Recently I have stumbled on a digital e-store game for the Wii U that is an absolute real gem and a surprising addition to the internet-based side of Nintendo’s new console. One possible complaint about Little Inferno is that all gameplay requires the use of the Wii U gamepad’s touch screen with the TV merely showing exactly what is on the touch screen, meaning that this game can really just be played on gamepad alone – this feels like a bit of a waste when you have a big screen at your disposable.
Now, it’s a game that could be a little off-putting from its concept. It’s a game set just in a stone fireplace where you buy objects and burn them including logs, screaming robots, credit cards, batteries, exploding fish, unstable nuclear devices, and tiny galaxies. An adventure that takes place almost entirely in front of a fireplace. From that description it sounds very much like that Wii download which turned your television into a fish tank: pointless and a waste of money, even more so when this costs £8.99. But that is not the case here.
From the designers of World of Goo and Henry Hatsworth, Little Inferno mixes up the gameplay of ‘The Incredible Machine’ with the humour of ‘Worms’ or television show ‘Look Around You’. You start the game with just the fireplace and three possible items to buy, which arrive by carrier and take a certain length of time to be delivered. You can then drop them into the fireplace and watch them burn and see how they interact, with the game being an exercise in excellent use of physics and funny sound effects. Burning them in interesting ways earns you coins – as does killing the spiders that occasionally venture into the fireplace – that allow you to buy more items.
Half of the fun is watching the funny animations of things burning in a rather sinister way. In many ways it’s like a cartoony ZombiU – a game you couldn’t imagine appearing on a Nintendo console, famous for their family image. Here, instead of blood thirsty murderous zombies, you find yourself burning a toy bus full of kids with some horrifying, but sadistically humorous noises, or a joke shop snake container that fires hypodermic syringes out when you burn it, taken from the rejected toys catalogue. Then there’s the fat lady, whose animation, sounds and death are as well observed and employed as something like the Monty Python-inspired ‘Holy Hand Grenade’ from Worms.
It does sometimes fall down with some items not interacting as you’d expect or not making noise as you drop them sometimes, but with some really realistic physics effects that see the fire sucked or blown, or items exploding in true-to-life ways, or gravity being affected by others, it really is well done.
The game is also peppered with some great fifties-style references, from the music to the occasional video, one a spot-on infomercial that mixes up ‘South Park’ animation with a ‘Little Britain’ surrealness. Plus, there is a steady plot that evolves involving a weird, stalkery girl sending you letters and gifts (which can also be burned) and suggestions from her and the weatherman that not all is right on the world, with a strange, creepy plot unfolding, with the ‘Tomorrow Corporation’ that bring you the fireplace having a very haunting feeling to them.
You progress through the game by collecting coins, burning items in combos to unlock bonuses that allow you to get items delivered more quickly, and expanding your mailbox to hold more items, buying more catalogues and getting more items as you reach the conclusion to the physics-based puzzler.
Little Inferno is a weird game as on the surface it sounds pointless and shallow, but spend just five minutes with it and its well evoked atmosphere, eye for detail and surreal and witty humour, plus some quite disturbing tasks, and you’ll be won over. With lots of items and a fair bit of playability, this will keep you going for a while. Plus, it can be played just on the GamePad with both screens mirroring each other.
I was surprised when Nintendo let ZombiU on the system. I’m even more surprised that this creepy little download which sees you burning toys, items and creatures with glee appears on the WiiU. But I’m glad it has; a truly enjoyable micro-game with a great sense of humour. It’s the sort of thing you’d expect on a Nintendo console, though, from the consoles that brought WarioWare to the world, though it is also available for Windows.
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