Edmund McMillen has been around for a good long while on the indie game scene now. The first game I can remember playing of his was Gish. While I loved the concept, trying to jump consistently was a pain. It’s amazing how far McMillen’s games have come with Meat Boy and Super Meat Boy being two of the greatest platformers on the market today, and his continued mastery over creating creatures that are as gross as they are cute.
Structurally, The Binding of Isaac is a mishmash of different classic game concepts that end up working well together. Each floor you explore is designed like a classic Zelda dungeon. Rooms are connected and usually contain an enemy encounter that you must complete to move to the next. There are shops, secret bosses, and other special rooms that are randomly generated each time you play, and almost every floor has a treasure room where you can get a special weapon or something that modifies your stats or gives you a special power. Enemy encounters play out like a 4-way twin stick shooter where you dodge bullets and drag enemies around the room like in Smash TV or Robotron: 2084. On top of all that is a rogue-like where the world and your game restart every time you die. Traditionally rogue-likes are in the turn-based RPG genre, but recently many games have been trying to take the discovery by death formula of rogue-like and applying it to other genres. A good example is Spelunky which applies it to a side scrolling adventure games.
As with any rogue-like or loot driven game, it’s the variety of things to discover that makes The Binding of Isaac work, and there is quite a lot to do for a 6 level, 5 dollar game. There are 4 characters, only 2 of which I can play as of this writing, and multiple endings, which I have seen none of because I haven’t made a full run yet. I am consistently finding new bosses, and new items that I have to experiment with to discover their ability. Of course none of that means anything if the enemies aren’t fun to murder, and they are. Enemy behavior gets more complicated as you progress and the bosses have different patterns which can then be complicated by the randomization of rock placement in the arenas.
The Binding of Issac appears just below “The C Word” as one his McMillen’s grossest games. Weapons like Mom’s Pad, which appears to be Issac’s crazed mothers discarded and used Maxi Pad, and and the ability to find and wear your mother’s underwear and heels as armor items are among the weirder things.
What I find most impressive from all of McMillen’s art in general is that while assaulting you with disturbing concepts and imagery he still manages to make them look like adorable buddies. If you stripped the cute away from the game you would have a young abused child crawling through his basement trying to escape his insane mother who wants to sacrifice him to God. All the while the child his crying at mounds of flesh that want to kill him and eating dog food to gain health meter.
The Music is also pretty stand out. The same man that composed the music for McMillen’s last game worked on this one and he has created some of the best recent game music out there. It has a really cool electronic vibe and really aids to the general gross creepiness of the game’s poop filled environments.
5 Dollars has been wasted on tacos by me many times, and I have to say that The Binding of Isaac was a much better use of my taco money. It’s highly replayable and super fun as well as being unique in its implementation of traditional rogue-like mechanics. I can’t recommend this game enough at the price of 5 dollars. It does have its problems, but nothing really worth noting. I give The Binding of Isaac an 8 out of 10. It’s cheap and highly replayable, but its short development time has led to a few rough edges.
out of 10
- Great soundtrack from Super Meatboy’s composer
- A whole lot of game for 5 bucks
- Interesting meld of Zelda, Smash TV, and Rogue
- Gross and cute artwork
- Glitches that can cost you a whole game
- The grossness of the art and style may turn some people off the game
- No gamepad support