When it is your job to write about video games, a lot of times there will be games that need to be reviewed that don’t exactly fit your play style. There will be games that you like, dislike, love, or hate. But as someone who plays, writes, and makes videos on video games, there exists a passion that drives all of these words to leave my fingertips. That passion is what drives GaminRealm, without it, none of us would be here. While there are plenty of new games being released, sometimes there is a game that really has an impact on me; one that I am truly passionate about; one that I believe more gamers need to try. Little Inferno is one of the games. While it is not a new game, it is a game that I believe deserves a second look and more recognition. With that, Let’s take a look back at Little Inferno.
Earlier this year whenever I went on the Nintendo Wii U eShop, I often found myself disappointed. There was no secret that the Wii U was having some serious droughts in its game releases; while the Wii U had been on the market for over a year, droughts were eternally plaguing the console as Mario Kart 8’s release was off, in what seemed like, the distant future. Finding a game on Wii U felt like trying to find water in a desert and while that may seem a little extreme, it was a fairly accurate comparison at the time. For starters, the big-named third party games were simply absent from the Wii U’s library, they still are. It also hurts that the huge first party games that Nintendo was working on, were trickling out with high viscosity. Excluding a few exceptional games, the virtual console library was and still is, quite barren. All that was left was the independently published games, or Indie games. Now I am not going to talk the Wii U Indie library, but at the time, it was extremely bare; I would be lying if I said otherwise. That being said, there were some really interesting gaming experiences available if you were willing to give them a shot. During that time, I decided to try out Little Inferno. Released in late 2012, Little Inferno is developed and published by Tomorrow Corporation, the creative minds behind the intuitive WiiWare game called “World of Goo”. Much like World of Goo, Little Inferno provided a spark for Nintendo’s indie game catalog.While Little Inferno’s story isn’t extremely deep or cinematic, it does things that other games simply don’t. The story, while simple, can be confusing for those that take it too seriously, there is a certainly level of understanding that is needed to appreciate what the game is about. Little Inferno is satirical and they don’t try to hide it, establishing this very early in the game when Tomorrow Corporation, a toy company in the game, shows the player a humorous music video/ instructional video on how to use the Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace. During the video (which is moderately disturbing thanks to the cutesy art style being paired with a semi-dark theme) the narrator explains that it has been snowing for years and nobody knows why. Since it is cold outside, the narrator instructs the player to just sit by the fire, burn all of the toys, and stay warm. Excluding the instructional video, the game’s story is told via letters that are delivered to the player’s object bar; these letters are sent by the owner of Tomorrow Corporation, a weatherman, and a bizarre next door neighbor. Essentially, this means that the story is given to the player in bits and pieces from different sources, which I find works really well for this kind of game. The writing styles of each sender are very distinct and each have a unique voice that makes every letter a joy to read. During the game I found it extremely impressive how the letters had the power to completely change the atmosphere of the game, my hat goes off to the writers at Tomorrow Corporation. The game’s story is taken in many different places emotionally, to an extent that I wasn’t sure if I should laugh, cry, or just sit there, disturbed and disoriented. I really appreciate how Tomorrow Corporation managed to channel and distribute these feelings to the player while managing to create a heartwarming story with such elegance and precision. The most important thing about any game is how it plays and Little Inferno plays good, real good. Little Inferno benefits heavily, from a gameplay standpoint, as it is very simple to understand; I believe that anyone would be able pick this game up and instantly know what to do. Essentially, the gameplay revolves around of burning toys and various objects inside of the Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace. Now it is understandable to make the assumption that this game is repetitive or that I am going to fault it for being so but that is simply not the case. The gameplay is somewhat repetitive but in this particular case it’s not a bad thing because the repetition is enjoyable; Little Inferno is also only around 5 hours long, so in most cases, the game will end long before the player can feel the receptiveness. What the player will feel in that duration, is straight up addiction. The gameplay is addicting and not only that, it is much more complex than it originally appears. Underneath all of the ash and suet lies the game’s true identity; Little Inferno is a puzzle game. What I referred to earlier is correct, the primary game mechanic is to burn objects but the sequence and reasoning behind that is where the complexity moves in. For starters items are not magically given to the player, they first must be unlocked. Unlocking the objects and toys is pretty easy, in the beginning of the game the player receives a catalog which is where all the items are found; when the player first starts a catalog, only the first few items will be unlocked but once the item is purchased, the one next to it will unlock. This process continues until everything is available in the catalog. The game is very generous when it comes to the in-game currency, the player will find that making coins is extremely easy. After purchasing items using the coins that have been obtained, the player simply burns the objects that were purchased and they will spit out more coins, while being eaten away by the flames; while that may seem a little too easy, it is a perfect fit for this game and eliminates any possibility of the player being hindered due the lack of funds. Once everything is unlocked, the game will show a new catalog but it says the player needs to find a certain number of combinations in order to purchase it; this is where the puzzle aspect comes in to play. The player has a special menu that displays a long list of combinations and it will give a visual cue to the ones that can be found with the currently unlocked items. Some of these combinations can be quite challenging but a good way the player can save some time is to make mental notes of what each item does while unlocking the catalog. The name of the combo is a useful hint but it won’t help for all of them if the player cannot remember what the items do. Some of the combo’s will be very easy to get, for an example; the “movie night” combo would be achieved by burning the television and Corn on the Cob. However, some of the combinations will be difficult and will lead to experimentation; sometimes the player will hit the nail on the head with a guess; other times the player can be so far off, that a completely different combination is achieved, triggering an oh so rewarding “I meant to do that” moment. Either way, finding combos is rewarding and addicting but just like any other puzzle game it will be frustrating for some. While looking for combos, experimenting is not going to always yield the desired results, so it will be back to purchasing items and having to wait for the shipping time for each. That is right; there are shipping times for each item that is purchased and while in the beginning of the game the time isn’t really noticeable, they start to feel really dragged out when looking for combos. Luckily, there are stamps that appear at random while burning the objects that speed up the delivery process, but it is a good idea to use them wisely because the further the player progresses into the new catalogs, the shipping time increases, some items can take up to two minutes which is certainly a slowdown. All-in-all, the shipping time really isn’t a huge flaw but it does feel like it was implemented to artificially extend the game. Even with the drawback of shipping times, which is a very miniscule gripe, the gameplay is unique and holds up extremely well for this five hour, or so, game.
Something that goes hand and hand with gameplay is controls and Little Inferno’s controls are excellent. The game has two control options with one being the Wii remote and the other being the gamepad. While I am sure the Wii remote works well, Little Inferno feels like it was built to be played using the gamepad’s touch screen. The touch controls just feel “right” and truly shows off the precision the Wii U’s resistive touch screen allows. While I am not usually a fan of touch controls, Tomorrow Corporation did it right; the controls make the gameplay more satisfying. Holding the stylus feels almost feels like holding a match, which gives the player the feeling of direct manipulation, this in return, boosts immersion.When it comes to visuals, it is important to keep in mind that Little Inferno is not a big budget game, so resources are limited. Little Inferno is not going to turn heads in terms of offering stunning graphics but it was never meant to and doesn’t need to; Little Inferno benefits from having a familiar art style, borrowing it seamlessly, from World of Goo. Even gamers that played World of Goo and stopped following Tomorrow Corporation afterwards will recognize it. The art style isn’t the only thing Little Inferno has going for it; Little Inferno has some of the best looking fire and fire physics in any game. Best looking is certainly debatable but having the best fire physics is not. When holding the flame near an object, the closest portion to the flame will begin to char. The fire reacts differently to each object, while a flammable objects, like a battery, will explode almost instantaneously, a large object, like a brick, will burn slowly before erupting into flames but even then it will take a while for it to break down. Watching the flames dance delicately around the fireplace while consuming and eradicating everything with a kiss of death, is mesmerizing.
Overall Little Inferno is a uniquely-creative experience that is a pleasure to play. While the asking price of ten bucks might be a little steep, I implore you to give it a chance. Little Inferno in many ways is what gaming is all about, and that of course is having fun. Sometimes gamers get so caught in technical specifications and other minor details that they forget the reason they started playing games to begin with; Little Inferno is a great reminder. While I wouldn’t call Little Inferno a “masterpiece”, it is certainly a game that I will never forget, and that is more important than any title or label I could give it.