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Little Inferno (Switch) Review

by Neal Ronaghan - March 20, 2017, 6:48 am PDT
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8.5

The Wii U launch game is on Switch and hey - it’s still neat.

Little Inferno is a weird game. The follow-up from the developers of World of Goo, it first came out back in 2012 at the launch of the Wii U. It is set in a dystopian world where it’s always cold and your only seeming course of action is to burn things in your new fireplace. Like that’s basically it. That’s the entire game. You buy items, you burn items, and then you repeat this in a myriad of ways. The concept is simple, making for a finely tuned and focused three-hour escapade.

But Little Inferno is so much more than the sum of its parts. This is the rare video game experience that actually pulls off biting industry satire, as it highlights the pointlessness of gaming in a way that doesn’t seem to talk down to people who enjoy these kind of sandbox games without any clear objective. Underneath that myopic surface lies a secretly strong puzzle game. The immediate charm is in the dark, whimsical Tim Burton-esque world where you buy dumb toys and items that you can just light on fire to, for some reason, earn more money to repeat the cycle. Progressing is done by burning each item and burning combinations of items. Your only clue for each combo is the name of the combo and how many items it needs. Early on, you only need to pair two items, but that opens up as you get deeper. For example, an early one is the Bike Pirate Combo. You need to burn a pirate toy and a bicycle toy in tandem to trigger it.

Along the way, you get sent postcards that help fill in the details of this off-kilter world, eventually culminating in a surprising and novel final act. It might only be a few hours, but it’s a strong few hours. I’d say there isn’t much incentive to replay it, but with the Switch version, I’ve now played through the game three times and loved it each time. On Switch, it functions identically to past versions, even making use of pointer functionality with the Joy-Con. It can only be played with a Joy-Con or on the touch screen when off the TV. Since the + button is used to calibrate the pointer, it’s not immediately intuitive how to pause and back out of the game. That’s more of a minor quibble, though, as the pointer controls work really well.

While no co-op mode exists as of this writing, the Switch version will be adding one in the next week. Even still, I’ve played through Little Inferno with multiple people as the communal fun of trying to figure out combos still works even when only one controller does anything. I don’t think Little Inferno is for everyone, but it sure as hell is for me.

Summary

Pros
  • Charming as hell
  • Engrossing world and puzzles
  • Excellent video game satire
Cons
  • Minor controller oddities

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Genre Puzzle
Developer Tomorrow Corporation
Players1

Worldwide Releases

na: Little Inferno
Release Mar 16, 2017
PublisherTomorrow Corporation
jpn: Little Inferno
Release Jun 01, 2017
PublisherFlyhigh Works
Rating12+
eu: Little Inferno
Release Mar 23, 2017
PublisherTomorrow Corporation
Rating7+

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