Is The Binding of Isaac a good game? We Review

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With the recent release of the Afterbirth expansion for The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth I felt that it was a good time to hark back to the original Isaac title.

General Overview

The Binding of Isaac was released on Steam in 2011 and can now be purchased for £3.99. In case you happen to be unfamiliar with the Isaac titles, the games revolve around a boy whose mother is a religious fanatic. The boy, Isaac, flees into the basement when his mother tries to murder him; the voice of God telling her to take the life of her son to prove her devotion. The game is essentially a top-down dungeon crawler, but it has a twisted heart and is not for the easily offended. Isaac fights off the dangers of the basement and its deeper levels by firing his own tears – if the game’s art style wasn’t so adorable the content could be classed as horrific.

For example, on one of my runs I became a psychic infant with a still beating heart attached to the outside of my chest and a coat hanger in my skull. Told you it was dark.

Gameplay of AfterBirth

The basement consists of a number of procedurally generated rooms on each level. The levels occur in three stages, each with 2 levels. They are called The Basement 1 and 2, The Caves 1 and 2 and The Depths 1 and 2. Each level has a room with a random special item that alters your damage, range etc. On each level there is also a shop, a secret room and a Boss room. You can collect coins as you travel through the levels to spend in the shop, which usually contains a macabre scene consisting of what seems to be one of Isaac’s siblings. The secret room can only be accessed by using one of the bombs that Isaac is able to carry. The only way you can locate a secret room without an item that reveals the map is by guessing where the most likely location is.

Once you get to the end boss (Isaac’s mother) and defeat it, a new section of the game unlocks for future playthroughs. This allows you to go past Mom into areas called The Womb and Sheol. The game is really quite difficult and unless your object tracking skills are amazing; getting to the Mom fight will take many, many attempts. Movements is based on the WASD keys and either the mouse or arrow keys (depending on personal preference) fire Isaac’s tears; think twin-stick shooter controls. In essence, you use your tears to fight all manner of dark and strange monsters, picking up bizarre and twisted items along the way that can easily end up turning you into a floating devil child who then kills their own mother.

Binding of Isaac screenshot
Some of the easier enemies on your travels.
Image taken from the Binding of Isaac Wikipedia

How Well Does it Run?

The Binding of Isaac is basically a flash game, so it will run on any machine barring unexpected technical issues. Its younger brother, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, is a similar deal but with more content and a slightly higher price. Rebirth is £10.99 but often goes on sale and is well worth getting if you’re interested in the game. If cash is especially short or you’re not sure if you’ll like the game, then the original Binding of Isaac is a good substitute or a way to try out the general game mechanics before buying the newer title.

And Finally…

The Binding of Isaac games are tricky labyrinths to navigate and if you do decide to give them a shot I wish you all the best. May you achieve victory over your insane mother or have an entire run ruined by a dodgy item.

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