Impressions: Little Inferno & Knytt Underground

Two very strange Wii U indie titles that may surprise you.

Little Inferno

Little Inferno is the brainchild of three wandering video game developers who were also responsible for games as World of Goo and Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure. It is an eccentric puzzle game that takes place almost exclusively in front of a fireplace where the player burns the various products he purchases online. The game seems to be set in the middle of a nuclear winter, which is why the fireplace (called the Little Inferno) exists in the first place.

Gameplay consists of burning certain objects together to perform combos and earn money to buy more things to burn. The game provides a list of phrases that serve as hints as to which items to burn together. Some of these are painfully obvious (the first combo you will be asked to perform is a “Bike Pirate,” which is basically burning a bike and a pirate) while others are more obscure and require at least some familiarity with popular culture. The entire burning process is actually quite amusing (who does not want to burn a pirate?), and with a total of 99 combos in the game, it may take some time to complete them all.

The gameplay is not what makes this game special, however. What is impressive is how Little Inferno manages to tell a very deep (and dark) story with its very limited tools. Throughout the course of your four-hour experience, you will receive letters from a mysterious girl next-door, who also has her own Little Inferno but is curious as to what is actually happening elsewhere. Together, the two of you try to piece together the world you both know very little about, and it all culminates into a finale that really tugs on your heartstrings. I will not spoil it for you though; you will have to play the game yourself to find out what happens.

Admittedly, Little Inferno can get a bit repetitive and boring, but my fascination for the game’s world (and burning stuff – I may or may not be a pyromaniac) kept me going. Although the game is quite short, I left very satisfied and happy to experience this weird puzzle game unlike any other.

Little Inferno is available for download on the Wii U eShop today for $4.99.

Knytt Underground

Before I go on, it is pronounced “cuh-nit” underground, because the game is Swedish, and “knytt” translates roughly to “tiny creatures.” How fitting then, that this game is about tiny creatures living underground.

Knytt Underground is a 2D open-world platforming adventure game developed by Nicklas Nygren, also known as “Nifflas.” As the name suggests, the game takes place in a very large, underground cave where small creatures like sprites and fairies thrive. You play as one mute sprite, Mi, on her journey to complete a prophecy by ringing six bells – though the reality of the goal itself becomes a prominent subject matter within the game’s commentary (but more on that later).

The game is divided into three chapters, though the first two primarily serve as glorified tutorials that teach the players the basics of the gameplay as well as provide some background for the story. The first stars Mi, who can move around and jump just as you would in any other platformer. She can also climb walls, which comes in handy when it comes to traversing the sprawling caves. Power-ups are spread in deliberate locations to help Mi access hard-to-reach areas (by blasting her upwards, for example), and learning when and how to use them becomes an integral part to exploring every nook and cranny of the cave. The second chapter stars a ball, who moves just like you would expect – bouncy and quick. The ball also has this strange grappling hook ability that allows him to attach to predetermined surfaces, which is very helpful considering how clumsy maneuvering the ball can be.

Chapter 3 is where the game open up to a sprawling Metroid-style map. In this chapter, Mi can turn into the ball at the press of a button (the two were fused together through some mishap), and completing the game requires the player to master both forms, sometimes by stringing them in quick succession. Throughout the cave are many tiny trinkets to collect, many of which are required to unlock the six areas that house the bells. It is through the exploration of this world that you begin to understand the true story behind this game – the humans have gone extinct, and the many inhabitants living underground are trying to uncover humanity’s past. Interestingly, this debate has caused the cave dwellers to split into two opposing factions: the Myriadists (read: theists) and the Internets (read: atheists). The whole game is really a social commentary on the meaning of faith, and it truly is fascinating to go through and experience the whole thing whether you are religious or not.

The cave itself is captivatingly diverse. In the game’s over 1400 rooms, no two are exactly the same, and going through each one will net you over a dozen hours (and many more if you want to collect everything in the game). The game’s art style is very eclectic, varying anywhere between avant-garde cubism and modern minimalism. Some changes between sections were so jarring that I could not help but stop playing and wonder to myself what just happened. This is especially true once you realize you can explore rooms outside of the main map (bringing the total to over 1800).

Needless to say, I love Knytt Underground. Even if its story may sound unappealing to you, it is only a fraction of what makes Knytt Underground so fascinating. If you are a fan of 2D adventure games or puzzle platformers, definitely check this game out.

Knytt Underground is available for download on the Wii U eShop today for $12.99.


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