Binding of Isaac

By Jonathon Roscoe

Well where do you start with a game like this? I’ll be honest and admit I had not actually heard of this game until I picked it from the shelf but boy was that a good idea! As I don’t think I’d have willingly purchased such a frightening game and subject myself to a new dimension in horror!

526722-the-binding-of-isaac-windows-screenshot-blood-trails-you-cannot

A bit of a thinker!

It starts with the intro (everything normal so far!) explaining how Isaac’s mother is told by god that Isaac is a sinner and should be punished (getting a bit weird now!) After locking him away and taking his toys from him she is told he’s still evil and needs to be sacrificed to prove her devotion to god (now I’m worried!) So she attempts to kill the poor little mite but he escapes through a trap door into the cellar! Phew thank heavens Isaac is safe now…. Erm wait….what’s that in the corner! …..oh Shi……

Thus the game begins! Certainly unique so far! The game is based on the old school dungeon crawlers like Rogue and even Zelda to a certain degree. Its devilish simple with only a few keys being used, but it’s almost impossible to finish. You go from room to room on each level picking off hoards of  all manner of evil using the tears streaming from your little abandoned face as projectiles to fend off the endless hoards! From headless corpses bouncing around to floating heads firing poisonous bombs at you. Along the way you will pick up various power ups and accessories to aid your fight for survival. This, I think, is the the brilliance of this game. The variety of different accessories, power ups and items is staggering (over 200 in fact) ranging from the devastating bomb tears to the bizarre, like the puberty pill. All meant to either help or hinder you!

What I really love about this game is that it is randomly generated so every time you start a new game (and trust me you’ll be dying a lot! This game ain’t easy!) it’s completely different from the last time.  From the layout of the levels, to the contents, power up you get and even the bosses at the end of each level.  So it doesn’t loose it’s freshness easily.  So far I have died nearly 70 times, completed it 0 times (shameful I know!)  but every single time I restarted I thought “right this time I’ll do it!” It is really frustrating though especially since there is no save function. So if you have a short temper, anger issues or prized Ming vases around I wouldn’t play this game.  The randomness of each play through means that sometimes the game seems to get it wrong and make things too difficult too quickly but I guess you could just quit and try again.

There also seems to be a somewhat religious overtone to the game (not surprising with the Abrahamic with the title) but it’s clever referencing to popular biblical, Greek  Roman and even Astrological (See Gemini boss below) mythology  is oddly refreshing and an angle I’ve not seen exploited in a game before, or certainly not as blatantly anyway.

Horror-scope

Horror-scope

It has been a while since I’ve had that fever to continuously play a game and shun my “real” life and become a gaming hermit, but I can feel that itch again, the haunting music from this game calling me back to the keyboard to try and escape again.

The style of the game is a style that seems to have been forgotten by mainstream producers and I’m almost glad about that as I can only imagine what god awful dungeon crawlers the likes of Activision or Zenimax would produce. Also you don’t (as far as I can tell) seem to see these in the mobile gaming market either which is odd considering the ease of which these would port to a smartphone platform like iOS or Android (I don’t consider  the windows mobile a proper platform yet).

I am glad that the dungeon crawler type has waned somewhat though, not because they’re not worth of success but because this has made developers re-invent ways to make these more relevant to today’s gaming market and Isaac is such a polished product.  The graphics are bright and almost comic book like which makes the game  (along with the blood and guts) stand out more, it would have been too cliché  to simply make it dark and shadowy.  As touched on, the music is haunting, original and stays with you long after you’ve stopped playing the game, a good thing in my books as it shows how catchy and well produced (composed by Danny Baranowsky).

So to wrap up, the originality of this game is it’s trump card, the game has a freshness about it and a re-playability that I’ve not seen in a game for a long time, like I mentioned I’ve tried nearly 70 times to complete it and I’m still not bored.  However, this re-playability is born out of the game’s fiendish difficulty, this I think may put people off after a few runs through, it would be good to see a difficulty option to set yourself, the game feels unbalanced and almost impossible sometimes. Also it is quite a gruesome and nightmarish game, some people may even find it disturbing and offensive with it’s depiction of mutated babies and religious references, for instance it was given a 16+ rating due to it’s blasphemous references.  BUT! I would say don’t let this detract from the overall quality of the game, the graphics are fresh, music is excellent (as always seems to be the case with indie games) and the sheer variety of objects, enemies and powers will keep you entertained for weeks.

Shit scary stuff!

Shit scary stuff!

The positives far outnumber the negatives so I would heartedly recommend this game.  It’s currently on steam for £3.99 and the add on Wrath of the Lamb is £1.99 so six quid for an original game, how often can you say that!

Game play: 8/10

Graphics 8/10

Music: 9/10

Overall 9/10 an awesome game well worth the effort!

 

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