I am incredibly poor. I have been for a while. Those of you who have actually bothered to read all my reviews will realise that, because the newest game I have reviewed is about five years old. Spec Ops being the only one released this year. However, I am about to improve on that by reviewing a game that’s only about a year old! Go me!
The Binding of Isaac is an independent game designed by Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl (Thank Wikipedia). I believe McMillen had a hand in Super Meat Boy, but I’ve never played it before. It has been given the classification “action-adventure” which is a genre I’m almost certain doesn’t exist. They just slap that on anything that they can’t classify. I would call Binding of Isaac an action plat former.
You play as Isaac, a small naked boy who is running away from his murderous mum through the basement of his house. The game takes heavily from the biblical story of the Binding of Isaac where God demanded a sacrifice from…Whatshisface, in the form of his first born son. When Whatshisface was about to kill his son (Isaac) God popped up and said “LOL! Only joking!”. (A quick google search shows that Whatshisface was actually called Abraham).
But that’s not all they rip from the bible. They use the book of revelations a lot, including the four horsemen, although this always infuriates me. Did you know Pestilence isn’t a horseman? Never has been never will be. The four horsemen are, War, Famine, Death and CONQUEST. Conquest being the anti-Christ. Look it up if you don’t believe me.
Anyway, back on topic, they also have biblical objects as items throughout the game, such as actually being able to find and use the bible itself, the dead sea scrolls etc. So, as you can tell, pretty heavily biblical references, but they treat it almost as a parody, without the humour.
Isaac is running through the basements, naked and crying as I said and being attacked by strained, twisted creatures which he beats away using his tears. That’s right, he defeats the monsters by crying at them. And my dad said that there was no point crying at bullies. This game proves him wrong!
I’m trying to think of a game to compare it to, but I can’t really think of any. The closest I can come up with it side scrollers like Golden Axe. There’s five or six enemies in a room that all die in one to four hits. Once you’ve killed them all you move onto the next room. You have to defeat the boss monsters to move onto the next level and on each level there is a treasure room, with a free item in it, and a shop where you can spend coins on items.
The mechanics of the game are mostly good. You can use the mouse or arrows keys to fire your tears and W,A,S,D to move around the room. What does annoy me no end, however, is the fact that Isaac can’t shoot diagonally, yet enemies can. Really, really unfair. But then, that’s the game in a nutshell. It seems to be designed to frustrate and infuriate.
You start off with three hearts and lose half a heart for each hit you take (a whole heart in later levels) and you have one life. That’s it. If you die, you start THE WHOLE GAME AGAIN. It took me over ten hours of gameplay to finally defeat mom at the end, and even then I discovered there were more ‘secret’ levels and a brand new final boss.
Some of the enemies have really cheap attacks as well, like the jumping spider things that can only jump a certain distance, unless they feel like ruining your day in which case they seem to be able to jump the length of the room and are therefore almost impossible to avoid. Or the fireflies that shoot three pellets at you, but they start off in the air so it’s really hard to judge where they’re going to land until you’ve already lost four hearts.
The bosses are arbitrary as well. The selling point of the game is that the levels are randomly generated, so no play through is ever the same. The bosses are also randomly picked at the end of a level. It creates a curious scenario where on the penultimate level you can face a piss easy boss, but on the next play through face the toughest boss in the first level and get completely decimated.
And, of course, the items are randomised as well. Which means in the first level you could get a game breaker, like the laser tears and plough through the rest of the game in minutes, or you can play every level getting through by the skin of your teeth and only ever receive crap items that do nothing to help you.
So, do I recommend Binding of Isaac? To be honest, I don’t know. It’s another game like War Commander where there are plenty of negatives, and yet I don’t seem to be able to stop playing it. For some reason going through twenty playthroughs getting destroyed and rubbish items seems worth it for that one run where you get the best gear in the game and smash your way through with ease.
It’s a fun little time waster. It’ll take you attention for a few hours, maybe even more like thirty hours if you get into it as I have. But it won’t distract you from games with more depth. If I had Mass Effect and Binding of Isaac in front of me, I’d grab the Mass Effect disc every single time.
7/10 – A fun, shallow little game. It’s the kind of game where you will play for ten hours or so then get bored, then try it again in a few months and find yourself hooked game. However, it’s not a patch on most mainstream titles.