Review: Little Inferno

At a Glance

ESRB Rating: T - Teenagers
My Rating: Ages 10 and up
Genre: Other
License: Commercial
Release Year: 2012
Review Published On: February 12th, 2016
Played on: Martha & Thaddeus

Available from:

Humble Store, Steam

Save System:

Since nothing happens until you do something, it's safe to leave the game running if you need to leave the computer momentarily. Also, your game is saved automatically as you play, so you can quit the game whenever you want without losing any progress.

Summary of
Major Issues:

While this game is intended to be comedic with a serious message, some of the items you can destroy in your Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace are disturbing.

Examples include plush toys that react to being burned, various things advertised as belonging to someone else, different types of fake drugs, and old ladies.


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Shopping for more things to burn

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Burning bricks while waiting on shipments

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The beginning of the End

Game Overview

Little Inferno is exactly what it promises to be: a cozy little fireplace where you can set all manner of things on fire and watch them burn. You'll never run out of things to burn, as the only things you don't burn up are a set of catalogs. Whenever you need something new, you just place an order and it'll be brought to you in a little cardboard box. Money isn't a problem either, as everything drops a coin or two when it gets charred enough.

Although this sounds like it's too simple to be entertaining, there is a puzzle element to the game. Burning more than one item at a time can trigger a Combo. Finding what combinations make Combos is the game's sole challenge. In order to make progress, you'll need to find enough combos to unlock the next catalog. Fortunately, you're provided with clues about what Combos exist and how many items are used to form a particular Combo. For example, the Combo with the hint "spring time" is made by burning flower seeds and a clock together.

Beyond indulging your inner pyromaniac, there is a small story that goes along with everything. The world has steadily grown colder, and nobody knows why. To help keep everyone warm (and make a nice profit), the Tomorrow Corporation developed the Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace. As time goes on, different people will send you letters using the same mail system that delivers the products you buy. These letters are your only direct contact with the world outside, and ultimately guide you to the message this game has to share. As everyone will tell you, there is something more dangerous than fire.

Sadly, no review or commentary can really do this game justice. To get the full effect out of the story, you'll need to play it yourself and pay close attention to the message at the end. It's a rather important lesson, so take it to heart.

Points of Interest

You set stuff on fire.
Do I really need to explain why this fun? Aside from the obvious reasons it's fun to play with fire, many of the items you can burn in your Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace react when burned. Some things explode, others play music, and some do unexpected things like pop or burst into many smaller things.
Many cameos and references to popular games
Many of the items you can burn reference things from gaming culture. Some of these are designed to look like a character from a popular game (such as World of Goo and Super Meat Boy) while others just have famous phrases in their descriptions.

In fact, almost everything has some level of self-parody to it. Each catalog is themed after something different, and each theme is as silly as the items they sell.
Extremely touching ending
Seriously. While this game is full of humor, the ending is somber and bittersweet. The message it tells is in stark contrast to the rest of the game, and it can honestly make me tear up. Granted, I can be an emotional person, but I think the majority of players will agree that the ending is both sad and encouraging at the same time.
Wonderful soundtrack
A big part of the impact of this game is done through its use of music. From the catchy "A little inferno just for me" jingle to the ominously haunting melodies from the latter part of the story, it's extremely well done and carries the mood like nothing else.
Some things are a bit too destructive
Just about everything is used in a combo sooner or later, but it's really hard to use certain objects because of the way they react to things in the fireplace. Objects with sharp saws, such as the razor or chainsaw, will shred other objects that come too close, and objects with their own gravity tend to make it hard to keep everything close enough together to burn in one go.
Waiting for things to be "shipped" can be dull
When you purchase something from a catalog, it doesn't just instantly appear in your inventory. Instead, it's "shipped" to you, and it remains in a cardboard box until a given amount of time has passed. You can uses Stamps to speed up the process, but your supply of Stamps is limited and isn't easily replenished. This mechanic seems to be there as a means of keeping the game going at a steady pace, but later on the wait times can result in long periods where nothing is happening. My solution was to always order a set of bricks and burn them while the other stuff is being shipped. The bricks arrive quickly and then burn for a long time, evening things out.
Odd glitch
If I play Little Inferno on Martha, the game starts up with the usual warning about the dangers of playing with fire, and then the screen becomes a jumbled mess of sprites for few moments during the title screen. After that, everything's fine. This bug doesn't happen on Thaddeus, implying that there's a hardware issue of some sort. It's harmless, so just ignore it if you see it on your machine.

Concerns and Issues

Several of the items you can burn are questionable
While a lot of the things you can destroy in the fireplace are silly, some of them are questionable. For example, there's an old lady, a "plush" toy cat that seems like it's an actual living cat, and several things that seem to belong to someone else (such as "someone's" credit card).

If you want, you can also buy a framed version of an image on your computer and burn it. This is generally only a concern if you're deliberately burning someone in effigy, but it might seem questionable to set fire to a family photo, even in a game.
Drugs and Alcohol
A few of the things you can order through the catalogs are alcoholic, such as the Midlife Crisis Mitigator (wine) and the Low Self-Esteem Action Figure (an obviously drunk college girl, complete with her own bottle of booze). There is also a pack of cigarettes, which even has a skull and crossbones logo. Other drug references include a few kinds of pills, and syringes. The latter are implied to be filled with steroids, but one can never be too sure about unlabeled green liquids.
There is a moral here
Although the game seems to be a simple waste of time, there is a moral being told through it. At various points in the game, people will reference that there is something more dangerous than fire. Near the end of the game, it's strongly implied that this "more dangerous" thing is wasting our time and missing opportunities by mistaking comfort for happiness. Our time is fleeting, so make the most of it.
Fire is dangerous.
This sort of goes without saying. In fact, the game starts up with a message that reads "Don't play with fire", reminding people that you shouldn't set things on fire in real life.

During the climax of the game, your neighbor has an accident with their Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace, and this results in debris suddenly falling down your chimney and are terrified scream. The other characters react as if someone has died, drastically altering the tone of the game.

Eventually, to win the game, you'll need to find the special Combo that they used to trigger the malfunction, burning your own house down. After the explosion, you'll be able to explore the neighborhood for the first time and discover what the game really has to say.