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As Hot as Ever - Little Inferno Review
I quickly fell in love with Little Inferno after first playing the game on Wii U back in 2012. When I head I would have a chance to revisit it on Switch in 2017, I was excited to see how the game had aged. I'll be very blunt and say that Little Inferno seems like it should be the most boring title ever released. But the game somehow manages to take a simple concept (burning things in a virtual fireplace) and turns it into a delightful and engaging expirience.
Platforms: Wii U, PC, Mobile, Switch [Reviewed]
Developer: Tomorrow Corporation
Release: March 16, 2017 (Switch)
Press copy provided by Tomorrow Corporation
The premise of Little Inferno isn't very complicated. You've just installed a Little Inferno Interactive Fireplace in your home and you are ready to start using it. Instructions to do this (and all communication with your character) are delivered via letters that are mysteriously delivered straight to your inventory. These messages come from a few different sources that indirectly reveal the "plot" of the game and the surrounding world. They also catch fire very easily.
Gameplay in Little Inferno is as simple as it gets, even satirically so. Starting with the first letter that you receive, you throw things into a fireplace and burn them. That's about all there is to it. When you burn something, it will magically release coins that can be collected and used to purchase more items from a catalog. When you purchase an item, it will ship to your house after a variable amount of time. When you burn something, you'll get more coins than you spent (the game even pokes fun at this fact). These coins can be used to burn even more cool items!
At this point in the review, you're probably asking yourself why you would ever pick up Little Inferno. Who would want to spend money on a game where the only thing to do is burn things in a virtual fireplace? The game itself poses this very question. But hear me out—there is something very special about Little Inferno.
First off, burning things is surprisingly satisfying. The audio and visual effects unique to each of the 120 items that you can purchase and burn are spot on and engaging. Each item reacts a little different to being set on fire and some even affect the physics of other items. You can burn a miniature moon that launches other items into orbit. What's more, if you burn certain items together you'll create a combo that will release extra coins and stamps that can be used to ship items instantly. There are 99 different combos to discover whose names each hint at 2 or 3 items to burn together.
Even without the oddly fun gameplay, Little Inferno offers something special. It somehow pulls you into the rather dark world of the game and establishes an emotional connection with the NPCs while at the same time calls into question why anyone would ever play the game or even do anything at all. The game makes you think about your actions in a serious way without sacrificing the light-hearted and comical nature of the game.
The Switch version of Little Inferno is almost identical to other versions on Wii U, PC, and Mobile with a few exceptions. Control options for the Switch are touch-screen in undocked modes or a single joycon oriented vertically. Both control options work as intended and with 2 joycon there is even a sort-of co-op mode, although it works identically to single player and the game clearly isn't designed with co-op in mind. Besides control options, nothing has changed in the Switch version. The game looks and runs beautifully on the Switch, but anything else would be unacceptable from a 5 year old port that is less than demanding in the power department.
It's hard to go into much detail about Little Inferno without detracting from the delightful expirience that it offers. It's a game that pokes fun at itself and game culture while offering fun (and never-before-seen) gameplay and an engaging environment. Although the game is probably priced a little high for its age and the 4 or 5 hours it will take to 100% complete, $9.99 is still less than the Wii U version and isn't completely far-fetched. Little Inferno holds up as one of my favorite indie expiriences. It's beautifully polished, thought-provoking, and simply fun. What more could you ask for?
- Surprisingly fun and simple gameplay
- Engaging and thought-provoking characters and environments
- Combos are sometimes tricky and fun to complete
- Visuals, audio, and performance are polished and sound
- Price is a little steep for age & length of the game
Excellent games have our official recommendation and our examples of what every game should strive to be. These games feature exciting gameplay, engaging stories (when applicable), intuitive controls and movement, polished and fitting presentations, and good value. Above all else, these games are truly fun to play.
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