By Chad Sapieha,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Players burn possessions in dark, anti-consumerism puzzler.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Little Inferno wasn't created with educational intent, and we don't recommend it for learning.
On the surface this is a simple puzzle game that may satisfy (or stoke) people's desire to burn things. However, beneath this veneer rests criticisms of our consumerism culture and the effects that it has on both our psychological health and the environment.
Positive Role Models
The characters -- including children -- are obsessed with burning everything and anything. They are not good role models for kids, especially those already bitten by the firebug.
Ease of Play
All players do is drag stuff into a fireplace to burn it. Between fires they can flip through catalogues and order more stuff to burn. The only tricky part of the game is figuring which things need to be burned in tandem in order to satisfy criteria to earn badges. Simple experimentation and a bit of common sense tend to yield good results.
Violence & Scariness
Players burn objects -- not people or creatures -- in a fireplace.
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Products & Purchases
Players buy and then immediately set alight various virtual products. In this way the game's designers mean to deliver a commentary on excessive consumerism.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Among the items you can burn are "magic mushrooms" and a "mid-life crisis mitigator" (a wine bottle).
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Little Inferno is a downloadable game for computers and Wii U that simply involves burning dozens of different objects -- including lots of toys, "magic mushrooms," and bottles of wine -- in a fireplace. It may give kids some bad ideas about playing with fire. However, it's meant to be a darkly humorous puzzle game for slightly older players, and offers clever commentary on excessive consumerism and its potential environmental impact.
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What’s It About?
Players begin LITTLE INFERNO as lucky recipients of the titular product: a fireplace for kids in which children are encouraged to burn all of their possessions -- then buy more and burn those, too. As players continue feeding the fire they are rewarded with coins used to purchase more burnable objects from catalogues. If they burn specific objects at the same time they'll earn badges and unlock new catalogues. While this is going on, letters begin appearing in the mail from a mystery sender suggesting that there may be more to the activity of burning than meets the eye. The only way to learn more is to keep on buying and burning…
Is It Any Good?
Made in part by two of the fellows who helped create indie hit World of Goo, Little Inferno is deceptive. On the surface it's simply a game with a slightly dark and sinister vibe about kids burning stuff. Dig a little deeper, though, and you'll find a sly, subversive commentary on our consumer culture and a dreary foretelling of its impact on the environment.
The most interesting thing about it, perhaps, is how much fun the simple act of burning stuff in the fireplace can be. There's really not much here beyond throwing things into a fireplace and watching them burn in different ways, but this activity is surprisingly mesmerizing, satisfying, and even a bit addictive. And what does that say about us, even if we are in on the joke? It's a decidedly unusual and weirdly engaging bit of interactive entertainment, but probably best appreciated by older players.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about consumerism. Buying and owning things can be fun, but how do you ensure you're not overdoing it? How do you know you aren't spending more money than you can afford on non-necessities?
Families can also discuss the environment. How long do you think our world can support billions of people obsessed with buying and disposing of non-essential objects? Do you think people should change?
- Platforms: Mac, Nintendo Wii U, Windows
- Subjects: Science: energy, physics
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: deduction, solving puzzles
- Available online?: Not available online
- Publisher: Tomorrow Corporation
- Release date: November 18, 2012
- Genre: Puzzle
- ESRB rating: T for Drug Reference, Crude Humor
- Last updated: August 26, 2016
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