Release Date: September 28 2011
Systems: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS Vita
Developer: Edmund McMillen, Florian Himsl
Metacrtic Score: 84
Someone once told that that nightmares the greatest thing in the world when you are going through hard times as they show that you can at lest think of a situation worse than the one you’re in. “The Binding of Isaac” is what you would get if you took the nightmares of a neglected and traumatized child and made a horror movie out of them.
The story reminded me of a darker version of “Psychonauts”. In that you you jump into the minds of others in order to sort their emotional baggage and help them fight their inner demons and the same seems to be true here as well. It’s clear that Isaac is an unhappy child, and it would seem that this game is a metaphor for him struggling through his day to day life, so much so as to have the final boss fight be with his mother.
While that make the story seem like a deep look into childhood psychology and trauma, it’s not. Sure, there is a lot to be taken from the story, but the story it’s self is rather shallow. Between each dungeon you are treated to a cut scene meant to look hand drawn (very much in the style of the “Cyanide and Happiness” webcomic) that depict parts of why Isaac is so unhappy. These range from being made fun of due to receiving a woman wig as a gift to him running out of air as he’s trapped inside a chest. These segments are all short and do paint an interesting picture, but are never quite engaging.
Overall, even though the games story is as bare bones as possible, it is an interesting topic and the game would have been a much weaker experience with out the context provided.
Your primary weapon in the game is your tears. Using WASD to movie and the directional buttons to shoot you cry your way from room to room until you reach the boss for each level. This control scheme allows you to move and shoot is different directions, but in a stroke of genius the developers made it to where moving and shooting in the same direction increased both the speed your tears shoot out at as well as there overall power. This forces you to play offenses as well as defense. You have to keep an I on all the enemies on screen, so charging at one can be dangerous but doing so will hurt them more.
But it’s not just all crying at bad buys. As you progress you will find some of the many, many power-ups there are in the game. For the most part these upgrade the power or range of your tears or upgrading your over all health, but some change the way you attack all together. For example one of my favorite power-ups changed your tears for a long ranged “puke-bomb”. Using these forced me to change up my play style as they didn’t shoot out the same way tears did, and getting too close to them when they went off could damage me as well as whatever for was in my way.
An interesting bonus to the power-ups is how they affect the look of Isaac himself. At one point the character I was playing looked nothing like the little boy I started out with. I had gone from a cute child to a One-Eyed Horned beast with Whip Marks on my face, a Coat hanger sticking out of my head and a pare of High-hills on.
The down side to all the verity is that you wont see a lot of these items again and once you die you lose everything. And you will die, a lot. While the game is no “Demons Souls” it presents a fair challenge. In fact, in 8 hours I still haven’t beat the game all the way through. I make it a good way through and end up dying. So be prepared to have a character build you rather like only to lose it and not find more of the upgrades again.
There are a few other things I could talk about, like the great enemy verity or the minor issues with hit detection but in the end all you need to know is that this is a game where you cry poop monsters to death. Either you want to play the game or not after hearing that. The few issues are nothing game breaking and the biggest is wither or not you can deal with the all the gross for gross sake content.
Game Play: 4/5
Music and Sound:
The music and sound effect are all passable, but I found my self more often that not muting it while playing music or a TV show in the background. So here is a question for you: if something is bad never makes you want to listen too it, how good is it? There are sound tracks I cannot stand and soundtracks I listen too all the time, but what about those I don’t mind but have no interest in? In the end, if I never hear the music to this game again i’d be just fine, but it did add a creepy vibe to the game and over all i’d say the music is well used. In the end i’m more apathetic towars the sound in the game more than anything. So I guess i’ll give it the only score that truly reflects that.
Music and Sound: 2.5/5
Overall Score: 3.16/5
Who is this game for:
If you ever wanted to know what “The Legend of Zelda” would look like if it played more like a bullet hell shooter and have a a stomach for gross, this will be right up your alley. This is also worth a look if you’re into games that at least try to handle a complex topic. If you’re bumbled that a game like “Imagination is the Only Escape” wasn’t allowed to be finished due to its subject and want to see more games take on this kind of material, this isn’t too bad of a place to start.
* “The Binding of Isaac” has no ESRB rating. It’s sequel/updated version “The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth” has an ESRB rating of “M” for Violence, Blood, Crude Humor and Drug Use. All of these are present in this first game. I personally feel this rating is a little to strict, but I very much understand the mind set behind it. I would suggest that you watch some game play videos before buying the game for yourself or a younger gamer.