The WiiWare catalogue is full of surprises; Hudson's My Aquarium has sold more units than anyone could have predicted, proving there's an audience for non-games on the service. It's just this audience that is expected to enjoy Cosy Fire, the latest fire-tending simulation following Korner Entertainment's Fireplacing.
Things start off promisingly, giving you the freedom to select from a range of logs and place them at will, even rotating the Wii Remote to turn the logs accordingly. You can pile up to 18 logs at a time, waiting until one burns down before you can add another, and lighting the fire is as simple as dropping a match and watching the action unfold: no need for Remote waggling to keep this flame alive. Whereas Fireplacing limited your interactions to pressing A when told, here you can prod the logs and drop more at will, which means that unlike its competition you get a sensation of actually creating the fire.
Should the fire burn out, you can start again from scratch, but if you just want to give your Remote batteries a rest you can active the Butler mode, in which logs are automatically dropped by an invisible man-servant, or the Non-stop mode, which grants logs the power of everlasting life.
There are six surroundings for your fire to illuminate, ranging from homestead hearths to open campfires, but they all behave in the same way, so it's a matter of personal preference. Unlike Fireplacing you can't look around your surroundings, so you're pretty much stuck with one viewpoint, although you can change between the different themes at will without having to start your fire from scratch, a welcome touch. Not-so welcome is the fact no matter where you start your fire, it's always laid out for you already in exactly the same way, so if you want to build a fire your own way you'll have to wait until all the logs have burnt out.
Pressing A over a log allows you to prod it about, but the same button also opens a menu when no log is selected, which means you'll often accidentally open a menu when you meant to poke the fire. It's not a big deal, but considering you only really have two functions when the fire is going - poke or menu - there's no reason they couldn't have been mapped to other buttons.
As for the fire itself, it's a passable representation that goes for a different approach to Fireplacing: logs drop and fall thanks to nVidia PhysX support, but they lack weight and feel a little spongy. They also catch fire extremely quickly - hold a log away from the fire and within seconds it's gone from dry to charred to raging inferno, causing your on-screen hand to drop it (strangely, a menu counter keeps track of how many burns you've suffered.) Graphically it's decent and at least gives the impression of interacting with the logs, unlike Fireplacing's static flickerings.
On the sound front, the game disappoints with a fire sample that sounds more like sizzling bacon than a roaring open fire. It's rather tinny and lacks the bassy tones that bring the sensation of heat alive; logs clonk together like hollow tubes and leaping embers sound like finger-clicks.
Cosy Fire's six available surroundings and ability to build your own fire give it a clear edge over Fireplacing, which limited your interactions to pressing A when told. It's still hardly a must-have, even for the extended audience it's clearly aiming for, so is only recommended to those who absolutely have to have a fire on their TV.