The Binding of Isaac
Gameplay 8
Graphics 8
Sound 8

Very simple to play, but the difficulty varies greatly depending on your luck. There is reason for multiple playthroughs which, along with the random elements, give this game some longevity. It’s a good game, but definitely won’t be suited to everyone’s tastes.

Gameplay: Randomly generated dungeons, tons of enemies and loads of loot gives this a lot of replay value.

Graphics: Cute in a sick, twisted kind of way.

Sound: Nice soundtrack and disturbing effects

Summary 8.0 Great
Gameplay 0
Graphics 0
Sound 0
Summary rating from user's marks. You can set own marks for this article - just click on stars above and press "Accept".
Accept
Summary 0.0 Terrible

The Binding of Isaac

Developer: Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl | Publisher: Edmund McMillen | Release Date: 2011 | Genre: Action / Adventure / Indie / RPG | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

Isaac finds himself in a spot of trouble when his mother starts hearing a voice instructing her to kill her son as a sacrifice. Instead of meekly submitting Isaac flees to the basement of the house, but finds himself trapped in a maze of horrors hat leads him further down into madness. If this all sounds a bit disturbing it might make more sense when you hear that it is the brainchild of Edmund McMillen, one of the co-creators of the equally freaky Super Meat Boy.

Religious overtones aside, The Binding Of Isaac is actually quite a retro title, not only in its design but visually as well. If you were around during the 8-bit days, you will recognize many of its ideas and design elements. Think of it as Robotron meets Rogue meets Zelda meets Bomberman meets Pac-Man and you might have an idea of what to expect. Levels are made up of a series of static rooms, which may contain either items, enemies, traps, treasure, all of the above or none of the above. Since everything is randomly generated, the replay value is quite high, especially considering the wide assortment of items. In true Zelda fashion, all the enemies in a room must be killed in order to move on to the next one. If you have bombs, you can take the easy way out and just blow up the door. Along the way, Isaac might run into a mini-boss or two before taking on the main monster, which upon its defeat will grant access to the next level. Most rooms can be cleared in under a minute and with the right collection of items it is possible to breeze through a level but don’t for one second think this game is easy.

In true old-school fashion, death can come easy in this game and it is permanent. There are no checkpoints to fall back on or saves to reload. Once you die, your options are quitting or starting over. This may come as a shock to modern players that are not used to seeing a “Game Over” screen, but it definitely makes the game way more intense. While not very long, it can still take upwards of an hour to complete all the levels. Stumbling into a room where the odds are overwhelmingly against you can really be a frustrating way to lose the game but it happens. Since it is all random you cannot blame poor level design for your demise, it is all down to luck. It is addictive enough that you will keep coming back for more however. Trust me, this is one of those “just one more go” games. There are new characters to unlock and multiple (twisted) endings to uncover but do not expect it to get any easier. The game actually becomes harder the more times you finish it and go back for more!

Visually the game looks every bit like the Indie, Flash title that it is. The top down, two-dimensional graphics consist of minimal, basic colors and the random rooms are all just patches of brown. The character and enemy designs shine, however and bear that trademark mixture of cute and gross that you expect from the artistic mind behind it. The floor of each room is usually covered in blood, urine, puke and faeces after you are done with it which is not something I think many other games an boast. Enemies consist of a grotesque collection of cute critters and you will come to know each of them intimately during your many playthroughs. Special mention should go to the twisted bosses, which really steal the show. The other cool thing about the visuals is that most items will alter the appearance of your character sprite. These visual transformations can be quite disturbing seeing as items include such gems as “moms underwear,” “growth hormones” and a wire coat hanger. The downside is that I ran into some severe slowdown, which is quite surprising for such a simple looking game. It might be because the game is programmed in Flash but hopefully it will be sorted out in future updates.
The gameplay consists of dodging enemies and obstacles in a room until you have killed them all by blinking tears (or worse) in their direction. The rate, damage and reach of your tears can all be upgraded, but you are limited to only shooting in four different directions. To make up for your inability to shoot diagonally, shots can be curved somewhat by shooting while moving but it can still be a chore hitting a few of the more erratic foes. Enemy’s either chase you down relentlessly or try to avoid you so the random room layouts can be a big help or huge hindrance depending on what you run into. None of the items or enemies ever respawn in a room so once it is cleared it will remain that way. Throughout the levels, you will find bombs and keys, which unlock doors, chests and secret rooms, but thanks to the randomness, there is no guarantee you will ever have enough. It is impossible to be stuck, but you might miss some cool items along the way. Cash can also be collected for spending at random shops, beggars and gambling machines. There is no native gamepad support (at this point) so the keyboard controls can be a bit cramp inducting if played in long bursts. Isaac also feels a bit slippery to control until you get used to his movements.

The soundtrack is good with plenty of spooky tunes that set the mood perfectly. In fact, you can purchase the 30-song collection separately if you want to listen to it outside the game. Sound effects are as disturbing as you would expect, but rather minimal. If you can put up with the hard, sometimes unfair gameplay and do not mind a game that goes out of its way to include offensive elements, you will enjoy this one. It expertly combines all the best elements from some classic genres and presents it to you at a price that cannot be beaten. In fact, after twenty hours of playing I still have not experienced everything it has to offer. The warped sense of humour might scare some folk off as will the biblical references and use of occult symbols, which is a shame as underneath it all lays a very good game.

*Review originally published November 2011.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7
  • Processor: 2.5 GHz
  • Memory: 1GB
  • Hard Disk Space: 50MB
  • Video Card: Direct X9.0c Compatible Card
  • DirectX®: DirectX® 9.0c
  • OS: OS X version Leopard 10.5.8, Snow Leopard 10.6.3, or later.
  • Processor: Intel Mac 2.5 GHz
  • Memory: 1GB
  • Hard Disk Space: 50MB

Related posts

Zombie Driver

Zombie Driver

Zombie Driver is a nicely retro flavored indie arcade title that is a blast to play. It might not last for very long but with the promised updates and low price it is well worth the effort. This is definitely a game for all those people that had more fun in the original Grand Theft Auto, running over pedestrians and driving like a maniac, than actually getting out of the car and doing missions. Gameplay: Driving over zombies is fun. Graphics: Retro style greatness. Sound: Splattering zombies sounds just like it should.

The Sun and Moon

The Sun and Moon

Don’t let the simple visuals fool you, The Sun and Moon is a devious platform title with a very interesting ground diving mechanic. Being able to jump into the ground means you’ll have to approach platforming in a whole new manner and makes for a challenging, but addictive experience. In addition to the arresting gameplay the game features a nice soundtrack by Dubmood and very responsive controls that keeps you in control of the action at all times. Gameplay: It takes a while to wrap your head around the ground diving mechanic, but it makes for a challenging experience. Graphics: Very minimal, but ensures that the focus is on the action. Sound: Some fitting tunes provided by Dubmood.

Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock

Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock

It might be based on a free Flash game, but the improved visuals and excellent puzzles definitely means Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock is worth a second look. It has everything you expect from a great sci-fi adventure and remains entertaining throughout. It is only the short playing time and uninspiring voice acting that lets the experience down slightly. The game is a good showcase for what the developers are capable of and I look forward to seeing what they come up with next. Gameplay: Logical puzzles and an interesting setting make this a very entertaining title. Graphics: The new high definition visuals are great, albeit a little too static. Sound: Good music and sound effects, but the voice acting could have been better.

Enemy Mind

Enemy Mind

Enemy Mind makes good use of the ship changing feature to offer an experience that is not only challenging, but extremely addictive. There is a lot more strategy involved than your typical side scrolling shooter and the local co-op mode makes it even more fun. Rounding off the package is some nice retro style visuals and a brilliant soundtrack. Depending on your skill with shooters, this game will keep you busy for a while and packs some nice bonuses to boost the replay value. Gameplay: The ability to take control of any enemy ship complements the old school gameplay nicely. Graphics: The visuals are a nice homage to the 8bit era. Sound: Great sound effects and an awesome soundtrack by Rainbow Kitten.

Starship Traveller

Starship Traveller

Starship Traveller offers a nice departure from the usual swords and sorcery settings that the gamebooks are known for. It is a science fiction tale that borrows heavily from Star Trek, but packs a lot of humor as well. Completing the story requires a lot of luck or trial and error, which might annoy some players. However, it remains entertaining and engaging throughout, even if the replay value is not as great as we would have liked. Still, you can’t really go wrong with its low asking price and it is worth it for the nostalgia factor alone. Gameplay: Lots of reading along with the occasional choices and dice rolls. Graphics: A couple of nice full color drawings add some flavor to the text. Sound: Not many sound effects, but the music capture the mood nicely.

Gahkthun of the Golden Lightning

Gahkthun of the Golden Lightning

With its Steampunk setting, great characters and intriguing storyline it is easy to get sucked into this visual novel. However, it is not perfect as the pacing slows down considerably in later chapters and too many superfluous characters with little impact on the story keep getting introduced. Stick with it though and you’ll find a great visual novel with characters that are truly memorable. Gameplay: Some chapters drag their feet, but the overall story is quite captivating. Graphics: Great visuals, but the relatively low resolution is disappointing. Sound: Full Japanese voice acting, great sound effects and very nice music, but some tracks repeat too often.

Leave a comment

six + fifteen =