The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth – PlayStation 4 (PSN)
Platform: PlayStation 4
Distributor: Sony, Valve Corporation
Release Date: November 4th, 2014
Genre: Action/Adventure, Dungeon Crawler
Nerd Rating: 9.0 / 10
Reviewed by Rhutsczar
“Take now thy son…and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains…”
You know what I try to stay away from? Games about religion. But games about child sacrifice…? That’s a totally different story. Just my opinion. Anyway, The Binding of Isaac is a diamond in the rough as it made my list for one of my favorite games of 2014. It doesn’t look like much to start, but the more you play the more you will love it and keep crawling back long after you put the controller down.
The story behind The Binding of Isaac is relatively simple. Isaac is a young boy who loves playing with toys and being outdoors, while his mother (only known as Mom throughout the game) watches Christian broadcasts on the television. As time passes she begins to hear voices (supposedly from Satan or God) telling her that Isaac has been corrupted by modern amenities. This leads Mom to restrict Isaac’s privileges. Eventually the voice convinces Mom to murder Isaac, in order to prove her loyalty to this voice (who is assumed to be Satan). Visually corrupt, Mom chases Isaac as he flees into the basement.
Alright, enough back story. Throughout the actual game you play as Isaac, or one of the many other playable characters, as they make way through the many levels of the basement. The original endgame is to make it fight Mom, though you only mainly fight her leg, eye, and hands. The more times you reach this goal, the game changes the endgame, changing the boss to Mom’s heart, a fetus version of Isaac, to Satan or an angelic version of Isaac. Let’s just say it will be a long time before you unlock everything.
While I was initially unimpressed with the game’s overall look, it has grown on me since I started playing. It relies heavily on an updated pixel art style that for some reason just works with the game. The original game was going to be made in the same style, but it wasn’t available in the Flash format. You can’t beat obscene and pixelated gore though.
The dungeon crawler is an interesting genre as there are many different variations while still staying close to the traditional idea of murdering your way through a dungeon. The Binding of Isaac does this quite well, as the traditional dungeon does exist throughout the game. What makes the game unique though is that it also uses a random room generator, so unless you use a specifically seeded map, it will always be different every time you play. This makes the game even more unpredictable and this even adds to the difficulty of the game.
One main element that makes The Binding of Isaac so much fun to play are the simple controls. The basic controls consist of using both the right and left sticks on the controller, one to move and the other to direct your attacks. Some people who have played the game before have told me that the simple controls bothered them, but I told them just to wait. As you play throughout the game, you can pick up items from various treasure rooms or dungeons. These items can change how you play drastically, adding flight or changing your main attack to lasers, poison, or bombs.
As stated above, the items you find in your travels can change the game you play drastically, but there is still a sense of dark humor underneath all the sadness and depression. Some of the items are actually based on popular memes or exist in other games. One of the useable items is the “Shoop Da Woop” mouth that fires a massive laser. If you are lucky to find some of the buddies that travel with you, you can actually find both Super Meat Boy and Bandage Girl. Dr. Fetus also exists in the game, but as a playable skin during one of the specific challenges. It is nice to go into to the dark and treacherous dungeon and actually recognize something. Yay, a shining light at the end of the tunnel!
The Binding of Isaac is an incredibly dark game, and there is plenty of evidence that just expands on that fact. This is obviously evident by the main attack of many characters, as their shoot tear blasts from their wet eyes. How unique of an attack, I would have never come up with that. It shows just how much pain, fear, and betrayal these characters are suffering from.
The soundtrack, on top of all things, adds even more dark depth to the game. The main menu theme for the game, Genesis 22;11, is one of the creepiest themes I have heard in a long time. I can just feel the sorrow and pain (did I use that already?, oh well) but at the same time I can’t help but hum along. Many variations of the same theme play in the various areas/levels you travel through, getting darker and sadder as you reach your goal. Is it really worth it though? You can listen to the theme below:
If this game doesn’t already sound difficult for you, feel free to take on many of the challenges that are hiding in the menu. There are about 20 different challenges, each one increasing the difficulty of an already difficult game. For example, I have been playing this game since November and I have only completed the easiest challenge. Embarrassing I know, but they are so hard! One of the challenges, Solar System, as you only attack by using two flies that fly revolve around you. Yeah no thanks, I won’t be killing Mom’s heart with flies.
It takes a lot to stand out in the dungeon crawler genre. The Binding of Isaac, the story of a troubled child trying to stay alive against his psychopathic mother, stands out and more. From the soundtrack, to the game play and the endless easter eggs, you will not be disappointed. Probably the best game about corrupt Christians and mother issues released in recent years, I definitely believe you should pick up The Binding of Isaac so you can bask in the sorrow like the rest of us.
Since I mentioned it in this article, be sure to check out Uber_Nerd‘s review of Super Meat Boy.
Be sure to also check me out over @ Media in Review where I cover film, television, and anime, four times a week!
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