Dec 31, 2011

Review: The Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac is a PC and Mac indie game available on Steam for around €5. Despite being written in Flash, this is a surprisingly deep game that has a lot of content.

How can you quit when this is the exit prompt?

In it, you control Isaac who lives a secluded but happy life with his mother in a house on a hill. He minds his own and she minds hers while watching christian TV. That is, all is well until mother hears the voice of God, telling her to kill her son to prove her faith.  Overhearing this, Isaac panics a bit in his room, but just before mother enters his room, knife in hand to finish the deed he finds a trap door in his room and escapes into the basement, where.. well, things just get worse to be honest.

Welcome to the basement

Intro done, as mentioned things just get worse and darker. As you might have picked up by now, this game is not afraid to shock, and does so in the most charming way. Binding of Isaac features a very, very dark story, and a whole lot of messed up stuff to discover. Despite the smiley faces and kind of cutey art seen on some screenshots of this game, it is not absolutely not child friendly.

Binding of Isaac is at heart an action shooter/rpg blend type of game, with similarities to oldschool shoot'em up games while also borrowing heavily from Roguelike type of games.  You control Isaac using keyboard controls WASD and either arrow keys or the mouse to aim bullets (or well, tears, or.. other stuff.. or.. number one. or other stuff.), as you navigate the freaky levels under your house seeing and killing a lot of stuff not meant for mortal eyes.  It plays very much like a typical shoot'em up game or action RPG in the sense that the actual gameplay puts heavy (and sometimes unfair) emphasis on reflex and twitch skill, but it also has a heavy RPG/Roguelike element in that all the stages are randomly generated, there is no telling what enemies, or powerups or other things you might run into.

Room full of turds, and theyre smiling, great.

Surprisingly, the game has a lot of depth as mentioned before. There is a ton of unlockable items that can drop as you play the game more times, as well as unlockable characters and even more, doing well or completing the game unlocks deeper levels under Isaac's house and extra bosses. In short, I've spent around 10 hours on this game according to Steam stats, and there's still a lot of unlockables I haven't discovered yet, and I expect I won't remove the game until I've discovered the majority of them.

Because playing The Binding of Isaac is FUN. It may just be me, or maybe it requires a special kind of humour to appreciate Binding of Isaac, but it has me giggling, gasping and cursing like I haven't in a very long time, too long.  I never imagined this simple game would hook me like this, but it has.

Money's on Larry

I'd also like to make a special mention of the soundtrack for this game. It is one of the few games I have actually gone out to buy the OST for, with its plain awesome synth-zelda-mario-castlevania-christian-occult themes.  I highly recommend youtubing for some of the soundtrack pieces, if the interest takes you, or even better, buying it of course.

There's been a lot of praise so far.  I do have a couple issues with The Binding of Isaac, though.  First of all, the game can sometimes crash, though rarely. It seems to be related to combinations of items you pick up during play.  Second, despite its simple looks this game can be quite taxing on your machine. I experience quite a few slowdowns on levels with a lot of enemies, while playable on just about any low spec PC or Mac be aware this game can try your CPU/GPU at times.

Sorry bro :(

+Occult-christian theme that gives goosebumps
+Addictive replayability
+Soundtrack, its awesome

-Not 100% stable and may crash at times, somewhat odd for a flash game

8/10 - An indie release that should not be afraid to go toe to toe against larger releases

Edit: I found out there's a demo for the game you can play at to try for yourself.

Edit #2: I found the intro for Binding of Isaac on Youtube, have a look.

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