I know, I know. A review about a video game that came out in 2011. Not only that, but a game that has had millions of installs and physical copies purchased. What am I doing here? I just want to talk about one of my favorite games of all time; The Binding of Isaac.
Released on the Flash platform in late 2011, The Binding of Isaac is a twin-stick, top-down roguelike dungeon crawler. With very few games hitting home the roguelike genre, the man behind Super Meat Boy; Edmund McMillen went to task to make what has become not a cult classic indie title, but a genre-defining gem among a sea of half baked ideas and games that don’t quite make the cut.
What is a roguelike? A roguelike mainly has the main idea of ‘runs’ for the game. While games outside the genre have one or two sole story arcs, the entire story / gameplay is done so in one ‘run’ which lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or so, depending on how much you’ve played and how many of the additional content you’ve unlocked.
The story is quite simple; a Mother hears from on-high that her son Isaac is corrupted by sin and she is driven by God to kill him. Isaac runs to the basement and the game begins where he is forced to kill creatures like silkworms, disembodied heads, and pulsating brains. There are a total of 15 playable characters, each representing either a Biblical figure (i.e. Magdalene, Judas, and Cain), or a created story character (i.e. The Keeper, The Lost, and Blue Baby).
As you fight your way through the different floors you will come across items to aid you in your quest; either passive items or active items. Most active items require clearing a room of enemies to gain a ‘charge’ to use the item, whereas passive skills are either stat buffs (damage, shot speed, etc) or character effects (flying, impervious to bombs, etc). Did I mention that you’re shooting your tears at enemies – that is the main way of dealing damage to enemies in the Basement and beyond – you must vanquish them with your own sadness.
Every floor ends with a boss of varying difficulty – it could be a goider, or a large corpse, or even a one-eyed spider – but when you defeat them you will get an item for your troubles, a chance to make a deal with the Devil or Angel (if you’ve not taken a lot of damage on the floor), and be sent on your way down to further your torment. A deal with the Devil will offer you high powered items in trade for your red heart containers – whereas a deal with the Angel is usually an item that helps protect you and doesn’t cost anything. As you complete the game, defeat different bosses with each of the characters, you’ll unlock more items to aid you in your quest to reaching a ‘completion’ rating.
The Binding of Isaac has had a few facelifts and surgeries over the years. From the switch to running on a more stable platform than Flash, to having a 3 major expansions (Wrath of the Lamb, Rebirth, and Afterbirth) – and even allowing mods and community-driven items in the last content in Afterbirth+.
If you’re looking for a game where you can pick up and play for a little bit, have something on in the background, and just chill for a little bit – The Binding of Isaac is a worthy contender for an incredible time. With just about 650 hours in the game across multiple platforms, I can definitely say that I’ve got my money’s worth a thousandfold.
The Binding of Isaac is definitely not a jobber. Pick it up on Steam, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch now!