Feb 5, 2014

[Games] Little Inferno (PC)

I really enjoyed World of Goo when it came out. It marked an interesting time when a lot of indie games were getting a lot more notice (think early Plants vs Zombies time) and such. It was a novel game with an interesting aesthetic and endeared itself to a lot of puzzle gamers everywhere.

So I was rather interested when it was announced that developers Kyle Gabler and Allan Blomquist had joined up with Kyle Gray (who created Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure) to start a new game company called Tomorrow Corporation. Their first project - a game called Little Inferno that gave little clue as to what the game was going to be like. I eventually picked the game up as part of the Humble Bundle: PC and Android 8 and only really got to try it out recently.

It didn't take me all that long to finish the game, but it certainly took me a while to figure out just how I felt about the game.

Synopsis: Little Inferno is the debut game released by independent game development company Tomorrow Corporation. It was first released as a downloadable title for the Wii U and Windows users and was eventually adapted for Mac, Linux and Android. I invested time in the PC version.

I'm not quite sure how to summarize the premise of the game, but perhaps this video may help:

Weird, right? But that's pretty much the primary game mechanic. You play the role of one of these kids given a Little Inferno playset and you're free to burn whatever items you have on you. As you burn stuff, including letters from the Tomorrow Corporation, the Weather Man and a little girl named Sugar Plimps, you earn money. You can use this money to buy items from the various Tomorrow Corporation catalogs that you receive. And the cycle continues on and on.

The game's design is very sandbox in nature and you're free to explore things as you wish. Each item that you burn behaves differently in the fire including some that change the color of the flame or others that actually cause it to rain. The game won't find a way to kill you nor does to keep score. You just sit there and burn stuff until you don't feel like burning things anymore.

This aspect of the game may seem pointless, but in many ways it acts as a satire of the gaming industry as a whole. There are those who will always look down on games as complete wastes of time and money as we devote more and more resources to just sitting in front of a glowing computer screen. These kids are just staring at a fireplace instead.

In terms of objectives, the game does provide another option - this being a challenge to find various combinations of items that help you tick off items on an achievement list. Every correct combination gets you bonus currency for buying even more items or rushing the delivery of items ordered from the catalog. It's okay not to complete all combinations - nothing really changes about the game's ending.

Although, you may want to hold on to that coupon for a free hug for as long as you can. Just saying.

I won't lie, I played the game until the very end - and that includes trying to figure out all the different combos detailed in the game. It didn't take me all that long, although there were a lot of times when I was feeling pretty stupid for continuing to invest time in the game given its seeming pointlessness. But that in itself was sort of the point of the game, so isn't my feeling of frustration part of the whole deal? Wasn't my feeling like that game was at time pointless the very kind of experience that the developers wanted to create?

But hey, I preferred spending time on this game then major time sucks like Candy Crush or something. The game is still beautifully done in the same seemingly-simplistic art style used in World of Goo, plus a totally amazing musical score. I mean come on, this is still a game that you want to play on full volume since it's rather engaging in that regard. And no matter how much I felt like the game was a little repetitive and pointless, the design was still clever enough to get me to finish it.

The use of letters from various individuals in this world was a nice touch. It really helped things along and sort of leads the player through the whole experience so you don't get too lost in just burning stuff. There is still a bit of a story to be revealed here and it helped make the whole experience feel just a little bit more meaningful.

Little Inferno is a unique gaming experience that is still worth the playthrough. It's clever and funny and it feeds on the pyromaniac side of you that you didn't realize you had. I'd still give the game a 3.5 out of 5, only because I know it's not exactly a game that everyone will enjoy right off the bat.
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