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anglorum avatar 10:51 PM on 11.19.2012  (server time)
Little Inferno: Nihilistic Arson Simulator

Remember in middle school? When the teacher would leave the class for all of about fifteen seconds, right after telling every child in the classroom individually by name to behave themselves while they were gone? I do. I also remember the student who would inevitably remove a lighter EVERY time and just start flicking it, like they were Spike Fucking Spiegel. Another person (in my head it’s a very annoying girl wearing an Aaron Carter T-shirt) would then proceed to gasp.

“Oh my god! I’m such a pyromaniac! I love to light things on fire!”

I would then roll my eyes, and scoff so loud that every person in the room would turn around as I was tucking my esophagus back into my throat. I was so cool guys. Cool enough to know that the girl proclaiming her love towards the Soup De Jour lighter that happened to enrapture her for just a single moment, had no more love of setting things on fire in her free time, than I did of having well-aged spider monkeys shoved down the front of my jock strap.

Well… Probably not actually.

Because for all of my skepticism. For all of my over-jaded naivety. For all of the times I heard someone proclaim false lighter-love and thought I was going to spin my head 'round exorcist style spewing shards of glass and cigarette smoke everywhere… This game makes me say out loud in the dark of my room wearing my goose-bumps underwear…

“Oh my god! I’m such a pyromaniac! I love to light things on fire!”

Throughout the course of this “game,” you are given a toy fireplace and commanded to set things on fire for leisure purposes by what looks like an obese inflatable sex doll. You might be wondering why I put the word game up in quotes. It’s because I’m having a hard times admitting to myself that this is a game at all. I would almost be more inclined to call it something closer to a “toy chest”. One where you get to do what you really always wanted to as a child… which is see what each and every one of your G.I. Joes looked like, when you melted their dumb plastic faces off.

Helmed by previous crewmembers of teams responsible for such classics as Henry Hatsworth, and World of Goo, Little Inferno does a pretty spectacular job at sucking up about two hours of your life. With little to no narrative, you progress through the “toy chest” as I’m going to incessantly call it, buying things, and then proceeding to watch as they catch on fire. There are combos and stuff, as well as some kind of kitchy timer mechanics, but I’ll let other reviews cover that stuff. I’m here to talk about how this crap looks, and why it looks that way!

So, there are a few characters in the game that you’ll more or less “meet” through letters you receive down your chimney. You can light these on fire after reading them which is most delightful. Looking at the different characters, you can see that they’ve chosen to stay in keeping with the very “Burton-esque” art style from previous games. Lots of grey-tones and Gaussian blur keeping you in that fuzzy mood that artist, Allan Blomquist, loves to do. The items you remove from the chest such as broken space heaters, spontaneously combusting children, muscle man ice sculptures and locust egg sacs each drip (literally) with the same enthusiasm and charisma of previous titles.

Blomquist’s signature style comes through in the animation as well. Though most of it is either tweened or stitched together joints, the response from picking up a squidgy little critter and watching him flail around is intensely reminiscent of WoG’s distinct reactions when dots of goo would react to your cursor. This carries into the sound design as well, as Kyle Gabler, the previous composer for 2D Boy, has made the soundtrack for this game. The series of distinct melodies and symphonic chimes lay the ground work for your mischievous romp through an arsonist dream-scape. Everything from ominous tones to Sim’s-like shopping bells ring you along towards a single goal, to burn it all, and get paid. This makes for a delightful contrast as you set a cute cuddly kitty on fire only to watch him poop his way off of the screen and back again, condense down to ash, then pop into the unblemished shopping wonderland to pick out a new terror-palette.

The backdrop throughout the entire game remains essentially the same. A happy snoozing mechanical face is plopped as a sentry in the background. Different effects can take place and I have to admit some of the more visually enticing moments of the game happened when I lit certain bugs, or barrels on fire. I won’t spoil it. I’ll let you see what happens!

All in all, I’m not sure that Little Inferno justifies its fifteen dollar price point. It’s pretty, and it’s novel, but it’s brief, and fairly shallow (especially when put up against the games developed previously by these creators). It’s a lot of visual candy, which is exactly what I enjoy, but as someone who likes a bit more challenge, or replay value, I would say your money is better spent else-where until we hit at-least the high single digits.

For those of you who HAVE played it though, I’d like to know what your favorite thing to light on fire was. Mine was the Terms of Agreement contract at the very beginning of the game.

I knew I was on to something special when I could choose any picture in my library to set on fire as well. Oh the effigies I did burn on that day.

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