Binding of Isaac: Review


I am the type of gamer who plays to relax, usually after a hard day and in a room full of friends. Therefore, I’m not into really absorbing games like League of Legends or Skyrim, though I do prefer PC gaming. On these counts, Binding of Isaac is the perfect video game for me, and many of my more serious gamer friends love it as well. It has a retro feel without alienating modern audiences, and keeps your attention without demanding all of it. In short, it’s great.

Despite the actual gameplay not involving much plot, the background story is well thought-out and totally unique. As we learn in the short opening sequence, Isaac’s mother has religious delusions and tries to sacrifice her son like the Biblical Abraham. He flees into the basement filled with mutated monsters and disgusting creatures from his nightmares. To see daylight again, he has to defeat his mother. His only weapon: his unending tears.

Each level is a descent into a deeper part of the basement, and is divided up into rooms (kind of like Zelda). You defeat all the enemies in a room to get to the next one. While there are many types of rooms possible in the different levels, the most consistent ones are the treasure rooms (where you get a free item to help you with your quest) and the boss room (where you have a chance to descend to the next level). My favorite type of room is the arcade, because you can trade coins for awesome stuff in a really fun way.

Isaac begins the game naked (in a safe-for-work, cartoony way) but as he acquires items, his appearance changes. He may grow wings or horns, or begin crying blood. To me, collecting a wardrobe like this is one of the best parts of the game, because the results are so freakishly entertaining.

The controls are pretty simple and convenient, and you have an option of using either the arrow keys or the mouse to fire your tears. Everything else relies on the left half of the keyboard.

The Binding of Isaac is endlessly entertaining. There is no real plot, and therefore it can’t get old. Each run-through is different, and unlocking new items to use (which is your overall measure of progress in the game) becomes addicting. Also, I have to mention that the soundtrack is actually quality rock-style music, and has a very long loop so as not to get repetitive.

However, while your overall achievement progress is saved automatically, you cannot save your individual runs: your only option is to pause, and if you die, you’re forced to start from the beginning. I don’t consider this a flaw so much as part of the game, but I know it does irk some people.

Also, it must be confessed that the game is glitchy. Occasionally, a foe will suddenly change species or mysteriously teleport. It doesn’t happen often, but it is noticeable.

If you like Invader Zim and that creepy-cute aesthetic, or if you’re a retro game fan, The Binding of Isaac will almost certainly appeal to you. Casual gamers as well will find it both entertaining and accessible, in the same way that Plants vs Zombies is.

The Binding of Isaac is available on Steam for $4.99. At the time of this writing, I have clocked in 294 hours, so I’d say that’s a pretty good deal! I believe that that includes the Wrath of the Lamb DLC, which adds more items and possibilities.

Make sure to check it out before the sequel, Rebirth, comes out this year!

Jace Harr is a queer, twenty-something writer, blogger, and theatre professional based in Rochester, New York. His credits include poetry journals, plays, and being Mr. Spock for Halloween in fourth grade. Check out his blog, Internet Diderot, for TILs in history, linguistics, and literature.

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