iPad Game Review: Little Inferno for iPad 2 and Up Review
Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Little Inferno is a curious, creative, and ultimately gentle game without timers or points. Instead, using your brand new Little Inferno Fireplace, you will burn toys and read letters from a mysterious pen pal as you attempt to decipher the correct combinations to solve the mystery and win the game.
Little Inferno is a difficult game to categorize. On the one hand, it feels more like a software toy than a game due to the non-restrictive nature of the gameplay. Yet, on the other hand, you can't help but be fascinated as the back story unfolds, which makes it feel a bit like an adventure game.
The core game mechanic in Little Inferno is to buy toys and burn them, which almost always gives you more money than the burned objects (usually toys) cost to purchase. This is the part that feels more like a toy than a game in that there is no wrong way to do this. Simply stack them in the fireplace however you like, and then use your finger to light them on fire. As they burn, coins will be generated, as will stamps, which can be used to accelerate the speed that newly purchased items can be opened and burned. However, there is also a sizeable list of achievements with cryptic names like: Deadly Fish Combo and LOL Kitty that require you to burn certain objects together. Doing so will advance the plot and yield larger amounts of cash. This particular component feels a bit like Doodle God, although unlike Doodle God, the possible combinations are generally not achieved through trial and error, but instead by paying attention to the achievement's title. **Spoiler** For instance, the Deadly Fish Combo can be achieved by burning a Blowfish and a few pieces of Day Old Sushi together.
My young sons and I have greatly enjoyed playing through this game, and there is a very good chance that you will too. However, be warned, this is not a traditional game. If you like your digital entertainment a bit more gamey and less quirky, this one may not be for you.
Little Inferno has a fantastic graphical style. Objects that are dragged into the fireplace can be manipulated and stacked in any way you like; even after you light them on fire! Touching a clear part of the fireplace (no object) will result in a flame being generated at your fingertip, which can be used to ignite objects stacked there. Everything in this game burns; bricks, toy school buses, electric heaters, even nuclear weapons; and each and every object burns differently and cleverly. The oil tanker will spew oil out of its smokestack, but if you light the oil on fire, it turns into a jet of flame, the electric heater will spin, sucking surrounding flames toward it, and the nuclear weapon will detonate, instantly obliterating every object in the fireplace. It's all very beautiful, sometimes dramatic, and occasionally disturbing. In particular, I didn't enjoy the burning toy school bus animation. However, the game makes it very clear that these are toys, which went a long way toward easing my concerns.
For a game like Little Inferno to succeed, it must create the correct atmosphere, something that it achieves with flying colors. The music is soft and reminded me vaguely of the soundtrack to Edward Scissorhands in that it evokes a sense of magic and wonder. The sound effects are equally good, though. The crackling of the flames, the mechanical objects malfunctioning as they burned, etc; everything comes together to create a completely immersive experience.
In-App Purchases (IAPs)
There are no IAPs in Little Inferno.
Little Inferno is an unconventional game. It is beautiful, quirky, mysterious, and even relaxing. If you are looking for something with tons of atmosphere that doesn't feel like any other game you've ever played, I can't recommend Little Inferno strongly enough. If, however, you prefer your entertainment a bit more traditional, exciting, or challenging, you may want to ponder this purchase. It's a fantastic game, but it's not for everybody.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 4.5 - Beautiful, amusing, and sometimes disturbing fire effects. Sound: - 5 - The soundtrack and effects are completely immersive. Controls: - 5 - Fantastic single-finger touch interface. Gameplay: - 5 - Quirky, innovative, and nonstandard gameplay will be heaven for most but may leave some players scratching their heads wondering where the game is.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Just dive in and start burning things as you will always get more money back than they cost to purchase. Open the achievement page after each item is unlocked to check the list as one of the items required in any given achievement will likely be the item that was just made available. Read the descriptions of the items as they will often give you more of a clue than just the title or picture of the object. Don't burn the gift certificate for a free hug (it's ok to burn everything else once you're done with it).