The Binding of Isaac has a horrible story, but the gameplay is amazing. A lot of people don’t get it, so I’m going to explain why I love it so much.
The Graphical Style
Yes, the storyline of The Binding of Isaac is pretty damn dark. The intro and overall theme would be tough going if it wasn’t for the lighthearted graphical stylet. The original Flash version had a hand-drawn look which I really liked – although apparently creator Edmund McMillen was never too happy with it. I wasn’t sure about Rebirth’s change to pixel graphics, but it running at 60fps was enough to sell me. And now I can barely remember the change!
And you only have to look at the way the little poops dance and squeak to see the fun poking through. Every enemy and familiar shows personality. Some of the items and weapons are comical. You could transplant this style into any Pixar game and it would still work. The characters themselves are super-cute. Even the ugly ones! It’s the perfect distraction from what could otherwise be a very dark and harrowing experience.
The Core Gameplay Loop
Obviously this is the most important part of any video game, and The Binding of Isaac gets it right. Not only is there a huge selection of items (now we’re on Afterbirth+ there are about 500 in total), most of them will affect the others that you have. Pick up homing bullets and they will affect any projectile weapon you might pick up in future. If you pick up a power-up that makes your bombs explode into lasers, that will affect weapons that fire bombs as well. These synergies are what keep the game fresh, time after time.
Not only that, with Rebirth and Afterbirth there are also multiple game modes, local co-op options and multiple characters to play with. Each character adds a new twist on the same mechanics, and some of them will completely alter the way you play the game. That’s an impressive feat!
All The Secrets!
Oh yes, there are a few things to discover in The Binding of Isaac, too. Not just the items to unlock, but secret rooms, secret characters, alternative progression paths. Some of them require amazingly specific actions to unlock (The Lost, anyone?). And even once you know how to get something, actually getting it can be tough. Some of these are a little sketchy (Mega-Satan) because of a heavy reliance of luck, but almost everything is achievable if you’re good at the game.
I don’t know if this is enough to convince anyone who doesn’t already like Isaac to start. I don’t even know who I’m writing this for. Maybe I should have made it a video instead. But I wanted to say it, so I did. I love this game.
Let’s Play The Binding of Isaac Afterbirth
Watch me play it here! 🙂