Tomorrow Corporation, the creators of indie darling World of Goo are back with their sophomore effort Little Inferno, a game that is essentially unleashing the pyromaniac inside us all.
Wrapped around this pseudo puzzle game are remnants of a story that is subtle in execution, yet holds some strikingly symbolic resonance with the player. It is constantly snowing in the world of Little Inferno, so much so that the only way children can survive the harsh conditions is to use the official Little Inferno fireplace from the Tomorrow Corporation to keep warm. The fuel; crazy household objects and toys from the Tomorrow Corporation catalogue. It's obvious from the get go that something is terribly wrong, yet the game never quite reveals enough information to let you know exactly what.
The actual gameplay of Little Inferno isn't exactly complex. The player simply drags items from their inventory into the fireplace, and touches them to set them alight. The mechanic never evolves, it never grows, it never changes. In this respect, Little Inferno isn't exactly a game, but more of an interactive toy. Considering the subject of the title however, perhaps that is exactly what the developer was going for.
Where Little Inferno becomes interesting is via the multitude of combos that the player may discover by burning certain items together. Cryptic names such as "Dyno-Mite", "Someone Else's" and "Bear in a Chinashop" offer tiny clues as to which items are required, but mostly they can be found via trial and error. Burning items yields coins, which allows you to buy more stuff from the catalogues. Unlocking these combos grants you more stars, which allow you to unlock more catalogues for further items. It's an addictive process, and with 99 combos to discover, you can be sure you'll have 99 problems on your list.
The items themselves add a lot of charm to the world of Little Inferno. Ranging from Toy Pirates to Oil Barges, the moon and something called "Snake Surprise", there is always something exciting to burn into a neat pile of ashes.
Aside from the fact that Little Inferno doesn't feel like a "game", the only other criticisms that I can make are that it's over far too quickly. Any enterprising gamer could knock over all the combos in a couple of hours on a rainy afternoon, which also makes the game feel a little bare during longer play sessions. Something to keep in mind.
The visual style is unsurprisingly crisp and it looks fantastic on the Wii U GamePad or your PC screen. The controls are rather similar between both devices; everything is controlled by the mouse on the PC while a Wiimote or the touchscreen of the GamePad controls the action on the Wii U - no button required. The audio is sparse yet fits the 1950's theme of the game quite well. Overall, the presentation of Little Inferno is everything we have come to expect from the Tomorrow Corporation.
Little Inferno may not be a game per se, but it does provide an addictive, puzzling experience wrapped in a 1950's vibe that is completely adorable. Burning things has never been this fun, or cute, which is both a wondrous and potentially dangerous thing. If you're after a quirky puzzle game that can be played in short bursts, Little Inferno will fill that void nicely.