Little Inferno: Three-Hour Journo Test
Little Inferno is now obtainable on steam. You might want to keep that fact in mind (free tips brought to you by Tomorrow Corporation). It’s a short, charming game about burning things – all kinds of things, from toys and plushies and bricks to trophies and planets and chainsaws and squirrels. It’s made by the creators behind World Of Goo, and if anything’s certain, it’s that the artstyle, sense of humour and narrative methods have all carried over.
Little Inferno is a trifle of a game – it is very short, it is made as a mimicry of modern iOS games with their infinite unlock-by-money and wait-to-play mechanics. It has a list of catalogues containing stuff to burn, and you unlock said catalogues by burning stuff you have access to. You get money by burning stuff, and you spend slightly less money on buying more stuff to burn. While unlocking things, you get brief letters from your neighbour and the “Weather Man” telling you brief snippets about the world of Little Inferno. The meat of the game, however, is in the combinations of things that you burn – burning the right things together is a “combo” that gives you.. well, extra stuff so you can burn the next batch of things bettererer. “And that’s pretty much it.” – Jim Rossignol, of RockPaperShotgun.
The above paragraph is, frankly, a disgusting lie. Technically, it is a half-truth, yes. You do unlock things to burn, you do get (well-written) letters from your neighbour and The Weather Man, and you do burn stuff and get money and use it to burn more stuff. But to insinuate that there’s nothing else to this game is a disservice to readers.How do we even measure the contents of a game? Is it just the proportion of time taken by any specific feature of it? If so, then yes, what defines Little Inferno as NOT yet another iOS unlockfrenzy game, is something roughly 10% of it’s total time. But the catch is, if we look at it from a narrative perspective, if we look at the impression the game ultimately leaves us with, if we look at all the details embedded in descriptions of stuff you burn, of the letters you get, of the “outside” events conveyed mainly through sound, then no, this game prepares and builds you up for the finale from the very beginning.
And what a finale it is. Normally, I am not crazy on spoiler warnings (meta joke right there – Tomorrow Corporation Tipline), but Little Inferno is defined by the spoilerystuff. It really is a binary division, to be honest – either you get to the [spoiler bit] and see what Little Inferno has been telling you, see beyond the conflagrative fiddling in the fireplace, or you don’t get so far and you miss the point of the entire construct by a nautical mile.
That is not to say that the ending is the only reason why you should play the game (and you really really should play it – Tomorrow Corporation Hints!), because the core mechanic of the majority of Little Inferno – burning stuff – is amazing. Every single thing you burn has a unique textblurb and image-vid, it has unique combustive properties and unique reactions to being conflagratified. A backhanded compliment that the typical unlock-stuff “iOS” games usually get is that they are satisfying to interact with. Little Inferno nails the ludic feedback (thanks to Campster for that term! I don’t know what it even means! But it looks clever so I’m using it!). If the game had been nothing else but a combustion playground – as mr. Rossignol leads his readers to believe in the aforelinked WIT – even then it would be an absolutely enjoyable game.
If you like burning stuff and giggling at the multitude of reactions the things you burn exhibit, if you have that little pyro in the cockles of your heart, then Little Inferno is for you. If you don’t care about that, but like clever injokes, references and a surprisingly grasping narrative, then Little Inferno is still for you. If you don’t have a lot of time on your hands – Little Inferno is for you too, little buddy.
Seriously – the game takes about 3 hours and some minutes to complete. And I do mean properly complete, seeing and [spoiler] the [spoiler – assume “ending”] and everything. Which is all the more surprising that we have reviewers (and honestly, no, RPS’s WIT are close enough to reviews to count as such, no matter what BS excuses mr. Meer likes to create) that didn’t even put enough effort to get through this. I mean.. I know that modern games are long, and it is unreasonable to expect reviewers to play through all of, e.g. Skyrim or New Vegas or even Mass Effect 3. But not playing through a perfectly polished non-difficult three-hour game? OH COME ON. That’s why I wrote the title of this post… This game really is a reviewer test, in my opinion. If someone purportedly cares about indie games, cares about their readership and the game development scene, and cares about narrative, but does not care enough to give a fair assessment to a game that is blatantly hinting at there being more than initially meets the eye – and places no obstacles whatsoever in terms of difficulty, complexity, or reflex-requirement – then (I’m sorry, but) how the hell can that reviewer be considered reliable?
Aye, it has come to that. I am calling Mr. Rossignol’s pseudo-review to be of questionable content and dubious value. Is it because he bashed a game I like? In a way, I suppose, yes – but it is not a question of taste, it is a question of a reviewer doing their work and examining what they are playing before passing judgement.
But back to the game itself. It does have a pretty major downside (as long as were being sincere here) – the pricetag is just plain too high. At the moment, it is priced at 15$ or the regional equivalents thereof. And.. that is a lot to pay for a three-hour game. Even for a game as gripping, fine-tuned, polished, clever and replayable as Little Inferno. So… steam has a holiday sale coming up. I am pretty sure that Little Inferno will get a discount of some sort. If not, then it will appear in humble indie gala bundles – or whatever they are called. Once it does, do yourself a favour and get it. Unless you want racing and shooting from your videogames. In that case, skip this and get.. idk… the new Modern Warfare? I hear its a whole five/six hours long! Otherwise.. well, remember Molineux’s Curiosity? This game is somewhat like that, except everyone can see the big secret end and you have to do enjoyable & fun activities (as opposed to repetitive and numbing) to get to it.
~X2-Eliah doesn’t really like to write such blatant endorsement posts like this, but on the other hand, Little Inferno did set his shrivelled black heart on fire. Because nobody can resist the Feelings Bear.