The Binding of Isaac Review

The Binding of Isaac is the latest game to spew forth from the demented mind of Edmund McMillen, creator of popular indie game Gish and one half of Team Meat (Super Meat Boy), with Danny Baranowski knocking yet another killer game soundtrack out of the park. Isaac is a dual-stick shooter/roguelike/dungeon crawler where you play the titular Isaac as he fights his way through the cavernous bowels beneath his house to escape his mother, who is hell-bent on killing him after receiving instructions from God that he requires this sacrifice to prove her loyalty to Him. Armed initially with nothing but his projectile tears, Isaac must collect various powerups and items to help him vanquish the hordes of slathering enemies and bosses, to finally face off against his mother once and for all.

Sound twisted? Trust me, it is. But it’s also incredibly fun. The disgustingly filthy, gorey environments and characters are represented in McMillen’s signature style and the gameplay mashup of those genres works exceptionally well. The dungeons, bombs and item use are definitely inspired by The Legend of Zelda, whereas the roguelike element comes in to play with the random layout of the rooms and permadeath. In addition to that, though is the bosses at the end of each level are randomized so you truly never get the same play experience. There are also tons of items and a few new different characters that can be unlocked through play.

One small thing I particularly liked in this game was the attention to detail. Most of the items and powerups Isaac can collect alter his appearance in some manner, and most of these cosmetic changes stack – so if you’re a plague-ridden body wearing Mom’s panties, Monstro’s tooth around his neck and with a clothes hanger stuck in his head, you see all of those represented on the main player sprite. I also love the look of smug contentment on Isaac’s face when he receives the Pee powerup.

Are there any downsides to this game? Well, as the game is made in flash, there are instances of framerate drops when there are lots of enemies on-screen at once. This has been lessened somewhat with updates and can also be further mitigated by tweaking the detail level and resolution of the game as well, but there still will be some occasional slowdowns on most PCs. It doesn’t make the game any less playable though. And there is the difficulty. I have played the game many, many, MANY times now and have yet to beat it, but I still love it. Less patient gamers might not appreciate the difficulty and being forced to restart from scratch every time you die so that’s also something to consider.

Limitless replayability and Edmund’s trademark art style and humour, and Danny Baranowski’s kick-ass soundtrack all wrapped in a $5 price tag makes The Binding of Isaac a no-brainer to buy. If you don’t, his mother will come to your house and stab you in the face.

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