Ever sat beside a fireplace, listening its soothing crackling, and getting lost in the beauty of the flames and the slowly burning embers? No TV, no music, no food, no nothing - just you and the fire. Pointless, aimless, and not exactly what most people think of next to the word 'exciting,' and, yet, it has a special kind of charm that's hard to resist. Little Inferno is pretty much like that. The purpose is to sit in front of a - supposedly - high-tech hearth, and watch the fire...
The big difference, however, is that the fuel here isn't a bunch of nicely-placed logs, but… stuff; stuff that burns and produces coins, which can then be used to buy and burn more stuff, and then get catalogues that enable the purchase of even more stuff. In other words, the concept here is to buy and burn stuff, and that's pretty much it. It's definitely a "zen" kind of past-time, but not really a great videogame, correct?
Weirdly enough, and while definitely not a pure game (not even when compared to most casual ones), it's actually pretty fun. Of course, the fun here stems not from the usual places. There's no adventure to experience, no mission to accomplish, no enemies to slay, no damsels to save, no riddles to solve. Instead, this is pretty much like… err, burning stuff in a fireplace. It's hard to put it in words, but it can be quite addictive.
While it's not possible to lose, however, thankfully there is some sort of goal here that adds to that feeling of addiction, because, while fun, relaxing, cathartic, and all, it's hard to imagine someone wasting precious time in just, well, wasting time. That goal is to buy one catalogue after the other, and, finally, reach the end, something that can be achieved by mixing different items on the stove and pulling off all sorts of combos.
There's a list of available mixing recipes that provides subtle hints about what needs to be used to achieve a combo; for example, 'Wake Up' needs an alarm clock and a cup of coffee, 'Howl at the Moon' needs the statue of a wolf and a moon (an actual moon that pulls objects towards it), and so on. Being a 101% casual title, however, Little Inferno never rushes you to do anything; therefore, instead of trying to reach the end, players can simply relax… and burn stuff.
Thus far, this is a piece of software that's original as it is simple, addictive as it is repetitive, with a decent replay value despite its tiny, three-hour length. Like most Tomorrow Corporation's creations, though, there's more than the gameplay here. Similar to 2D Boy's World of Goo before it, and Human Resource Machine after it (both coming to Nintendo Switch, along with this title), this masterfully blends satire and subtle nerdy/pop culture humour, with a pretty dark, out-of-place narrative.
The humour and satire mentioned can be seen in the funny quotes besides the purchasable items; quotes like "Casual Game: if only winning was this easy in real life" and "Manly Trophy: If there's one thing men like, it's other men's muscles!" There's a plot beyond this veil of light-hearted wackiness, though, and while it's not a masterpiece, for many it will be the driving force behind reaching the end.
It all begins pretty simple, with a neighbour simply sending letters to you - letters that can be burned afterwards, of course. These start nice and cute, but things soon get pretty ominous. In fact, even though the player's eyes are "fixed" on the fire, the minimalistic writing manages to make people wonder what lies outside, in the frozen, post-apocalyptic world of Little Inferno. Is it possible to get out? Only one way to find out: BURN STUFF!!!
…Oh, and don't forget: do not play with fire.