So, Little Inferno, what can be said about it? Our own review stated that "it's as much a sandbox or digital toy as it is a game", with the simple fact that the experience can basically be summarised as burning stuff. There's money to earn and collect, as well as puzzle combos to figure out, but it's a game defined by the feelings it elicits through its arresting visual style and whimsical, at times sinister, story-telling.
It's not a normal game, as such, so while its appearance on PC will surprise no-one, its arrival on the Wii U eShop is worth deeper inspection. Of course, one glance at the title confirms that the influence of World of Goo, a popular hit on WiiWare from 2D Boy, isn't far away. The team has changed a little and is now a self-proclaimed mega-corporation, in ambition if not size, and is looking to the future with the grand moniker of Tomorrow Corporation. We spoke to two of its powerful executives, Kyle Gabler and and Kyle Gray.
When looking to the future Tomorrow Corporation sees a role for Nintendo, with Gray telling us that "as soon as we heard about the Wii U, we knew we wanted to be part of the launch." With the Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace the Wii U seems to be a perfect fit, with the option to bask in the heat from a large HD TV or, alternatively, snuggle up with the reassuring glow of the GamePad screen. As Gray explained, "having a portable fire you can bring to any room in your house is a really fun idea, plus the Wiimotes make great fire pokers!"
The desire to be a launch title naturally led to some development crunching, though Gray did tell us that Little Inferno was "engineered from the beginning to work on consoles", explaining that "getting it running on the Wii U proved to be a pretty smooth experience"; long nights were part of the deal for the small team, though thankfully didn't involve work demands that were too drastic. Like the other developers that we've spoken to regarding the Wii U eShop launch, positive words were reserved for Nintendo's eShop team, though thankfully Mario's immaculate white gloves were kept off the messy fireplace.
Nintendo has been really supportive, but have kept their little white Mario gloves from getting covered in soot. Still, whenever we needed their help they were just a quick email away. It’s hard to imagine how we would have made the NOA launch without the efforts of their amazing eShop team.
When it comes to the actual eShop, the team seems positive about the platform so far. In a style befitting a reveal by Tomorrow Corporation itself, Nintendo teased developers by keeping the service under wraps until the last possible moment, with Gray explaining that "Nintendo kept a giant red curtain over the eShop which they opened on launch day with a dramatic drum roll" — not literally, we assume. It says it all, in terms of the secrecy around the store, that Gabler's "first glimpse of the eShop was a video someone posted on YouTube on launch day." In fact, the team didn't even see their game nestling on the store on 18th November. "None of us were able to get a Wii U until about two weeks after launch!", Gabler told us. "Our entire experience of the eShop in those first few weeks was only what we heard from other players."
Once the team did get a glimpse of the Wii U eShop, it struck them how Nintendo was integrating high-profile retail downloads with eShop-only indie efforts; Gabler explained that it was "surreal seeing our little game right next to the latest Mario game." It's a layout that the team appreciates and describes as "lovely looking, warm and welcoming". Of course, the Entertainment Fireplace serves another purpose. "We're also thrilled to see a Little Inferno feature graphic right in the middle of the shop," Gabler said, "keeping the whole room nice and toasty warm."
Of course, for many eager early-adopters on the Wii U eShop, there was particular interest in the pricing of the launch offerings. With developers having a greater say over pricing, Little Inferno positioned itself — prior to the current price discounts in North America and Europe — firmly in the middle category. For those blasting through the title it can last as little as 2-3 hours, though at least one member of the Nintendo Life team is already on a third play-through seeking combos and surprises. Gray gave an alternative context to its pricing.
There's nothing else like Little Inferno. For the same price you could watch a horrible 3D movie, drink three Frappuccinos, buy 1/4 of a AAA shoot-you-in-the-face game, or go for the gusto and down 15 hamburgers.
Unlike 15 hamburgers, we’ve received emails from fans talking about how Little Inferno made them cry or made them rethink their life. That’s kind of nuts. I’ve never worked on anything that’s elicited such strong emotional reactions before.
These messages that have surprised and delighted the Tomorrow Corporation team come from Miiverse, the social platform that consistently comes up as a popular topic with Wii U developers. Gabler and Gray are such fans that they even produced a blog entry called BREAKING WEATHER REPORT! Wii U’s MiiVerse is the most adorable thing ever, which speaks for itself. The collection of images are part of the reason Gabler describes Miiverse as "adorable, and probably my favourite thing on the Wii U so far". As you can tell from the images in this article, we agree with him.
Amazingly, the communities I'm seeing on MiiVerse have managed to stay warm and family friendly, and have entirely avoided devolving into an infested puddle. I hope it stays that way!
Despite some loudly wondering about Wii U's long term prospects for third-party support, as doubting the big N's systems has been a popular pastime for many since the arrival of DS, Gabler told us that he thinks the eShop is "promising", suggesting that it could become an attractive option for smaller developers to express their creativity in the future. "I think it will be another haven for indie developers who build strange little games like ours."
Despite its rather appropriate name, Tomorrow Corporation, the team is yet to decide what's coming next, and probably needs time to reflect on the reaction — some of it enlightening — to Little Inferno. Still, for fans of the their quirky style and desire to cause some head-scratching, Gray signed-off by suggested that Nintendo gamers may not have seen the last of the budding mega corporation.
We’re definitely interested in working on the Wii U again, but that really depends on the next game itself. It’s going to be pretty difficult to top the weirdness of Little Inferno, but we’re all excited to see what’s next!
We'd like to thank Kyle Gabler and Kyle Gray for their time. This week we've interviewed every Wii U eShop download-only launch developer, so you can check out the full collection — and more — on our Developer Interview page. Keep an eye out for our upcoming round table on the Wii U eShop, in addition to a special interview with the man behind Nintendo's download services, Dan Adelman.