Little Inferno is a wondrously diverting little game that was released in 2012 from the Independent game developer The Tomorrow Corporation. Little inferno is a puzzle based video game that has received a lot of attention because of its simple yet addictive game mechanic as well as it’s delightfully satirical message. The game was developed by Kyle Gray (Who worked on Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventures), Kyle Gabler and Allan Blomquist (who worked on world of Goo, you can really see the similarities in artwork once you know).
Apparently Little Inferno was inspired by the Yule Log, a television program which consisted of a 17 second loop of a burning log. Despite this uninspiring inspiration the game took a mundane and repetitive task and made it enjoyable.
The soundtrack was created from scratch for the game, and according the Gabler who wrote the score, he drew inspiration from the works of John Williams, Danny Elfman and Vangelis. The most prominent song in the game and one which has the insipid quality of getting stuck in your head for days is the titular song ‘Little Inferno, just for me’ as well as being good it fits with the premise of the game because it’s a jingle and if anything fits with the message of capitalism and consumerism shown in the game it’s a cheery little jingle. It’s even used in-game to advertise the games premise as well as the fictional product which is the focus of the game: The Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace.
The game is something of a catch 22, the creator Kyle Gray says that the message behind the game was about not wasting your life and yet its central mechanic appeals to the same nature that the game pokes fun at and compels you to keep playing.
I first played this game a few days after it was made available on steam and it really holds you captive until the end. It’s not a long game, you can complete it in a few hours but I’d left it pretty late to play because I had a crappy computer at the time and it took several hours just to install the game. So instead of preparing for my college interview the following morning and perhaps getting a good night’s rest I spent the night burning things. I believe I completed the game around five in the morning, as the light started to break, and despite turning up to my interview later that day exhausted and existentially challenged by the simple and yet complex message of Little Inferno I evidentially impressed someone because I got onto that course. I’m not trying to say that Little Inferno was the reason for that but I do want to impart to you that the game was so enjoyable that I put aside common sense and played it all through the night even though I had something vitally important to do the next morning. I needed to see the end and that’s Little Inferno’s charm, sure it doesn’t have a buttload of features and the gameplay is simplistic but you know its building to something and after playing with it for a while you become committed to finishing it up and getting to the ending. Especially since the game is primarily about grinding and repetition, you feel you’ve earned it because of the effort and time you’ve poured into it.
The gameplay is simple but also very original, how many other games can you say are driven by burning things? In fact we spend the bulk of the game in front of a brick fireplace (A Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace made by the Tomorrow Corporation) just setting things ablaze. However we do get an explanation for that, we burn things to keep warm because the world of Little Inferno is in the grips of some unending winter. In the game we are like the rest of the masses locked indoors and dependant on the products of the Tomorrow Corporation. The objects themselves release money which can be used to buy more flammable objects from mail order catalogues.
While the game is mindless in its repetition there are elements which add complexities to the gameplay, many of the burnable objects have unique effects; for example some of the objects have a gravitational pull effect and some explode when put in the flames. There also exists combo items which have special effects when put in the flames together, in fact one of the main aims of the game is to try and complete all of the available combos.
A lot of people thought that the story was about global warming and its easy to see why, a resource rich society and a planet nearly destroyed by a decline in temperature, people trapped in homes burning things for fuel which only releases smoke into the atmosphere which exacerbates the problem. That’s not true as I’ve touched on above but the story itself is impressive because it isn’t thrown at you, it’s fed to you slowly through letter’s you receive from NPC’S. Most of the letter’s you receive are from your next door neighbour Sugar Pumps who also has a little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace. She is for the most part very happy and excitable but becomes a little darker as you progress.
You also receive letters from the weather man who is floating in a weather balloon above the city of Burnington and reports on major events as they happen.
Little Inferno won the Technical Excellence Award at the Independent Games Festival in 2013 and that’s no surprise as it’s a technically excellent game, simplistic but with wonderful art and a delightfully sugary soundtrack.
I would suggest that you play this game because I assure you that burning things has never been more fun and you’ll come away with an appreciation for how a simple story and mechanic can make an impressive experience.