If you’re a video game enthusiast who has not yet tasted the gory delights that The Binding of Isaac, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, and The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth have to offer, you’re sorely missing out. Launched in 2011 by developers and designers Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl, The Binding of Isaac was first released on Steam and features a primary character of a naked crying child named Isaac who shoots his tears at his enemies.
The plot-line is based on Isaac’s necessary escape from his mother, who heard a message from God claiming that Isaac’s life must be sacrificed. Isaac flees from his mother to the basement of their home which is filled with gruesome and sardonic monsters you, as a player, must do battle with. The game is understood to touch on darker topics of childhood tragedy with both a gravity and a levity that may either off-put or intrigue players.
Whether or not you care for intellectually troubling thematic elements, the gameplay is what really makes The Binding of Isaac…The Binding of Isaac. The game has been structured into ascending levels of difficulty, each level with a randomly spawned dungeon set with various nose-wrinkling enemies. Gameplay is designed to be permadeath, which means that once you die, you have to restart the entire game. Nope, you don’t get a save point or a Pokémon Center to heal yourself. Once you die, you’re done. This is addicting and awesome? Players of Super Meat Boy, which was also designed in part by McMillen, understand.
Enemies range from giant piles of smiling poop to spiders that, when killed, spawn several more blood-thirsty arachnids. There are also zombie-style characters that look suspiciously like Isaac, if Isaac had his eyes gouged out, and worms with shockingly large fangs. Each dungeon ends with a hideous boss which you must defeat to successfully move on to the next level, which, of course, holds bigger and uglier baddies.
Don’t Worry, Though
You’ve got tears to defend you. Yes, tears. Isaac’s tears. You can shoot the tears to inflict damage on enemies, and dungeons include treasure rooms that proffer upgrade gifts which might make those tears a serious offense against your attackers. You also have bombs that blow things up, keys that unlock rooms and chests, money which can buy you happiness (this is mostly a joke- happiness is a relative term when it comes The Binding of Isaac), and hearts that can replenish your health.
You Won’t Be Able to Stop
Once you’ve played The Binding of Isaac long enough, you’ll find that the catchy and surprisingly upbeat musical themes follow you throughout the day. And on into the evening. And into your sleep at night. Where you may or may not dream about battling piles of poop that careen across the bedroom floor to get you. Don’t let that scare you off from The Binding of Isaac– it’s an excellent game that serves equally well as a party entertainer and an individual adventure which delights (and grosses out) video game haters and fanatics alike.