Home Games & Tech Review: The Binding of Isaac

Review: The Binding of Isaac


With 2014 fast approaching, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is in production. And in order to be ready for that, let’s look at its predecessor: The Binding of Isaac. No one can say we’re not ahead of the game (sorry, couldn’t resist).

When I was a child, various adults in my life would expound on me that old saying: “Crying never solved anything”. Those people, I’ve now found, were wrong.

In The Binding of Isaac, you dive into a basement filled with monsters all based on more abortion imagery than a scaremongering pro-life campaign, to escape your über-Christian mother bent on killing you in the name of God. And your only weapon to fight your way through these monsters and eventually face ‘Mom’ are your projectile tears.

In the words of Calvin Candie, “Gentlemen, you had my curiosity… but now you have my attention.”

The game is a dungeon crawler of the best kind: random generated levels that get more expansive as the game goes on, and in order to complete the game you must traverse eight of them without dying, else you get back to the start. Of the game. The entire game. Did someone say “difficulty curve”? For the first few playthroughs it’s akin to trying to ride a bike through quicksand and then hitting a brick wall.

Obviously, that makes you want to keep going.

Seems fair.

And to help with this descent into your own personal hell you do have various Power-Ups: Bombs to explode the baby-faced spiders (I don’t mean ‘look innocent’, I mean ‘have the heads of children…upside down’), Pills you find on the floor that can either help or hinder you (or send your three year old body forcibly through puberty) and Tarot Cards that vary from teleporting you into hidden rooms for bonus power ups to summoning the spirit of Death to vanquish your enemies.

Once you’ve amassed enough of these items (or rushed past them because you’re impatient and can’t stand any more baby-headed monsters) the boss fights are made…well, actually, they’re not made easier at all. Each boss is also randomly generated, except for Mom, and can vary from a giant blob monster, aptly named Monstro, to versions of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, if both the horseman and the horse were small children that had been dead for a few weeks.

Happily, all of these terribly graphic images are juxtaposed by a cartoony aesthetic. Binding of Isaac comes straight from the developers of Super Meat Boy, which means that even though you’re going through Isaac’s personal psychological hell, you can still smile as he cries his way through.

I particularly recommend this game to anyone with a PC capable of running games but neglected to bring a mouse to University, or anyone with Mac who didn’t want to spend £60 on a mouse for their gaming, because The Binding of Isaac needs only the WASD keys to move and the arrow keys to shoot, making it feel almost like a nostalgic offspring to arcade gaming, and a damn fun way to kill an hour or so with little space for mice and power supplies.

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth will be available on PC, Mac, Playstation 4 and the PS Vita in 2014, but not on the Xbox One because if you’re gaming on an Xbox One then you really don’t know enough about games, or gaming, or have the sufficient brainpower to make reasonable purchases. Frankly, I’m surprised you made it this far in the article. And no, I’m not just saying that to get a console war going and push my views up…



Adam Smith

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