Ever feel like you just wasted an hour? You’ve been writing something, and then the document doesn’t save? You drive all the way to a shop to find out they’re sold out of the very item you were going for. You’ve wasted your time, and you’re not getting it back.
The Binding of Isaac can make you feel like that a lot of the time. In fact, in my case at least, it’s most of the time. I’ve spent forty minutes traversing through these dungeon rooms, getting to the next floor, only to be destroyed by a boss or – even worse – a random little enemy. Now, I’ll have to start again. And it’s the game’s fault, not mine, because it was the one that gave me that stupid upgrade which hindered my progress. I’ve played so much, in fact, that I’ve actually induced some pain in my wrist. I should really stop for a bit.
But maybe – just maybe – the next run will be the perfect amalgamation of upgrades, enemy types, and everything else. I’ll get past that boss and get another ending, unlocking more items for my next run towards a different ending. That’s the Binding of Isaac; you’ll be going round in circles, losing everything in seconds because you moved in the wrong direction, but you’ll want to play again, and this time it will be different.
The Binding of Isaac is essentially a classic Zelda-esque game with top-down shooting elements. You’re able to collect items, either passive or active upgrades, as well as your usual currency, bombs, and health. These, along with the room layouts, enemy types, bosses, and pretty much everything else, are completely randomised, and each run will be different from the last, unless you input a code – named a seed – which will essentially replicate the run you had, putting you back at the start.
In one run, you might find that you get some really powerful upgrades to your tears – that’s your bullets – and perhaps even a great active item which you can use to destroy enemies without qualms. Yet in the next run, you might be faced with a rubbish charge-shot which makes things a lot harder and you might just generally find that the enemy types are much harder than you would expect.
With Rebirth, the remake which is available for PS4, PS Vita, and PC as of last week, you’ll find that they’ve hugely increased the item count and even altered the room sizes, making it even less likely that you’ll have multiple runs which are similar. In the past week, I must’ve put at least twenty hours into the game and while I’ve found some of the same items in consecutive runs through the world, I’ve never had two Isaacs which are remotely similar.
There’s a real beauty to how the game hooks you in and doesn’t let you go – I jumped onto Rebirth for “a quick run before I play Call of Duty” a few nights ago at around 5pm, and found myself still playing well into the early hours of the morning. I didn’t actually manage to get a new ending in this time, but just by playing and completing little mini-goals within the game, I did unlock new items to find in subsequent runs.
While Rebirth definitely adds a lot in terms of content and design, it’s still undeniably the same game – this isn’t a sequel, but it is a remake from the ground-up, with the move away from the Flash-based design of the original allowing them to add a lot more.
Unfortunately – and this is purely a design choice – it’s not quite as fresh in terms of visuals; they’ve moved away from the cartoonish style of the original and gone for pixel-based graphics. It’s an obvious homage to the titles which inspired the game, but does look uglier than the original. There’s an option for smoothing these visuals, and while this helps the situation, it still doesn’t look as crisp. Pixel art may work for some games, but it just doesn’t seem to fit in with Isaac.
When it gets down to it though, Rebirth will sink in its devilish claws and have you playing over and over again to try and get that ending, or unlock a new character – you might want to avoid it if you have an addictive personality. It’s a game which is simultaneously a complete waste of time and the most compelling thing you’ll ever play, keeping you for longer than most AAA games can manage.
Be sure to check out our beginner’s guide if you’re a bit lost with where to start in The Binding of Isaac.