Bringing rogue-like Back
Bringing rogue-like style gameplay back to fruition, The Binding of Isaac brings this tried and true RPG formula to an accessible format. With the title referencing the popular biblical story, this game features dark humor, religious references, and familiar gameplay mechanics. The Binding of Isaac has much to live up to after the developer’s success with Super Meat Boy, and it’s very safe to say that they succeeded.
The story is kept to a simple intro. You play as Isaac, a carefree kid living a carefree life until Isaac’s mom hears a message from God telling her to kill Isaac. She obeys, forcing Isaac to go on the run in the basement starting his journey, which involves him traversing through basements, caves, dungeons, and some pretty grotesque places, while fighting a variety of wretches and monsters along the way. The developer’s should be praised for creating a strong characterization Isaac and his mom using short cutscenes and the gameplay itself.
The gameplay is reminiscent to The Legend of Zelda on the NES. You start off with a basic “tear” attack, which takes down enemies at a considerable range, but with several hits. As you clear rooms, you’ll get a random drop of bombs, health, items, and coins(which are used to purchase items at shops) to increase your chances of succeeding. The item drops and rooms are all randomly generated, and the variety of items included in the game causes each playthrough to be significantly different. The items in the game include equippables, pills, tarot cards, and rare demon items that require you to sacrifice some of your health. There are so many items in the game, that you’ll have some difficulty remembering what some items do what, as the pills are only marked by their color, and some items are indistinguishable from others. Eventually you’ll play this game enough that it won’t be as big of a deal, but it would have been helpful to include some form of item description.
This is a game where you will die many, many times. The way The Binding of Isaac is designed, though, creates a feeling that the game is not screwing you over. Every death causes you to learn from your mistakes, and you feel as if you’re actually getting better at the game as you traverse on. When you get to the end of each dungeon, you’ll find a boss fight, with each one fighting unlike the last and are sure to test your skills. The are also randomly generated, as there’s about 3-5 possible bosses that can spawn in each section of the game.
The art style in the game create an atmosphere that is both dark and somewhat humorous. The Newgrounds style aesthetics are implemented well, giving it a smooth and simple look to it. Some nice subtle touches were placed on Isaac. He starts off as a normal looking child, but as he continues forward and collects items, his appearance gets altered depending on the items you pick up. Holy items may put a halo on him or make him glow. Satanic items give him a demonized look, and other items could just mutate his body is some horrid ways. Small things like this helps bring appreciation on the game’s art design.
As of writing this, I have died approximately 60 times and only reached the first ending. This says well to how addictive the gameplay can get, as your 5 minute games will start lasting 45 minutes as you get closer to the end. The game’s simple premise and controls opens up for much complexity, allowing for enough replayability to get more than enough bang for your buck. This game’s simple design has caused me much difficulty in finding something to criticize, leading me to say that it is probably one of the best indie titles to have come out this year.