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First Impressions: Little Inferno

Posted by Philip J Reed

Let us be your little Virgil

2D Boy released what is still arguably the best game on the WiiWare service, World of Goo. But since the release of that game four years ago the developer has been rather quiet. The game never got a sequel and lips were sealed tight on future projects, but we knew that whatever this immensely talented — and impressively small — team was going to give us next, it was going to be worth waiting for.

And now, thanks to a preview build of its upcoming Wii U release Little Inferno, we can confirm that this next title is both a brilliant follow-up, and an intriguing step forward.

Describing Little Inferno is a challenge. Say too little, and it sounds like a quirkier cousin of Fireplacing. Say too much, and the experience gets robbed of its surprising magic. So bear with us as we dance around the impressive twists and turns of a game that consists almost solely of one screen.

You play the role of...well, that's not entirely clear. And your goal is to...nothing, really. There is no explicit goal. See now why we're having so much trouble describing it?

You sit facing your brand new Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace, and the first — and only — instruction you receive is how to start a fire. Needless to say the first thing you do is burn the instruction card itself, and then that's it. You're alone again.

Well, not quite alone. Every so often a letter will appear. It could be from the Tomorrow Corporation itself, mysterious neighbour girl Sugar Plumps, or the Weather Man, who reports with increasing urgency the dire, worsening conditions of the frosty world outside your home. But no worries, because you have the Little Inferno to keep you warm. You hope...

You burn these letters, and coins appear. With these coins you can purchase items from catalogues, varying items with often surprising abilities, and you burn those too. After all, there's just a small flame between you and a chilly death, so you'd best keep it going.

Burning certain items together will fulfill "combinations," which are hinted at in-game but aren't explicitly explained until you find one. For instance, burning dry ice and a cup of coffee at the same time counts as the "Iced Coffee" combination, and burning a Henry Hatsworth lookalike along with some tetrominoes is the Puzzling Adventure. Find enough of these combinations and new catalogues become available which offer new items, which can then, in turn, create new combinations.

As you play, the background narrative of the game becomes more clear. There's an obvious environmental caution embedded in the game's concept, and its endorsed bonfire of mass-produced goods is about as anti-consumerist as you get. Additionally, much is made of the fact that even though you control a character, you can't pull your eyes away from the fireplace, much like, say, a television or a video game. It's a hypnotic experience to be sure, and even those who aren't necessarily entranced by the prospect of burning up new and unique things are bound to play longer and longer just to see how bleak the weather reports get, or to learn more about poor little Sugar Plumps.

Little Inferno is a great follow-up to World of Goo, but in spite of some winking references to that previous game, it treads entirely new ground. After all, World of Goo was a game about construction and exploration. Little Inferno is a game about destruction and isolation. It's a deliberately small release that somehow manages to feel enormous, perhaps due to its whispered suggestions of an entire world beyond that wall you're staring at. A world that may in fact be dying, but which is large and mysterious all the same. Sometimes in life you must struggle just to keep warm. Other times it might be worth risking the cold.

After all, if you never risk it, you'll never know...

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User Comments (33)

Sjoerd

#2

Sjoerd said:

This is one of the few games I won't dig up info for. I want it to be a total surprise when I download this game!

Jock_Nerd

#6

Jock_Nerd said:

Mr. Reed, you are a gifted writer, but with all due respect, I got almost nothing from this article in terms of Little Inferno's gameplay (the most important aspect of any game). How do you burn things? What is the challenge? What makes it fun?

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#7

Philip_J_Reed said:

The gameplay is something I can't comment on as the preview build is PC-based; we have no idea how it will control on the WiiU!

The "challenge" is up for debate. I assure you I cover it above, but I can't be more specific without spoiling something. I will say this though: this is a game in a very loose sense of the word...it's more of an experience. Challenge really doesn't enter into it. It's a process rather than a series of obstacles.

These things weren't covered because...well, you can't cover them. It's not in any way as straight forward as you might expect. ;)

DarkCoolEdge

#8

DarkCoolEdge said:

@Jock_Nerd True. He talks about the game while not really explaining it (?!).

I need to watch a video and read some reviews before even thinking about its purchase

Boo_Buster

#10

Boo_Buster said:

When I read about it is seems rather uninteresting, but my mind knows better than that. I think the game will be a lot of fun

rjejr

#11

rjejr said:

Sounds like less of a game than that weird "game" on the PSN when you're a caterpillar walking around eating stuff to get bigger for no reason.

WOG was $15 but it had a really intriguing demo and gameplay puzzle mechanic, I don't know how they are going to manage a demo and get people to pay money for this in a world of 99c games. The WOG release 4 years ago nearly predates iOS.

Neonridr

#13

Neonridr said:

It will be interesting to see how much a game like this retails for on the eShop. I, for one, am getting this game along with Trine 2 day one. The art style of this game is incredible, and I know it will be a very deep experience.

Kirk

#16

Kirk said:

Well that's certainly got me interested in finding out more about this game...

LavaTwilight

#17

LavaTwilight said:

I wanted this game since I saw the 'teaser trailer'; I'm still humming this song - "It's Little Inferno, little inferno just for meee". This article has just kept my desire to buy this game alive, burning within my very own LITTLE INFERNO ENTERTAINMENT FIREPLACE!

Prof_Clayton

#24

Prof_Clayton said:

Read this in nintendo power, I've been waiting for more news since!!! Glad to hear you like it Mr.Reed ;)

FonistofCruxis

#28

FonistofCruxis said:

It doesn't really sound that interesting and it sounds boring too but it also sounds like there could be much more to it but no one wants to spoil what else there is. At the moment, I'm not sure on whether I'd get this or not.

DavidRY

#29

DavidRY said:

Hey Phillip, great preview, really appreciate how sensitive you are to the problem of ruining the game with too much information - makes the game much more mysterious!

Just wanted to help you clarify though, as I'm sure many other game reviewers will do the same, Little Inferno is not a 2D Boy project. From the website of Tomorrow Corporation:

"Did 2DBOY rename itself to Tomorrow Corporation?
No. Although, confusion is understandable: Kyle Gabler is a co-founder of both 2DBOY and also Tomorrow Corporation. Allan Blomquist, another co-founder of Tomorrow Corporation, helped 2DBOY bring World of Goo to Wii back in 2008. And Kyle Gray, the remaining co-founder of Tomorrow Corporation, is longtime friends with everyone at 2DBOY." Also, Kyle Gray is the creator of Henry Hatsworth, thus explaining the shout out with the puzzling adventure combo! A pretty cool team-up!

Gioku

#31

Gioku said:

Sounds really cool! Not to mention that everything on their website is a joke of some kind. There is nothing serious!

Odnetnin

#32

Odnetnin said:

Can't believe I waited this long to comment on this brilliant preview. One of the best things I've read on the site in a long time.

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