The Binding of Isaac: Super Secret Secrets

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth was recently released, and I took the plunge and bought it, now that I’ve got a controller for my PC. I had played the original version briefly, but it just wasn’t resonating with me that much. Perhaps it was the keyboard I was using to play, or something else entirely, but the concept just didn’t click with me.

This playthrough of Rebirth, however, is keeping me excited. The 60 fps, combined with my controller in hand, have led to a good few hours of fun. And as I played, I noticed something.

Many games nowadays are very keen on explaining exactly what you’re getting into. When you obtain an item, an event happens, or an ability is unlocked, great pains are taken to explain to you the who, what, when, why, and how of each occurrence. And while this style of non-emergent gameplay has its place, in some games, Rebirth rejects that notion and revels in the unknown.

Pretty much the only time something is explained to you in Rebirth is when you pick up an ability. And even then, the full mechanics will probably not be fully explained to you. But pills and cards that you pick up have to be used before you can understand what they do. Secret events have to be experienced in order for you to recognize what they are, and it’ll probably take a few occurances in order for you to “get” it. The game takes a sort of gleeful joy in throwing you into the deep end every moment you spend playing.

In turn, I derived joy from unraveling all of the secrets Rebirth presented me. Every new item I found was an exciting, fresh new experience and meshed well with the game’s randomized floors. I took the cryptic events that randomly occured throughout each playthrough as a challenge waiting to be tackled.

This works in the game’s favor as well. As I learned, I became better at the game — and not because of some arbitrary numbers-based level up, or an upgrade to a weapon I knew I was going to get — but due to an intrinsic understanding of the mechanics the game presented to me. Sure, a little bit of luck is involved. Being given a poor hand and being able to pull off a run against all odds is a very exciting experience.

There aren’t many games being released nowadays that reward you for practice. Hell, there are games that are being released right now that require you to purchase an app just to unlock treasure chests. This makes The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth a breath of fresh air — a game that requires you to use your skill, and nothing else, to unlock its mysteries and turn the tables on the game itself.

And what a satisfying day, when those tables are turned.