This is part of my Steam Challenge Series (the full list is here).
Time Played: 4 hours
You guys. This game! I love it so much!
I’d seen the trailer a few times over the course of a year or two, each time it piqued my interest – but not enough to purchase it. Finally I saw it as part of a Humble Bundle and by Crom I snatched it up! Even so, it lay neglected, installed on my Steam list for many more months (years? I can’t tell) before I got the urge to actually hit Play. I was expecting an idle time-waster in the vein of mobile games, something that I could pick up for a half-hour or so of pyromania and then put aside in favour of “real” games.
Hooooooo boy, was I wrong. Firstly I discovered that there is a puzzle element to it, with the combos. As shown in the trailer above, you buy things from the store, and burn it. That’s it. That’s the gameplay. But you open more areas of the store (more catalogues) by earning stars. Stars are earned by burning two or three specific items together. Each combo tells you what items to burn in a cryptic way – some are easier to unravel than others. So there’s your first hook – solve the riddles to earn more stars to unlock more riddles and so on and so on. Suddenly an hour has passed. Games like Civilization have that “just one more turn” hook – Little Inferno has “just one more combo”. Then there’s the story.
Yes, you read that correctly. I was surprised when I realised that there was a story. I didn’t realise it until maybe a quarter of the way through the game. At first it seems like just flavour, something to distract you from burning stuff. But it develops, and becomes more and more important, until you’re no longer doing combos for the challenge of unlocking more catalogues, but to unlock more story. It’s one of those stories that is vague enough that you fill in most of it yourself, that immersing yourself in the world is made possible by the hints and clues that are given to you. I feel that it’s a deeply philosophical story too, which is why I love the game so much.
It helps immensely that the main activity, the actual gameplay, is so incredibly well done. The fire is perfect, the way that various items react to being torched is sometimes creepy, sometimes guilt-inducing, sometimes hilarious, and sometimes satisfyingly awesome. The sense of being in front of a roaring fire is so well done (geddit? eh? EH?) that it makes just faffing about burning random things an absolute pleasure. I used to live in a house with a fireplace, so the nostalgic buttons were pushed for me on that front too. And the fact that you literally cannot get stranded without money means that you can simply relax and watch things burn without worrying about optimisation or hurting progress or “doing it wrong”. Everything you burn gives you back slightly more money than it cost to buy, plus there are occasional spiders that venture out that can be clicked on or burned for a little cash too. It’s just a great, relaxing experience, perfect for those times where you want to game but don’t want anything demanding.
In the end I clocked up over 4 hours on Little Inferno, but that is because I didn’t attempt all the combos – I raced through the story because I needed to see how it ended! I think if you took your time and went through all the combos, you could easily get another couple of hours out of it. And just sitting there, burning things in your fireplace and giggling, is a completely legitimate life choice that you will never be judged for.
This is a must play, in my books.