11 February 2013

Little Inferno Review

Congratulations on your new Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace! Throw your toys into your fire, and play with them as they burn. Stay warm in there. It's getting cold outside! Burn flaming logs, screaming robots, credit cards, batteries, exploding fish, unstable nuclear devices, and tiny galaxies. 
Little Inferno was released in 2012 by Tomorrow Corporation, an indie game developer who also released a game called World of Goo. It is advertised as "100% indie, made by 3 guys, no office, no publishers, no funding". It is available for Windows or Wii either through SteamTomorrow CorporationNintendo, or in the iPad App Store. It's considered a sandbox game, meaning players can freely roam through it. However, that only happens during end game. It's a unique puzzle game that is widely considered a satire.

My initial impression of Little Inferno was that perhaps it was too dark for me. The images of children and burning cute stuffed animals did not make me want to buy it. However, it somehow ended up on my wishlist and the concept of burning things for fun got stuck in my imagination. A few weeks later, I found myself getting it on an impulse buy in the early hours of the morning. I don't know, I like to burn things.

At first it was exactly as I expected from watching a few of the trailers. I was actually very gleeful earning coins and stamps by burning my toys so that I can purchase more toys... to burn. Soon I discovered that I could get bonuses for discovering "special" combinations of toys to burn. It's really very mesmerizing, I barely even noticed the little notes arriving from my character's neighbor. She'd even send me toys or ask for me to send her toys. Little did I know, this was an integral part of the plot. I was sent warnings not to burn my toys too quickly... that all good things come to an end, but I did not heed them; in fact, I burned them. After burning through toys and stamps and coins galore, the story took an abrupt and dark turn.

It is important to note the magnificent quality of the game itself. The artwork, akin to the style of Jhonen Vasquez, was appealing and set a sinister (yet oddly playful) tone for the game. I should also mention that the soundtrack, which can be downloaded for free here, is impeccable and haunting. There is an overall sense of foreboding that is woven into the game, but the player is too immersed in the addicting puzzles and mysteries of the Little Inferno to care. Inevitably, the game does come to an end, with a tongue-in-cheek message that will leave the player scratching their head and asking themselves... "Was I just insulted?" Right before they click "New Game" to play again.

My only critique of Little Inferno is that the meta message embedded in the plot overshadows some of the most entertaining elements of the game. On some message boards, gamers ask if Little Inferno is worth shelling out the $10. To some I would say, probably not. Only because there is roughly 2 - 4 hours gameplay for the whole game. I would suggest catching it on a sale, like the Steam holiday sale bumping it down by a very reasonable 33%. I wish that the game had two modes, a "story" mode and a "game" mode. This way, after players go through the story, they can come back and earn all of those meaningless tokens and toys. Of course, suggesting such a thing is against the very essence of the plot. However, if you're like me and you have the urge to burn, go ahead and purchase it at full price. I really was not disappointed and I don't think anyone would be. 

I give this game 4 out of 5 broomsticks
(With hopes that perhaps there will be a "game" mode of it someday!)

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