Little Inferno is unique in both its premise and its gameplay. In fact on the surface, it doesn’t even sound like that much of a video game. It sounds like it’s a simulator for burning things but reducing it to that is a disservice to what lies within the warm and crackling center of this delightful game. Even its development is pretty interesting; according to an interview with Nintendo World Report Kyle Gray, Kyle Gabler, and Allan Blomquist were inspired by the TV show called ‘The Yule Log’ that simply consists of a 17 second video of a log burning that loops. They all laughed about how it looked like “a super boring game that some awful company will totally make for the Wii or smartphones.” They then realized they could not only develop that game but they could also deliver an engrossing and fun experience that would defy everyone’s expectations. One of their biggest goals was to make sure this game was more than just fun. They wanted to make it unpredictable to leave players guessing and wondering what was going to happen next. Kyle Gabler stated “I want to be taken on a ride, and not know where I’m going. I want game designers to respect me enough to NOT let me know exactly what’s going on … Let me figure it out.” In my opinion Tomorrow Corporation did just that. They defied expectations. They created a fun game, even if the premise was out there. I found it very unpredictable and I was definitely taken for quite the ride on this six hour journey. It’s a ride I very much enjoyed that I think other people should experience as well, even if this genre is outside their comfort zone.
Little Inferno has a very simple premise. You sit in front of a fire place and burn things. You have an inventory bar at the bottom of the screen that can be upgraded to hold more items. There’s an icon that opens up one of six different unlockable catalogs for you to purchase things from. When you burn items, random amounts of money will drop which you can then use to buy more items to burn. Special stamps will also sometimes drop which will speed up the delivery of the items you purchase. The more stuff you burn, the more items you’ll unlock. There also plenty of combos that you can do that involve specific objects being burned together. These can create some interesting results and will also yield more money and stamps than you will normally receive. Certain numbers of combos need to be completed to unlock new catalogs for purchase. All you know about the combos is how many items are in the combo and the name of it. It’s usually enough information to at least get you to guess from a few different items and combinations. With enough determination and time, you’ll be able to figure out most or all of the combos but if you’re ever stuck there are plenty of guides available online. I would honestly recommend trying to guess as many as possible as it’s very fun and will bring some laughs and smiles to the experience.
To burn things, you select them from the inventory bar after purchasing them. All you have to do is click on them to open the packaging and then drag them up into the fireplace. The controls were very well done. I’ve played this game on Wii U, PC, and finally this time on the Nintendo Switch and this is by far my favorite version. The left Joy-Con is used like a Wii remote and I couldn’t help but smile when I first started playing the game. It was like magic! Really it’s just another dose of Nintendo magic that I’m always happy to experience in an industry so focused on graphics and RAM. It works a lot like the Wii Motion Plus technology but much better. When you first boot up the game, it’ll have you set the Joy-Con on a flat surface for calibration. After a few seconds, it’ll have you pick it up and hit the ‘minus’ button to center the on-screen pointer. Then you’re all set and ready to enjoy some Little Inferno! It basically just determines positioning and then extrapolates the location and movements to know where the pointer will be on the screen. There were a few times the positioning was thrown off for me but all it took was a quick press of the ‘minus’ button and then the on-screen center spot was instantly re-calibrated.
Moving around menus, buying items, and burning items are extremely fun with these controls. I didn’t enjoy this game as much on PC with a mouse and it was pretty good on the Wii U gamepad but this is absolutely my favorite way to control Little Inferno. It not only feels magical but it also keeps my eyes focused on the TV instead of removing me from what’s happening on screen. As a result, there’s never a break or too many reminders that you’re holding a controller. Instead, you’re a part of the world. You’re a part of the story. You’re just sitting in front of a fireplace and burning anything you want across the wild and crazy variety you’re presented with across the different catalogs.
There’s a really interesting story that unfolds throughout the game. You’ll receive letters from NPC’s that will serve as interaction between you and the world. The majority of your conversations will be between you and your next door neighbor who is also enjoying their Little Inferno fireplace. They’ll share tips with you. They’ll request that you mail them specific items. They’ll even open up to you and talk about what’s on their mind. Another common letter you’ll receive will consist of weather updates from The Weather Man. He hovers in the sky in a weather balloon above the smoke stacks and the houses to give you and the city weather reports. These interactions will weave into a tale that will tug at your heart some and also defy what you’ll be expecting, just like Tomorrow Corporation intended. It took me about six hours to get through the entire game but it may vary based on how long you spend burning the various items since letters are what progress the story portion of the game and they’ll arrive after certain amounts of items are burned or certain catalogs are purchased. No matter how long it takes you to get through it, you’ll definitely click through letters more slowly as you get later into the story. It starts off pretty casual and removed but slowly turns into something deeper and unexpected.
Little Inferno is a pretty game. The art style is interesting while also somehow looking just a little disturbing. It borders on being off-beat without fully committing to it. It looks like someone swooped in and cleaned up a Tim Burton movie to earn a more family friendly rating. It works very well and really contributes to both the setting and the mood. The fire always looks very satisfying which is great considering that’s the main hook and appeal of the game. Burning things always feels very satisfying. There are plenty of different effects that will differ based on what you’re burning. I can assure that setting a full school bus on fire and watching it explode is incredibly satisfying despite how depraved it may sound.
I love how this game sounds. The soundtrack is very moving and fitting at every single part of the story. It’s over the top and chipper when you’re buying things from the catalog but it’ll quickly and instantly feel distant, offbeat, and mysterious when The Weather Man is giving you an ominous weather report. As the story progresses, more moving music begins to make its way into the game before finally ending in emotionally stirring music while you think about everything you’ve just experienced. It’s emotional and satisfying every single time the story progresses and it feels this way to the very end. I’ve found myself playing the music from the soundtrack menu numerous times and how often I’ve done this has only increased in number since I’ve completed the game. This feature is exclusive to the Nintendo Switch by the way and, combined with the controls, another great reason to own this version of Little Inferno.
The sound effects work very well. Explosions, popping, and the crackling sounds of the almost always burning fireplace will keep you interested in burning everything you can. Certain items were especially fun to continue to re-purchase and burn and no, I don’t mean the school bus. Okay, don’t judge me. The school bus is one of those items but it’s mainly because of the huge explosion that happens at the very end. It throws fire, debris, and money everywhere each and every time. I also love burning the corn because it sounds like popcorn. Buying fifteen different things of corn and just waving my arm around like a maniac to set it all ablaze is more satisfying than I could ever begin to explain. I wish I could make popcorn like that in real life. I may get locked up but I’d have a great time in jail after I locked myself in Little Inferno in my mind.
Little Inferno has a few drawbacks but the positives certainly outweigh them. Some items have some long delivery times that I just can’t stand. The good news is you can always burn other items while you wait for them to be delivered. Those stamps speed up delivery times as well so if you’re better at saving than I am then you could always stockpile them for some of the bigger items. I’m impatient so I tended to use stamps for items that only took a minute to arrive–even though I could have just made popcorn or focused on different combos. I got so invested in the story that I almost found myself rushing towards the end though and so I didn’t want to focus on anything else other than that moment. I wanted to see what was going to happen next. This is just a testament to how great this game is though, and of course how impatient I am. It’s really not a major drawback. The game may sound like it’s a bit short with it only taking me about six hours to complete but for the experience you’re getting and with the ability to constantly replay the game, it’s not really anissue and at a price of only ten dollars, it’s a great amount of playtime even for just one playthrough. You can always replay the game and with how fun the puzzle-style gameplay is, you’re going to want to. I’m already on my second playthrough and I just finished the game this morning. The story segments will still happen on replays which I both like and dislike. I love this story and I want to experience it again on occasion. However I also don’t want to water it down and fall into the habit of just skipping through segments quickly when I’m just trying to burn stuff. I wish there was a gameplay-only mode that just had the items already unlocked and no story segments. I’d only want this available after the completion of the story of course. Tomorrow Corporation has done updates on these games before so I’ll fire off an email to them and hope they’ll include that feedback in a future update. In addition to the nice controls and soundtrack feature, there’s also co-op gameplay that’s on the way in a free future update. It’s supposed to be available within a week or so from release so if they’re not already live today then they will be in the near future. I can already imagine the fun my Wife and I are going to have setting school buses o-I mean setting huge amounts of corn on fire to make insane amounts of popcorn.
Little Inferno is a great title that’s a worthy addition to every Nintendo Switch owner’s game library. If you already own it then I’d still recommend picking it up again. The new controls, soundtrack mode, and upcoming co-op mode are worth it alone. Not to mention you can always play this on the go in kickstand mode! There may be a few flaws here but overall this is a very immersive, entertaining, and engrossing experience for a very small price. Join the future of tomorrow and pick up Little Inferno today!
- Heartwarming and surprisingly deep story
- Unique gameplay with a focus on burning items and different combinations of items in your fireplace
- Motion controls that work really well with the joy-con controller
- Touching and atmospheric soundtrack (that you're also able to enjoy in its own menu which is exclusive to this version!)
- A delight to replay since the story doesn't really push its way into the game too aggressively
- Cooldown timers and delivery timers can feel long sometimes
- It would be nice if there was an optional mode that removed the story completely once the main game is completed