Released in 2011, The Binding of Isaac is positively modern by the standards of this blog and with The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth due out in November, a remake of the game, it is actually relevant to talk about as well! Created by Edmund McMillen (one half of Team Meat, the creators of the excellent Super Meat Boy) and Florian Himsel, it’s a blend of dungeon adventure and roguelike.
The central premise is as weird as it comes. Isaac, a small child, has been forced to flee to his basement after his mother became convinced that God was telling her to kill him. From there you explore the basement and lower levels, picking up a variety of items and fighting all number of enemies. If you die, you have to start back over again and at the end of each dungeon is a boss you must defeat before being able to move on.
It’s a very simple game, but it stands out due to it’s art style. It has the same squishy feel as Super Meat Boy, as everything seems to squirt and squelch in a thoroughly unpleasant way. The enemies are all grotesque and the items you pick up include things like your Moms Bra. It’s all a bit crazy but it’s a style that works and invites you into the dark, twisted world of this game.
The simplicity is continued into the game play. You pick up bombs and special items which you can use (the special items have a cool down period after each use) but apart from that your main attack comes in the form of your tears, which you can fire at enemies. Controlled by the directional keys, you can fire in any direction, but combat rarely gets more complicated than that. Despite this, it is still great fun. The game is wickedly hard and I have to admit I haven’t actually managed to make it through all 6 basements yet, despite Steam saying that I’ve put a good 7 hours into the game (which does seem about right). Health is scarce and the lower you get, eventually leaving the basement and heading into the caves, the tougher the enemies get and the quicker you have to be. I have to admit I’m pretty awful at dodging large swarms of enemies and the various things they fire at me, which often leaves me too low on health to make it past the boss and onto the next basement.
With The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth due out soon I can heartily recommend it to anyone looking for a game to sinnk a few hours into. I believe they are changing the art style, going to a 16 bit style instead and I’ll be intrigued to see how that looks, even if I do quite like the current one, as well as adding a whole bunch of new content. It does mean you might want to hold off on picking up the original version, but if you can’t wait I believe it is available on Steam for only £3.99, which is well worth is.