The Binding of Isaac (+ DLC!)

I posted earlier about Dungeons of Dredmor, a very fun roguelike made by Gaslamp Games. That was a classic roguelike, randomly generated, turn-based, with leveling up and money.

The Binding of Isaac, on the other hand, is very different. First and foremost, it’s not turn-based. It is divided into rooms, and as you enter them, all the doors close and you fight various monsters. When you have dispatched them all, the doors open again, and you are sometimes rewarded with an item (usually a bomb, a coin, a pill, a Tarot card or a key). Keys are used to open chests and locked doors (such as into treasure rooms or shops), bombs blow stuff up, and coins buy stuff (but can also be used on slot machines or other chance-based items). Pills are like scrolls or potions in Rogue – you originally do not know what they will do, whether good or bad, but learn after trying it. They could make you cry faster, run faster, poison you, slow you down, teleport you… the list goes on. Tarot cards are the same as normal Tarot cards (an alternate card system used for divining in real life), and have set bonuses/curses – they only last for the room you use them in. You can only be carrying one pill/tarot card at a time and unlimited keys/bombs/coins.

The storyline is dark – the title is a direct reference to a passage in the Bible where God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac to him. There is a jerky, clumsy animation (as if drawn by the little boy that Isaac is) at the beginning, with the story narrated over the top. Isaac lives with his (devout Christian) mother, and they are happy. Then Isaac’s mother hears a voice telling her Isaac has been corrupted by sin. She removes all the evil things from his life, such as crayons, electronics and underwear.

Shortly after he hears the voice again, telling her that Isaac must be cut off from the world. She locks Isaac in his room. Finally, she hears the voice again telling her that she must sacrifice Isaac to him as a sign of devotion. She grabs a knife to kill Isaac with, but he escapes down into the basement via a trapdoor.

You explore the level, finding treasure and money, etc, before fighting a boss and advancing to the next floor down. The enemies become tougher each floor, before you face Isaac’s mother as the final boss. I’ve never actually got to the final boss, and the game keeps the “You die, you start again” aspect of roguelikes. You would think this would rapidly get annoying, but the game is different every time, so it’s still fun.

Look at Isaac.

Instead of levelling up like in other Roguelikes, you collect items which increase your range, tears (Isaac’s weapon is his tears), speed, health, etc. One of my favourite things about this game is how all the items you have are displayed on your character. You start off as little Isaac, but usually end with a coat-hanger through your head (increased tears), x-ray specs(can see secret passages), an attack fly circling your head, high heels (increased range), and green, rotting flesh (poison your enemy when they touch you). There are hundreds of items you can find, some which attach to your character, permanently increasing abilities, but also usable items such as “My Little Unicorn” (like an invincistar from the Super Mario franchise), or “Shoop Da Whoop”, which makes you FIREYOURLAZORBLAAAAAAAH!!! The items recharge as you kill enemies. Again, you can only carry one usable item.

The game has a very “cartoon” art direction, but it is still twisted and gory – your enemies explode into chunks of bloody meat on death. The enemies are also pretty horrific – for example there is one type of enemy that originally looked like you, but now has swarms of flies living in its face and coughs them out. The flies then proceed to try to kill you. Other enemies include floating, blood stained heads stitched together with no eyes that shoot blood at you. The bosses are also pretty nasty. One example is “The Duke of Flies” – a ball of skin that is filled with flies, and he floats around and coughs them out, before exploding into a swarm of flies. Another is “Gurdy”, a huge pile of semi-rotting flesh that is alive and spits blood at you, also spawning flies and blood-spitting blobs.

Oh yeah – there are also unlockable characters, such as “Eve” (less health, but creates dead crows that attack when she is hurt, and turns into a monster on half a heart – with a direct Castlevania quote), or Judas, who I have not unlocked yet. They are unlocked by completing achievements – such as making two “deals with the devil” (where you sacrifice hearts for powerful items, such a a laser eye, or replacing your tears with giant lasers) in one game.

The game is made by Edmund McMillen – he is completely heartless. This game is VERY DIFFICULT, in my opinion. This game’s new DLC, The Wrath of the Lamb, makes it even MORE difficult (Not for me then)! However, it adds lots more items, bosses and floors.

I love this, game, it’s difficult not to. The game doesn’t cost much, and is available on Steam here.

One last thing – when you quit, the game says “Are you sure you want me to die?” WHY? IT BREAKS MY HEART! I usually click “No” and carry on playing.

Score: 9/10

Over and out, Noogai03!


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