by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
Playing with Fire
There is something fascinating about fire, but of course, from an early age we were told never to play with it. But what if when we were kids, there was a toy which let us play with fire to our heart’s content? That is exactly what the Little Inferno Fireplace allows you to do. Not only is it fun, but in the context of the setting, also necessary. It has been snowing for as long as anyone can remember, and seeing the sun is one of the rarest treats in the world. So, to keep warm, kids have to burn their toys in the fireplace, and when they run out, order some more from the mysterious Tomorrow Corporation. Little Inferno is the new game from the creators of World of Goo and Henry Hatsworth, and while mostly cute, quirky and fun, there is an unsaid darkness lurking just beneath the surface.
In terms of the gameplay, it could not be simpler. You fling toys into the fireplace, and you can click and drag to create fire to burn them. When everything has turned to ash, you open up a catalogue (which has some excellent shop music), and order some new products. Each toy you burn spits out more money from the fireplace than its initial cost, so it is very rare not to be able to afford something you want. It might not sound like much of a challenge, but the crux of the game is finding out the amusing things that each Tomorrow Corporation product does when it is set aflame. An early example is corn on the cob, which of course creates popcorn when subjected to heat.
This also provides an early example of the hundred combos in Little Inferno, which are unlocked by burning specific items together. Putting some corn on the cob and a television into the fireplace and setting them alight unlocks the ‘Movie Night’ combo. You can view the names of the available combos from a list (again with some really fitting music), but it is up to you to figure out which combinations of toys are correct. Some of them are quite straightforward, but some require a bit more thought, and sometimes a bit of luck. What about the Sorority Party combo? Surely this Low Self-Esteem Action Doll is involved somehow, but what could she be combined with? The possibilities propel the game forward.
Progression comes in the form of unlocking new toy catalogues. Firstly, you need to have bought and burned all of the toys from the previous catalogue, and found a certain number of combos before the next one becomes available for purchase. Once you buy yourself a gift, it takes a certain amount of time for the mailman to deliver it. Finding combos unlocks special delivery tokens which, when used, mean your order arrives almost instantly. This is useful for when you need a quick item to add to a combo, or if you simply do not want to wait for ages, as the delivery times are longer on items from the later catalogues. At times you are left waiting around with nothing happening.
Imaginative and amusing toys. Good fun to play around with the flames and ashes.
Limited in terms of gameplay mechanics. Story is over in a few hours.