It's cold outside, and it's getting colder — but you will be safe and warm, snug next to your Little Inferno. That's what you know when starting the first game from Tomorrow Corporation, a team comprising Kyle Gray and Kyle Gabler, formerly of 2DBoy, and Allan Blomquist, formerly of EA Tiburon.
While it maintains an upbeat and cheery demeanour from the start, there's also something not quite right. Someone isn't telling you everything.
From a first-person perspective, you stare into the hearth of your Little Inferno, placing items in there to burn; items such as treasured childhood toys, or happy family photos. It's very simple: you drag the item into the hearth, and touch anywhere to light a flame. When you run out of kindling, you simply order more from the Tomorrow Corporation's catalogue, paying for them with the coins that result from previous combustions.
There's something quite perversely fascinating about it — especially when the game asks for access to your photographs so that it's snapshots of your own life that you're throwing onto the flames.
There's no scoring, no timers. Let the fire go out or burn it to the sky; it makes no difference. The only real challenge is in finding combos; these allow you to earn stamps (with which you can speed up delivery of items from your catalog), and unlock the next catalogue.
Where it gets creepy is the story. You receive letters from a girl, who sits by a Little Inferno of her own, and who tells you about her Little Inferno discoveries. Did you know, she says, that if you burn two particular things together, something will happen?
Then it gets more sinister. That thing at the back of your Little Inferno looks like a face, except it's not. And it's watching you. And did you know that you're trapped?
Meanwhile, letters from Tomorrow Corporation arrive, upbeat and jingoistic. Don't worry about anything, they say. You just stay safe, cosy and warm, right where you are. And suddenly the sound of that Valkyrie doll you just put on the fire sounds more like a wail of pain than a song; and burning things makes you feel just a little bit more uneasy.
The gameplay is simplistic, but the narrative pacing, tension, sound design and art have combined to make an atmospheric experience that is absolutely pitch perfect. We're simultaneously dying to know and trepidatious about what's going to happen next.
Little Inferno for iPad (AU$5.49)