Although rare, the concept of an anti-game is definitely intriguing. Little Inferno may be more than initially meets the eye but is it a worthwhile gaming experience or will you be better off lighting your credit card on fire?
Little Inferno has been out for almost five years yet it just made its Switch debut. For those unfamiliar with this odd little game, you play it by tossing items into a fireplace in order to set them ablaze. It requires no skill whatsoever but there are some interesting dynamics at play. First of all, you earn money by burning stuff that you can then use to purchase more items from a series of unlockable catalogs. After doing so, you have to wait for them to arrive. Early on, this wait time is brief but it turns into minutes for each item by the end of the campaign. However, you could use earned stamps to pay for express shipping. Finally, certain combinations of items burning together triggers interesting events which are then unlocked in your combo list. It's all very simple stuff that can be enjoyable if you're in the mood to just watch stuff burn.
Obviously, Little Inferno isn't just a basic premise with mindless gameplay. There's an inherent sense of sarcasm in its gameplay setup of purchasing stuff to set on fire as it mirrors wasting money on micro-transactions. Also, the fact that you're just looking at a fireplace the entire game can be considered commentary on how gaming is simply staring at a screen and not really getting anything accomplished. The overwhelmingly dark sense of humour throughout only further solidifies its anti-game nature. Once you master Little Inferno (yes, it does have an ending) then it all comes together in a rather thought-provoking series of events. I don't want to ruin it but I'll just say that you probably won't expect what unfolds after you master your abilities as a pyromaniac.
Back to the gameplay, some of the combos will put a smile on your face such as burning someone else's credit card and family photo or setting a TV and cob of corn on fire to make popcorn for movie night. Besides these, all you do is buy stuff, watch it burn, and repeat. The overly simplistic and downright monotonous gameplay may be a clever spoof of the gaming industry but that doesn't make it fun. In fact, Little Inferno is one of the most pointless and monotonous games that I've ever played. That being said, this could all be carefully implemented in order to deliver the clever finale in a more impactful way yet that still doesn't mean it's an enjoyable game.
Even if you find this sort of tedious gameplay enjoyable, the entire experience only lasts a couple of hours at the most. Once you discover all of the combos and burn everything the catalogs have to offer (which surprisingly doesn't take long at all), there really isn't anything else to do. After you finish it, you'll enjoy the ending then probably be content enough to never boot it up again.
Little Inferno's minimalist gameplay makes for an incredibly dull dynamic. Although its anti-game premise benefits from this tedium, it still remains an overall short experience that unfortunately fails to bring the heat.
- + Apt spoof of gaming and micro-transactions told through dark humour
- + Clever combos will make you smile
- + Potentially thought-provoking ending
- - Simplistic and unvaried gameplay that's ultimately quite boring
- - Very short with almost no replay value