Little Inferno

UPDATE: Little Inferno’s default price now seems to be $9.99.  For that reason, I’m bumping up my enthusiasm to recommend it to “moderately decent.”  I also bumped it 30 spots up the Leaderboard.  Yes, $5 does make a difference.

Looking for the solution to the four things you need to burn?  I posted them under the trailer below. 

Tis the season of gifts.  Or, if you want to be a killjoy, the season to burn toys in a fireplace.  That’s the idea behind Little Inferno, an independent game for the Wii U.  It’s by the guys behind World of Goo, which was probably the best digital-download game on the original Wii.  But World of Goo got by on being a quirky, addictive physics-puzzler.  Little Inferno, on the other hand, feels like the type of time-sink you would find on the iPhone market.  In fact, there are lots mechanical issues with Little Inferno that make me think it started life as a micro transaction-oriented mobile game, like Doodle God for arsonists.  Only such games typically cost $1 or less and make their money by nickle-and-diming you to speed up the gameplay.  Little Inferno charges you $15 upfront, and keeps the action nice-and-slow.

Good fun for the whole family.

There is a bit of a story here.  You’re a kid that lives in a snowy world.  You receive an Inferno Entertainment Center.  With it, you place toys in it and then burn them.  Once you burn a toy, it spits out more money than you paid for it.  You then hit a catalog to order more shit to burn.  While you’re doing this, you get a barrage of messages from a creepy neighbor girl who asks you to send her gifts.  There’s a few twists and turns along the way, one of which genuinely made me feel bad.  But the plot goes way too far.  Once you finish all the catalogs, an obnoxious ending unfolds over the course of the next twenty-plus minutes.  I’ve heard it described as “bold” or “social commentary” or the ever-dreaded “art!”  And of course, art here is meant to mean “criticism proof.”  As always, art is in the eye of the beholder, and while I held Little Inferno, my eyes started to get a bit droopy while I watched the ending.  It didn’t feel connected to the game.  I had someone tell me that Little Inferno actually gives you visual clues as to what is really going on, but the visual style kind of masks those clues unless you’re outright looking for them.  And besides, the gameplay is downright hypnotic, and after a while any and all interruptions were about as well received as a fart to the mouth would be.

The gameplay itself is really too simplistic for its own good.  Yet, it’s still oddly addictive.  Beating the game only requires you to purchase and burn each item in the catalog once.  Things are kept fresh by a having a list of 99 combos that you have to figure out on your own.  It sounds neater than it is.  Achieving a combo is done by buying each item, putting them in the fire together, and burning them together.  For example, you might see a combo listed as “Movie Night.”  To clear this, you have to buy an ear of corn (which of course turns into popcorn when you burn it) and a television set.  Unfortunately, this is about as deep as it gets.  Although some of the items have moving parts or unique sequences while they burn, you never have to create a Rube-Goldberg-style setup to get a combo.  Despite having a sophisticated physics engine, it’s not really put to use here.  It’s like one of those douchebags that buys a Lamborghini and then keeps it in his garage without ever driving it.

And getting those combos can be fucking agonizing because the game has needless item-refill times.  When you purchase an item, you have to wait for it to be “delivered” to you.  This can take quite a while.  You can erase the time by spending stamps, but they spawn infrequently and combos generally don’t spit out enough of them.  This is annoying, but what’s REALLY annoying is then the shop takes time to restock the item.  I’ll give you an example: Combo #73 requires you to burn one of those spring-loaded snakes in a canister with a thing of protein powder.  The powder requires you to wait two minutes for it to be delivered.  BUT, the very next combo requires the protein powder and a statue of a guy doing an Atlas pose.  This means you have to wait at least three minutes before attempting each combo.  This isn’t a phone game, assholes.  I think you meant it to be one, but these wait times are ridiculous.  Especially when you consider we’re playing on a game machine that’s battery life is shorter than the average Lord of the Rings movie.

Weird part is, this is exactly how my abuela Maritza died.

Weird part is, this is exactly how my abuela Maritza died.

To be clear, there’s something undeniably fun about Little Inferno.  I think.  I mean, with time sinks such as this, it’s tough to tell.  But the story is ruined by some boneheaded twists that take it from potentially a dark, macabre tale into a bullshit deep introspective journey of growing up.  I would love the game more if not for two things.  #1, it shouldn’t have been on the Wii U.  There’s no need for it to be on the Wii U.  The game can be played entirely on the Wii U gamepad, but this type of game lends itself more to “knock out a few minutes while waiting for the cashier to get a price check on a gallon of milk” sessions.  Not being tethered to a game console.  And, #2, it’s too fucking expensive.  $15 for this?  Yea, it’s on sale right now for $10, but that only lasts for a few more days.  And by the way, idiot that I am, I got this sucker on my first trip to the eShop and never actually played it until now, after Brian left for his vacation.  Stupid, stupid me, I paid the full price for it, and it’s not even close to worth it.  It’s not even worth the $10 sales price.  $5 seems like a good price.  $1 on iPhone and not a penny more.  Maybe that’s really the gag here: the biggest thing you burn with Little Inferno is your own money.

Little InfernoLittle Inferno was developed by Tomorrow Corporation

$14.99 said this was like Toy Story meets the Spanish Inquisition in the making of this review.

IGC_ApprovedSigh, can’t believe I’m saying this, but overpriced as heck Little Inferno is Chick Approved on the grounds that I had fun with it.  Only Xbox Live Indie Games get ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.  By the way, remove the “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but overpriced as heck” part if the price is $10.  And if they ever drop it to $5, you can remove the “Sigh” too. 

The four items you need to burn are the magnet, the firefly jar, the exterminator, and the sunglasses.  You’re welcome.

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