Review: The Binding of Isaac

-Calvin Tomlinson

The Binding of Isaac, from Edmund McMillen (Half of Team Meat, the guys who brought us Super Meat Boy), is a 2D top down RPG that could be considered a “Rogue-like”. Now some of you fans of the real hard core text-based Rouge-likes might disagree with me there, but the randomly generated worlds and perma-death slot it quite nicely into that category. The game starts out with just Isaac and his mother, a devout Christian, leading seemingly normal lives until she starts to hear the voice of God. He tells her that to prove her faith by sacrificing her son, and “saving him from sin”. From this point on the game just gets weirder and weirder.

On the outside the gameplay in the Binding of Isaac is as simple as a top down shooter. Move around, shoot the enemies and don’t get hurt. But it’s the enemies you’ll encounter and the items you’ll find along the way that make it so compelling. The enemies are nightmarish and grotesque, and Isaac’s main weapon against them is his tears. I know what you’re all thinking, it’s almost laughable to think that you’re fighting your way through the depths, against hordes of enemies using only your tears, but once you’ve faced a few Bosses you just go with it, you get caught up and just want this little boy to escape! The items are the standard upgrades that you might expect, e.g. increased health, increased damage etc., but it’s the kind of items you come across that really intrigued me, there aren’t many games where the protagonist will run around in a pair of his mum’s underwear. The other great thing about the items is that you’ll never get the same set during your play through, and that’s what keeps me coming back. You’ll find different combinations that work really well together, and others that really don’t.

In my opinion the graphics in The Binding of Isaac are fantastic, the simple, and almost childishly innocent looking drawings counter the disturbing nature of the game brilliantly. A nice little touch is that every time Isaac picks ups an upgrade it alters the character, e.g. finding a ‘Bucket of Lard’ will make Isaac look significantly fatter than before, so as you can imagine there are some strange looking combinations that turn up throughout your play through.

For me, one of the best things about playing this game was the soundtrack, Danny Baranowsky does a fantastic job of capturing the eerie and epic moments that you’ll encounter throughout the game, and he does just as fantastic a job as he did on the Super Meat Boy OST. I picked up the soundtrack from an “Indie Music Bundle” (http://www.gamemusicbundle.com/) just before I got the game and loved it. Even without playing the game, I found some of the tracks to just be amazing, and they’ve been on my playlist ever since.

Overall, I think that for an Indie title, created by half of Team Meat it’s absolutely fantastic, the random elements and perma-death will leave you ridiculously frustrated, but at the same time just wanting more and more. I, for one, am still playing this game and after 13 or 14 attempts still haven’t managed to beat it. For a measly £4 you can pick up this game on Steam (or wait for it to pop up in another Humble Indie bundle like I did). This for me is one of the best Indie games I’ve played, and that says a lot, my Steam Library is packed to the rafters with Indie titles but this one earns a place in my Favourites folder.

Verdict: 85% 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7_R2WfqdrI - Check out a trailer of “The Binding of Isaac” here