The Binding of Isaac (PC)

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Introduction

Like the world of the mad, a child’s perceptions are distorted. The world seems smaller with a house, the yard, or the town being the extent of the world’s reaches.

Isaac’s mother has heard the voice of God after listening to an awful lot of Christian broadcasting. God orders her to purge her son, Isaac, of sin. She does this by taking all of his things and locking him in his room. God then asks her to prove her devotion to him by killing her son which she is prepared to do with glee. With precious little time Isaac must find a way to escape. He finds a trap door under his rug and chooses to face the basement — and it’s untold horrors– rather than try to face his mother.

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Spoilers: They fight. (By Deviantart’s MickeyMonster)

History

It’s hard to believe that the Binding of Isaac was only developed by two guys, Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl — It’s equally difficult to believe that a game of such scope was made in Flash. What started as a week long gamejam with between the two turned into a much larger project, something they felt like they had to complete. After McMillen’s success with Super Meat Boy he was financially secure enough to make a big risk and make something he wanted to. He figured The Binding of Isaac would have met mediocre reviews and have its fans but he couldn’t predict the explosion of interest the little game would get.

Though not all was well in the world of Isaac. McMillen would go on to fix a few bugs and then release an expansion pack for the game called Wrath of The Lamb. It introduced more items, a new ending, a new equipment slot, and character challenges. He wanted to keep releasing more content for it but the size of the file and Flash’s limitations got in his way. He’d have to program it again, better, faster, stronger. But that’s a story for another day — or at least another game for another review.

Fun Fact: McMillen wanted to release The Binding of Isaac for the Nintendo 3DS but Nintendo rejected it for “Questionable Religious Content.”

The Binding of Isaac was released on September 28th, 2011. It’s competition was Dark Souls (PS3, XBox 360), Rage (PC, PS3, XBox 360), and X-Men: Destiny (PS3, XBox 360, Wii, DS).

Experiences

Time for a little trip to the rumor mill. With the exception of the Games intro and outro there’s no dialogue in this game at all. What plot there may be lurking is expressed through cinematics and cryptic hints. A few of these show Isaac drawing the events of the game and tacking the pictures to the walls. I view his adventures then as his personal journey to conquer his fears. Monstro, the misshapen face, is Isaac’s fear of being ugly for instance. Or Peep, the giant fat monster who urinates everywhere, would be Isaac’s fear of wetting himself or the bed. The only way that Isaac can fight these monsters is by crying on them, by bearing his emotions to them.

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And Isaac is afraid of a lot of stuff. All of this stuff to be precise.

His journey takes him deeper than material fears and issues, he goes to the womb, Sheol, the Cathedral. These places could represent his fears concerning the natures of life, death, and faith. Isaac’s journey finally takes him to The Chest which represents Isaac’s fear of the unknown, things he doesn’t even know whether to be afraid of.

Drop a comment and tell me what you think is going on.

Gameplay

The Binding of Isaac is a rogue-like game that mimics the structure of The Legend of Zelda’s Dungeons. For those not in the know a Rogue-Like is a game that has random game layout and permadeath — When Isaac dies you’ve got to start the whole game over. The game is not without its progression however. There are tons of items and characters to unlock and each of these unlocks carries over through playthroughs.

The Legend of Zelda influence is quite obvious. Between the existence of bombs and keys as major items to the map layout — I mean, Isaac’s health is a series of hearts. There are other game references littered around like a ladder that can help you cross gaps and a pickaxe that looks very much like it came out of Minecraft.

Your goal on each floor is the fight the boss and continue to the next floor — the boss also gives you a free item, ain’t he great? Items can do all sorts of things from increasing Isaac’s damage to making his tears phase through objects. Isaac can also hold one usable item, like a remote that makes him teleport to a random room on the floor, this item recharges after Isaac clears a few rooms. If you’re playing Wrath of the Lamb than Isaac can also find Trinkets that offer smaller and less reliable bonuses.

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Also, any items that are permanent bonuses change Isaac’s appearance. That little widow’s peak and fang show that Isaac is a vampire and regains health from defeating enemies.

The game is about resource managament. How many keys, bombs, and coins do you have vs what will most likely give you the best reward. Is it worth it to use this bomb to try to find a secret room or should you save it to deal with a really tough group of enemies? Should you use that key on that locked chest or do you want to spend your money on the locked shop? You’ve got to make the calls and you might die for it– and who would want poor little Isaac to die?

The Gush

The score in this game is wonderfully varied. It mixes in adventurous tunes for the earlier floors and becomes more moody and atmospheric the deeper Isaac goes. Boss fights feel outright triumphant in that moment when you have to take the upper hand or dodge a wall of bullets. Danny Barronowski really outdid himself with this one.

There’s so much to unlock in this game. There’s so much criteria for unlocking new stuff from blowing up rocks to beating bosses. You unlock items and even new characters. Each new character starts with different stats and most of them start with a signature item.

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I also like how each character is just Isaac in a costume with the exception of the Blue Baby.

Speaking of unlockable characters, I love Cain. Cain is the thief like character who starts off the game with a key and the Lucky Foot. The Lucky Foot makes Cain… well… lucky. He’s more likely to get items from enemies and he’s luckier in gambling games. It’s a quick and easy way to get more items and be able to get more items throughout the game.

I really like the biblical themes in this game. There are holy and unholy objects all over the basement and it feels really cool to theme Isaac if it’s possible. I also like how all the characters are named after different biblical characters.

The Rogue-Like elements turned me off at first. I was dissatisfied with the idea of losing all my cool stuff. But that was soon replaced with the opportunity to get even cooler stuff and crush my enemies. The further I got the more I figured about Isaac as well.

The Kvetch

If you buy this game then don’t get the Wrath of the Lamb expansion along with it unless you’re confident in your abilities to deal with it. The Wrath of the Lamb makes the game a lot harder. The bosses and enemies that it introduces are stronger than the previous ones. I know too many people who stopped playing because they got the Wrath of the Lamb before they unlocked enough cool stuff to give them the edge they’d need.

Little complaint here. Isaac’s movement is a little slippery. His walk has got momentum and the higher his speed the more he’ll slide. This sliding has a nasty habit of making him run into spikes and all sorts of nasty stuff.

This game is also a lot about luck. If you get good items that synergize really well then you’re going to have a good time. If you find Lemon Mishap — an item that makes Isaac piss himself– then you’re going to have a bad time.

The game is a little immature. The basements are filled with piles of poop that might have treasure inside them. The game is filled with scatelogical humor and sometimes it gets on my nerves.

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At least this explains the flies.

The Verdict

If you’ve liked anything that I’ve talked about this far then I suggest you get this game. It’s only five dollars and it’s on Steam. I’ve got 50 hours clocked for this game and I’ve also purchased it’s sweet re-release The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. If you don’t want to make the jump between the original and Rebirth then you can just get Rebirth with its 15 dollar price tag. Rebirth takes the issues from the Wrath of the Lamb Expansion and spreads that difficulty across the experience. So, take your pick.

Next Week: Kirby’s Dream Land III

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One thought on “The Binding of Isaac (PC)

  1. Pingback: Binding of Issac: Rebirth, Is It Worth it? (PS4, PSVita, Mac, Linux, and PC) | Rose Tinted Reset

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