The delivery system is also pointless. Once you order an item, you’ll have to wait for it to arrive. You can skip that by using stamps which you get by doing combos and burning things, but it isn’t practical – or fun.
Little Inferno has one more little incentive up its sleeve, though: story. It isn’t a big elaborate story, though, but it does keep you guessing about what will happen at the end of the game (or if the game actually has an end?). Which ever the case may be, this gives the game a sense of intrigue and crypticness that lures gamers into thinking that perhaps, just perhaps, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Without spoiling anything, there is nothing special to look forward to when the credits roll. The trek was intriguing, but not very fun. By the time you get to the end, you’ll probably be burnt out (all puns intended!) on Little Inferno.
Little Inferno has an interesting direction. At first, burning things can be quite rewarding, buying things and combining them to make huge fires can be fun, and discovering new combos can give you a sense of accomplishment. At the end of the day, however, Little Inferno’s gameplay get’s boring, the story is an afterthought, the special feeling of burning things dies fairly quickly, and the puzzle mechanics don’t hold up a candle to other puzzle games.