Even though I’d watched Rage Select’s Indie Friday playthrough of Little Inferno, I’ll be perfectly honest and admit that I didn’t really know what to expect from this ludicrously simple game. Rick had told me it was sort of a meta game about games, but after having finished the whole thing, I guess I left feeling somewhat underwhelmed, despite having thoroughly enjoying myself then entire FOUR HOURS I played it non-stop.
It’s a game begging for deeper meaning, which I suppose is there, although it didn’t seem that deep once I actually got there. Like that lake that looks like you can dive for meters and then it turns out you can stand up the whole way across. Only with less wetness.
Like I implied above, the premise of Little Inferno is very simple. You are a nameless individual locked in your little house with nothing but a Little Inferno fireplace to keep you both warm and entertained. When you burn things in your fireplace, you get money. Usually more money than you paid for the thing you burned. Then you can order more things to burn from a catalog with the money you get from burning things you bought in a catalog. I think you can see where this is going…
While there is the obvious message about modern consumerism, the game is stunningly addictive at every turn. The process of lighting a fire and burning things is very satisfying. As is unlocking new things to burn from the catalog. As is seeing all of the different reactions produced by the different things you burn as you burn them. For example, there’s a wooden dragon toy that shoots flames from its mouth when it starts to catch fire.
There is also a series of hidden combos of things to burn together in order to earn stamps, which serve exclusively to speed up the time between being able to burn things. Everything is about enabling even more instant gratification, that the game will then reward you for barreling past for the next new shiny thing to destroy.
I suppose a game about consumerism and lack of attachment to the real world is cool within itself, but Little Inferno succeeds as partly because it sets up an air of mystery very well. You keep expecting the next turn of the story to be something really surprising, so when you do finally leave your house at the end of the game, there is a sort of expectation on the part of the player that we are about to experience something big. Not just have what we’d already sussed out with basic media literacy.
Or maybe I’m just that smart.