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iPad  header logo

Little Inferno

For: iPad

We didn't start the fire

Product: Little Inferno | Publisher: Tomorrow Corporation | Format: iPad | Genre: Puzzle | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Little Inferno iPad, thumbnail 1
Little Inferno is quick to declare its intentions. Not long after you've installed your entertainment fireplace and lobbed a few household objects into its flaming mouth, you'll receive a letter that explains everything.

"There are no points. There is no score. You're not being timed," the letter reads. "Just have fun burning stuff".

You see, Little Inferno is not really a game by any traditional yardstick. You simply spend coins on random objects - like wooden spoons, credit cards, chainsaws, and a leprechaun strapped with TNT - and then you burn them up in your virtual fireplace to earn a few more coins.

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The physics sandbox is fun to play around with, and there's a primal thrill to seeing how different objects burn. A spider's egg explodes into a gaggle of eight-legged bugs, for example, and a tin can belches up a handful of needles.

But there are few goals on offer, and even less skill involved. The only time that it halfway resembles a game is when you unlock new catalogues of junk by burning certain objects in tandem.

The Time Bomb combo, for example, requires you to raze a nuclear warhead and a buzzing alarm clock. Figuring out the recipes is not exactly rocket science, and you only need to make a few combinations to finish the game.

Rest of review will be delivered in 32 seconds

But Little Inferno's goal-free nature is actually kind of the point.

You don't need to play for very long to realise that it's quite clearly a biting satire of pointless, junk-food games. A parody of insulting freemium stuff on Facebook, and a Banksy-esque portrayal of pointless screen-tapping apps on iPhone.

Take, for instance, the fact that the game is artificially stretched out by lengthy wait timers. Or that friends badger you to send them new objects. Or the way it's constantly reminding you that you can't get your wasted time back.

Or the fact it's just one slow, inexorable march towards the conclusion.

It's clever, sure, and these games are in need of a good ribbing. But once you've gotten the joke it really outstays its welcome - and suddenly the joke is no longer on FarmVille. It's on you.

You eventually need to wait several minutes for objects to be delivered, and sometimes you just want to burn a load of stuff but you can't afford anything. It feels like a freemium game - but you paid full price for it.

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The real star of Little Inferno is its twisted sense of humour, and its surprisingly touching story.

As you play, you'll receive little letters from a cast of characters that drip feed information about the game's mysterious backstory, and really entice you to keep playing.

The payoff is satisfying and unexpected, though its true meaning is left quite ambiguous.

Little Inferno is witty and memorable. And - contrary to what Smokey the Bear might tell you - it's just plain fun to burn things. But, its dogged obsession with satire puts a dampener on the experience.

For some, this will be a subversive indie masterpiece about the way we play games. For others, it will be dismissed as a pointless time-waster. For me, it's somewhere in between.
Little Inferno
Reviewer photo
Mark Brown | 31 January 2013
Little Inferno is a smart and subversive work of art that pokes fun at freemium games. But its dedication to the joke often hurts the fun little physics toy at the core
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