Hello all! Last week, we explored some dank, abandoned, creepy joints.
This week, I wanted to revisit a recent indie gem, one I didn't think much of at first, but it's a game that grew on me. PROBABLY SOME SPOILERS THIS TIME.
Little Inferno is a bit more recent than the games I usually write about. It's a simple game with a seemingly simple story. That is, at first, there doesn't seem to be a plot at all. At first.
So, basically, you play as a child who has been given the "Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace" by the Tomorrow Corporation (also the game's developers). You need to use the fireplace to stay warm, as the world is constantly freezing.
For about 90% percent of the game, that means you're staring at this:
Pictured: Your fireplace, with various items set aflame.
The main gameplay mechanic of Little Inferno, as you can probably guess, is fire. You order things from a catalog, wait for them to show up, and burn them when they do. And that's pretty much it.
Well, a more "game-y" element comes in the form of combos; by burning two or three items that fit together thematically, you score a combo. There's 99 of these to hunt down...but to finish the game, you merely have to buy and burn every item in the game.
What's baffling from a gamer standpoint is the fact that burning something will give you more money than it cost to buy. Little Inferno was in fact designed to be a spoof of sandbox games, where you'll do an assortment of time-consuming tasks for little reward (any number of things in GTA San Andreas, for example), so it actually makes a bit of sense that you'd get rewarded for destroying items that you buy. Maybe it doesn't make sense but I think it does.
The act of hurling your stuff in a fireplace, though. That's one of the things about Little Inferno that get to me. You see, you collect money that can be used to buy things, and the only thing you can do with those things is burn them. These items have personality, too (the moon, for example, has its own gravity, the train horn blares, etc.), but this only shows when you set them on fire. They could have been lifeless blocks, but each item feels-and burns-unique.
All the while, you're receiving letters from a neighbor named Sugar Plumps. Sugar plumps is a girl who lives nearby and also has a fireplace. She's cheerful, and asks for items on occasion.
Some more stuff burning.
As the game goes on, Sugar Plumps' messages become more dire, more disturbing. She becomes obsessed with her Little Inferno. Frankly, she starts to creep you out.
And then, eventually, her house burns down. You can hear her house exploding, and see flaming debris land in your fireplace. You hear her scream. She sends you a letter explaining her house is burning down. It's a deeply unsettling scene, and it wakes you up from the seemingly silly, pointless game you were playing. The game creates this emotional moment without letting you leave seat you've taken in front of your fireplace.
Then you get letters from what appears to be Sugar Plumps' ghost.
Because someone decided burning Sugar Plumps alive wasn't grim enough.
But it's where the game takes a turn, as, after you create one final combo, your own home explodes. You're now outside, and the rest of the game takes place as a side scrolling adventure.
You visit the creators of the fireplace. You meet a mailman. He gives you a letter from Sugar Plumps, who escaped the fire and is living on an island-as an adult. How long were you sitting at that fireplace?
You meet the CEO of Tomorrow Corporation, and she gives you a hug (IF you kept the "Free Hug" item), and she drops another hint that the world of Little Inferno is deeper than we thought; she explains her intention to "escape" from the city.
There's a Tim Burton-esque feel to these proceedings; that same Burton art-style is present throughout the game, but here, it's presented in full force.
It's when you finally meet the weatherman, though. He gives you a ride in his weather balloon. And one thing he says is:
"You can go anywhere you like! But you can never go back."
That line, right there, sums up what Little Inferno is about. It's about your life, and the infinite possibilities you have. It's as much about how your past burns away as it is about burning stuffed animals and, um, moons. It's about the sick glee you can get from throwing facsimiles of your childhood-teenage objects into a fireplace. Maybe you don't see that as fun, but I bet there's at least a couple of things you wouldn't mind burning. It's about how you can go anywhere, and do anything...but you can't go back in time. You can only go forward. Forward in any direction, yes...but forward only.
I guess it's about looking to the future, really. How we should remember our past, learn from it, love it, even, but never get trapped in it.
Because you can never go back.
In case you can't tell, I loved Little Inferno. Check it out if you haven't. Oh, and pick up the soundtrack. It's amazing.
Thanks for reading! Hit the comments, suggest games for this series, and find me on Twitter!
Next week-I don't cover enough Dreamcast games. Let's look at the Dreamcast's "killer app..." or, what was supposed to be, anyway.