PC/Mac/Linux
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Game Info:

Little Inferno
Developed and Published By: Tomorrow Corporation
Released: November 18, 2012
Available On: Linux, Mac OS X (reviewed), Windows, Wii U, iOS, Android
Genre: Puzzle
ESRB Rating: None
Number of Players: 1
Price: $10 (iOS, Steam, developer's Web site)

What do you get when you combine someone else's credit card, alphabet blocks and a package of lightbulbs? In “Little Inferno,” a game presented by Tomorrow Corporation, the answer is simple – a nice, cozy fire. Just like with any of the other items that you can toss into the fireplace.

That's the premise behind Little Inferno. Burn stuff. Pick up the coins they leave behind. Shop through the bizarre catalogs that the Tomorrow Corporation sends to you and order things. Then burn them, too.  Once you have managed to obtain all the things in the catalog, you can purchase the next catalog, which has even more items. Oddly enough, the catalogs are one of the few things you can't burn in the game. This makes sense, in a way. If you burned the catalogs, there would be no way to order more stuff.

While burning items, you will receive letters from other people – updates from the Weather Man, advertisements and advice from “Miss Nancy,” who is the apparent head of the Tomorrow Corporation, and a friend who lives close by named Sugar Plumps. Through their letters you are able to learn that the world outside has been experiencing winter for several years, and there is no end in sight. So it would probably be best to stay inside and keep warm by your Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace, brought to you by the Tomorrow Corporation. (Yes, the company that made the game also appears in the game as the manufacturer of the entertainment fireplace. Yes, the game is that odd.)

Yes, you can burn the letters they send to you.

Little Inferno
Highlights:

Strong Points: Interesting game world, creative concept
Weak Points: Somewhat repetitive gameplay, short
Moral Warnings: Drug use, voluptuous figures, toilet humor, some items respond with horror when burned

Although you don't have to burn everything you manage to obtain, there is a limit to the items that you can hold. You start with four slots in your “mailbox,” but these can be expanded with the in-game currency you obtain by burning things. If you find yourself running short on money, all you need to do is wait. Tiny, one-eyed spiders will crawl down from the chimney, and they will drop coins by burning them.

The game itself poses extremely little challenge. It is exceedingly easy to gain money in the game (for the most part, items will drop more coins than it cost to purchase them). The only real difficulty lies in trying to determine what items you need to burn together in order to achieve “combos.” A drop-down list will show you the names of the combos, but it's up to you to determine what items will fulfill each requirement. Some are self-explanatory – for example “Bike Pirate Combo” - but others are much more obscure. Successfully figuring out a combo will net you two stamps, which you can place on items you've ordered to make them delivered instantly to your mailbox, rather than waiting for several seconds. Stamps also drop occasionally from burning spiders and, of course, burning items.

Some items react to fire – and sometimes each other – in different ways. For example, bricks burn very slowly, while cardboard items burn extremely quickly. Glass items have a tendency to shatter, even when not on fire. Bombs and vehicles tend to explode. A few items will even put out fires when they're triggered by the flames. Part of the fun is figuring out how to get items to be in the fireplace at the same time without destroying each other so you can get credit for the combos... or just tossing random items in there and seeing what they do while they burn.

If this abstract game doesn't sound like much of a game, you're probably right. Little Inferno was designed to be a bit of playful criticism towards casual games like those found on Facebook. You work to obtain something, then move on to the next goal, then the next, etc., without any real clear ending in sight. The game also jabs at materialism – you work to obtain things, only to simply dispose of them once you're finished. It even chides you subtly about the amount of time you've spent “burning your toys.” 

Little Inferno
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 80%
Gameplay - 14/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 71%
Violence - 6.5/10
Language - 8.5/10
Sexual Content - 8.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 5/10

It doesn't take too much time to burn through the game, though. This reviewer was able to get through the entire game in about six hours, and that was even with time experimenting with trying to unlock all the different combos. Those who don't care about 100% completion could get through the game even faster. After the ending credits roll, it's possible to go back and keep burning things in the Little Inferno fireplace, but other than idle curiosity or an attempt to unlock all the combinations, there is little reason to do so. 

Controls were sharp and responsive, and extremely intuitive. Drag items into your fireplace from your mailbox, then just drag-and drop to place them. To light things, simply click in the fireplace - not on top of an object - to generate a flame at that point. You can continue to hold down the mouse button (or, presumably, keep your finger pressed to the screen on handheld devices) and move the pointer to focus the flame on other portions of your fireplace. Like, for instance, that nice wooden block sculpture you spent five minutes building and now want to reduce to a pile of ash. The sound quality is top-notch. The background music was peppy while shopping through the catalog and a bit somber when looking at combos... but otherwise completely absent during the main gameplay. Instead, it gives atmospheric echoes and breezy sounds, adding to a feeling of isolation in a cold world. The graphics tend to be colorful, but the scenery never changes, since the majority of the game is spent staring into the fireplace (for the most part, the rest of the game is spent flipping through the catalogs). My computer experienced an occasional graphic flicker, but this was very seldom.

On the moral side of things, even though the language is pretty clean, the content is less so. An instructional video that the Tomorrow Corporation sends to you early in the game depicts children gleefully tossing their screaming toys into the fire before their house burns down and they perish themselves. Several of the toys depicting women – and even Miss Nancy – are quite voluptuous. One of the toys defecates a lot when it's on fire. A few objects scream and attempt to flee the flames. Some of the items you can burn include alcohol, cigarettes and drugs (including syringes). Many of these items you may have to burn more than once, in order to get every single combination, and they all have to be purchased at least once in order to unlock the next catalog, or to get to the end of the game. While burning items – especially living creatures – is not particularly gruesome, some of the cries or reactions they make can be a bit disturbing.

All in all, Little Inferno is an odd, interesting game. While an idle waste of time for a brief period, it is mercifully short, and leaves you with little incentive to go back. Ironically, this may have been what the developers intended when they created the game in the first place. 

About the Author

J. Todd Cumming

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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