Little Inferno is a game where you burn things. Then you burn more things, and when you’re out of things to burn you rush to your catalog to order more things to burn. Are these packages being delivered? Who knows. You want them and after a time they appear. Increasingly extravagant items are put before you. Some are beautiful, some are useful, some are powerful, and others are even alternate forms of entertainment. In reality these could all be objects of desire, but in Little Inferno they are merely trinkets to be burned for further entertainment.
An occasional message from the outside world arrives. Cheerful messages from a neighbor offset foreboding weather reports from the outside world. You can read them, or you can just throw them in the fire without ever looking away from the blaze. When I was playing my neighbor made me something precious. This was something unique and special, not some crap from the catalogs. What if it meant something later on? What if I saw this person at some point? I chose to hold on to it for a while, but every time I burned something I couldn’t help looking at it down in the corner of my inventory bar. Before long it was flickering in the blaze.
Is Little Inferno fun? That question is difficult to answer. Nearly the entire experience consists of placing items in a fireplace and lighting them up. The fire is beautifully rendered and acts in a surprisingly realistic manner. The various objects also react in interesting ways to the heat, producing neat sounds, changing states of being, or even momentarily altering the properties of the fireplace. There is some novelty to burning combinations of items at once in order to see how they interact, a mechanic that is actually required to progress in the game.
Despite the strangeness of it all the actual gameplay is pretty repetitive, but the game is thankfully too short for the repetition to to become grating. Most of Little Inferno’s flaws are overshadowed by its strong sense of tone, and the direction the story eventually takes seems to resonate with just about everyone. Some see the game as a simple knock against energy systems in casual phone and Facebook games while others interpret it to be a commentary on consumerism. I saw the whole thing as a question posed to the player. Are you playing games that give you worthwhile experiences, or are you just consuming entertainment compulsively? Have you become the video game equivalent of the guy who just sits on the couch watching hours of TV at random every night, killing time just for the sake of it? Little Inferno isn’t for everyone, but there is a memorable experience to be had for those who are looking for it.