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The Binding of Isaac Review - PC

Updated on March 28, 2013

Enter the Basement...

Our story begins with a young Isaac living with his mother happily, nothing out of the ordinary. When suddenly the "supposed" voice of God speaks to Isaac's mother, ultimately telling her to kill her son as an act of sacrifice. Anybody familiar with the story in the Bible will resonate with this story a little as this is where McMillen formed the idea from.

Anyway, Isaac finds a trapdoor to the basement to which he uses to escape underground to escape the impending doom of his mother's knife.

I've summarised the opening cut-scene here, however feel free to view the whole cut-scene below:

Binding of Isaac - Opening Cinematic

It is worth noting that this game was not released on the Xbox Live Marketplace, for Nintendo DS and it was given an age rating of 16+ in Germany for "Potentially Blasphemous Content".

Also that in this Article, when I refer to "The Binding of Isaac", I am referring to both the core-game and the Wrath of the Lamb expansion as one.

The way I see it, all amazing and creative works should be released, if you are offended by the game/movie/ painting, don't view it!!

But that is a debate for another day, let's move on.

Game-Play

The camera view in The Binding of Isaac is sort of a 2.5D aerial view with the camera never moving and all items, characters and objects staying the same size regardless of position.

Each level is a floor filled with X amount of rooms, the amount of rooms increase on each floor as the player progresses. All rooms are of a rectangle shape and feature randomly generated enemies, items and obstacles.

If you've ever played The Legend of Zelda on the NES (1986), you'll find the layout to be very familiar.

Here is a screenshot of one of the rooms during gameplay:

Room Screenshot During Gameplay
Room Screenshot During Gameplay | Source
Isaac with the Brimstone Upgrade
Isaac with the Brimstone Upgrade | Source

I like the perspective as it is simple, works with the artwork and the randomisation of enemies and such ensures that the rooms do not get too repetitive.

The artwork of the rooms changes depending on the floor the player is on which keeps the visuals fresh and entertaining. The addition of more difficult enemies as the player progresses makes sure there is always a challenge for both beginners and experts of the game.

To kill enemies, Isaac shoots tears at them, however these tears can be changed and upgraded in numerous ways to make them devastating. For example, Brimstone turns Isaac's tears into a high damage laser!

Items are what is central to this game I believe, thus it has it's own section further on in the article.

What Makes It So Good!?

  • Enemy Variety

McMillen & Himsl definitely nailed the phrase "Variety is the Spice of Life" when they created all of the different enemies in the game!

The game has tens upon tens of enemies from Headless Blood-Gushing Bodies, to Mulligan's, Globin's, Floating Hearts, Evil Twin's and many, MANY more!

After a few play-through's you'll soon have opinions on your most hated enemies (I hate Hoppers!)

Enemy movement patterns have a wide range which keeps them interesting, from walking about mindlessly to jumping onto your position.

Just look below at some of the enemies, they're very creative:


Some Enemies from the Game
Some Enemies from the Game | Source
Pin
Pin | Source
  • Awesome Bosses

Like the normal enemies, there are many different Bosses too which appear at the end of each floor and must be slain in order to progress to the next floor.

Each boss looks and acts differently. For example Pin will burrow underground and pop out to try and hit you, while one of the four horsemen will often charge off screen and back in through the other side.

McMillen certainly thought out the bosses for the game as they all seem time shine their own personality through his art.

Some Pills
Some Pills | Source
  • TONNES of Items

As mentioned earlier, there are a plethora of Items and Trinkets which can swing the game from in your favour to a complete fail. With every item, Isaac will change in appearance and will gain abilities such as flight and/or stat increases to Health, Damage, Speed or Range.

This is the core mechanic to the game, your items + your experience/skill = How many floors you clear.

Another interesting thing is that sometimes a Devil or Angel room will appear after a boss fight, typically after not sustaining any damage in the boss fight increases the chance of it appearing. In the Devil rooms, you can barter away hearts for good items, whether this is worth it or not will depend on your own judgement. Angel rooms on the other hand give you an item free and also appear by chance.

Pills are interesting in that they can give a good or bad effect, such as Range Up or Health Down as an example. They are a bit of a gamble but with items such as the Luck Foot or PhD, all pills will be beneficial.

Below is some of the Items in the game:

Pages & Pages of Items!
Pages & Pages of Items! | Source
Source

What Makes it Bad?

Only one thing really stood out as bad for me personally in this game.

  • Bugs

The occasional bug appears in the Binding of Isaac, but generally nothing game-breaking.

Sometimes during the cut-scene between floors will glitch when you try to skip it by pressing space. It'll often take longer for the next floor to start and the cut-scene may play again with distorted colour, but usually everything loads up okay and game-play is not affected.

Another bug is that sometimes enemies or objects will be stuck in walls which sometimes also results in not being able to destroy them and the player cannot move into the next room. However, usually the player can still bomb their way through to the next room or the enemy can be destroyed through various methods the player can use such as Ipecac tears.

Overall, these bugs do not spoil the game for me at least, but I thought they were worth mentioning.

Summary

The things I loved:

  • Enemy & Boss Variety
  • Item Variety
  • Interesting Art
  • Isaac's Customisation via Items
  • Music suited the game well.
  • High Re-Play value.


Things I didn't like so much:

  • Some Bugs
  • Need more floors!

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed The Binding of Isaac from day one and still play it today! I've certainly not got bored of it. I would recommend this game to anyone who likes simplicity in their games with many different outcomes and variety.

It is on Steam with it's expansion, Wrath of The Lamb, for a Very reasonable price, go ahead and try it!

Let me know in the poll whether this article helped you come to a decision on buying it or not!

Thanks


- Xnanga


P.S. Here's a video of a Play-Through below, beware if you don't want any spoilers!

The Binding of Isaac Play-Through

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