Indie Quickie: Little Inferno

It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

LittleInferno_1

What is it? Billed as a satire, this is a puzzle game with passing story elements.

Who made it and where can you get it? Tomorrow Corporation has made the game available on Steam and the Wii U eShop for $9.99 as well as versions for the iOS App store which are a little cheaper. The PC/Mac/Linux version is currently on sale for just $4.99 as part of the Steam Summer Sale.

How much did we play? I played the game on Steam for about an hour. Based on the menus and tone of the game, it does not seem like there is more by way of modes to see. More content to be sure, but the basic idea of this game comes out in ten minutes.

Any technical concerns or hardware requirements you should know about? I did not play it on an iOS device but given that the interaction on the PC is holding the mouse button down and moving the cursor, there is no reason it would not work just fine on a tablet or smart phone.

LittleInferno_2

Why should you play it?

    • Laid Back Approach: The core mechanic and concept of the game is that players have purchased the Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace. While this may sound initially like a blockbuster platform for the latest in amusement delivery, it will at the end turn out to be nothing but a fireplace. The game consists of a screen-filling view of a five-side brick box connected to a primitive ventilation system, ideal for burning just about anything. Whether they be spiders that sometimes crawl into the fireplace, everyday household objects or the terms of service that come with the LIEF, all those who enjoy a toasty fire will toss things into the place where fire happens and then hold down the mouse button to start a fire. Theoretically this is supposed to be like holding down a match, but I’ve never seen a match that could light a metallic alarm clock on fire. (Maybe it’s a thermite matchstick, the documentation is woefully sparse on this front.) But realistic fires are not the point, in fact the game intentionally does not have much of one. There are no levels, score or time constraints to interrupt or judge your pyromania.

    • Light Puzzle Elements: As the game clock progresses various events in the form of incendiary notes appear at the bottom of the screen. These notes give some context to the fireplace, specifically there are people out there really having fun with their fireplace. Way more fun than one would expect given that it’s just a box to burn things in. With these players will soon learn that despite claim of having no goals, at some point someone at Tomorrow Corp. wanted to make a game and added some. Using coins earned by burning various items that appear on screen, a catalogue can be used to ship items to sear, char, and other thesaurus entries for “burn”. These things, when burned together, will solve certain problems which will net more coins. For example a television set and an ear of corn must be burned together to unlock the vague “Movie Night” problem. There are a lot of these combination-based puzzles which come from a successive series of catalogues. The prospect of new things to render to ash and the story notes in a bottle are the carrot. As mentioned above, there is no stick.

    • Art to burn: The concept of the game is well executed but it is the art style that makes it something people will want to play for more than ten seconds. After all “it’s a fireplace you burn things in” sounds like the worst game imaginable if one excludes ‘Empty Fish Tank: The Game’. The objects are all exaggerated so that they are clearly depicted, but there is no sense of scale. Jars of fireflies and school buses filled with, what one hopes are toy children are the same size in the fireplace. The few glimpses of portraits of human beings are deformed in a style that is similar to Edmund McMillen’s–large expressive eyes, forgetful bodies. The whole experience is accompanied by appropriately cheery fire sounds and a soundtrack inspired by 1950s commercials which is very similar to the “buying things menus” music present in The Sims games. It is just a fun-looking game, particularly in light of just how depraved and destructive the basic activity is: spending money on nice things solely to set them ablaze for a few seconds.

Parting Thoughts: I hate to use this sentence in the context of this game, but it is accurate: the humor in this game is a slow burn. The messages, which have to be burned to free up inventory space, are amusing enough and do poke a bit of fun at the idea of playing a simulation game where one basically stares at a screen and accomplishes goals with no inherent purpose. Little Inferno does not come out and say, “This whole thing is a gag, and you’re the punchline!” At least not in the first hour. A few messages tease that this game has an ending, but I do not know what that could be.

About the Author

Steve has been playing video games since the start of the 1980s. While the first video game system he played was his father's, an Atari 2600, he soon began saving allowances and working for extra money every summer to afford the latest in interactive entertainment. He is keenly aware of how much it stinks to spend good money on a bad game. It does things to a man. It makes stink way too much time into games like Karnov to justify the purchase.