If you've ever been on a camping trip, you might remember gathering near the campfire, enjoying the warmth as the wood burned. Occasionally, you'd drop things into the fire to see what happened. Bugs, wood, marshmallows... they all had a way of reacting to the fire, whether it was a slow burn or a satisfyingly gruesome pop. And you could easily sit mesmerized by the flames for hours.
Tomorrow Corporation's Little Inferno builds upon that experience; the game is a pyromaniac's dream. You are given a catalog to buy things--to throw into the fireplace, of course. Burning certain items together gives you credit for combos, and creating enough combos will unlock a new catalog of items to immolate.
There are 140 different things to burn and 99 combos you can discover. The movie night combo for example requires corn and a TV, for example, while the catfish combo requires you to burn a cat and fish plushie. Discovering these combinations are rewarding, but half the fun of the game was watching the how these different items reacted to the fire. Plushie toys burned as expected, but there was something morbid about their eyes watching your cursor as you prepared to light them on fire.
But Little Inferno is more than just a glorified interactive fireplace. Early on in the game, you will start getting mail from a sweet neighbor named Sugar Plum. She loves to find out what you are up to and shares how much she loves her fireplace. You will also get weather updates and notes form Miss Nancy, the creator of your Little Inferno fireplace. But as the game progresses, the tenor of the notes starts to change a bit, especially from Sugar Plum. It may start as a mere backdrop to the game, but eventually the story pushes its way to the foreground with all the daintiness of a semi with no brakes. I found myself working my way quickly through catalogs just to get my next letter from Sugar Plum.
By the time I reached the finale, I wasn't quite sure what I had just witnessed. Somewhere along the way, the game had transformed from an entertaining way to spend some down time to a commentary on life, and the haunting music in the background at the end definitely added to the surreal experience. Definitely not something I expected when I burned my first plushie.
Some may not care for the ending, while others may not mind a little sentiment. Either way, Little Inferno's creativity and style are refreshingly entertaining and definitely worth experiencing, even if all you're looking for is an homage to those camping trips of yore.
This Little Inferno review was based on a near-complete digital beta build of the PC version, provided by the developer. The game is also available for Wii U, Mac, and Linux.