The Binding Of Isaac: Rebirth review

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The Binding Of Isaac: Rebirth review

Post by Vote4Pedro on Mon Mar 16, 2015 11:32 pm

The Binding Of Isaac: Rebirth
(by Forest Gerlach)

         The door before me was laden with old bones, topped by a disproportionally large skull.  Knowing that there was nowhere else to go, I proceeded through the foreboding passage, only to be locked in as soon as I passed through.  At the other side were two bloated, blood-soaked worms, thrashing and rampaging through an odd combination of jutting rocks and piles of defecation.  As any other naked eight-year old running away from his psychotic mother would do, I began to cry.  And as I cried, my tears flew through the air to spatter on the segmented bodies of the angry annelids.  The worms reacted violently as the tears struck repeatedly, and after forcing myself to bawl all over them, they eventually dissolved into bloody chunks.  

         I had somehow lent myself a small victory, but it was short-lived, as I had to continue fleeing.  Under all the gore and poop, there was a trapdoor leading to the next floor.  However, the monsters I had just murdered with misery had left behind a pair of small toothpicks.  I did the most sensible thing I could think of: I jammed them into my eyelids to prop them open, improving my ability to cry.  With that out of the way, I leapt to the next floor, with no idea what was going to happen next.  This was only the first of six floors, and at the end, there was a final confrontation with the one who had put me here: my own mother.

         Believe it or not, this kind of experience is very common in Nicalis and Edmund McMillen’s remake/pseudo-sequel of his most recent game, The Binding Of Isaac: Rebirth.  In a warped retelling of the biblical story of the same name, poor little Isaac must flee from his mom through an ever-shifting basement of horrors and nightmares, descending until it feels like he’s about to reach Hell itself.  Along the way, there’s hints of child abuse and neglect, a brutal deconstruction of religious fanaticism, and more poop than you can shake a laxative at.  Needless to say, this game is absolutely messed up, but if you can get past that initial shock, there’s a lot more under the surface that makes this almost endlessly addictive.


         For anyone who perhaps doesn’t know much about the game, The Binding Of Isaac is sort of an homage to the old NES Legend Of Zelda game, blended with some twin-stick shooter elements from older games like Smash TV and Gauntlet.  The only goal of the floor is to make it to the end and defeat the boss to move on to the next floor.  Any room that has enemies must be cleared before moving on, and you accomplish this by crying all over them.  No, seriously.  Along the way, there is a wide variety of items for Isaac to utilize, from a remote that drops bombs, to a set of brass knuckles that lets him shoot teeth from his badly bruised face, and even the Holy Bible itself.  With a few notable exceptions, each item is useful in some way, and can drastically change the nature of your playthrough.

         There’s a few more things that separates this from your normal game, however.  First and foremost, the game is entirely randomized.  Every time you play through the game, there will never be the exact same set-up of rooms, items, or bosses.  You may encounter repeats of room layouts or pick up an item from previously, but as a whole, the game will change in some way to separate itself from previous   Also, if you die on any floor, you will have to start from the very beginning of the game.  There are absolutely no checkpoints.  Make no mistake, this game is merciless, and you will die plenty of times.  This is somewhat mitigated by the short length of the game itself; the average successful playthrough can take anywhere between half an hour to ninety minutes.

         It’s fair to say that the game is repetitive, as most of what you do is move from room to room, fighting off who-knows-what each time.  Sometimes, luck can play a role in how well you do as well.  The game may screw you over by not giving you the keys necessary to access items, or it may leave you overpowered within a few rooms.  These instances are pretty rare though, as the vast majority of the time, you’ll have to scrap by with what you have and make the most use out of your items as possible.  When the game works as such, it’s a ton of fun, even if every new room has a looming sense of dread.  Again, since no two playthroughs are the same, the game ends up feeling new for a very long time, even after you gain the ability to poop at will for the eighth time or so.

         Finally, there is a wealth of around 170 unlockable secrets in the game, each with its own criteria for discovery.  These can be just about anything from extra items, to new characters that completely change the game, or even a new alternate floor that serves to make the game harder.  That’s right, you can be rewarded for your efforts with an increase in difficulty.  Even if that may not sound very beneficial, the sheer amount of unlockables, combined with the randomized aspect of the game, means that completionists will have a lot to wring out from this game.


         So what actually makes Rebirth different from its predecessor?  To put it simply, it’s a much more polished experience.  Dozens of new items, bosses, poops, and rooms have been added to this edition, not to mention a few new characters and endings.  If you really hate yourself, there’s also a new Hard mode that beefs up a fair amount of enemies and decreases the amount of item drops you get.  It’s about as brutal as it sounds, but just as rewarding for those willing to take up the challenge.

         But more importantly, many of the bugs that plagued the old game are gone, partially thanks to the move from the old Flash engine to a much more stable one, made from the ground up.  Gone are the days of having a loading screen freezing and turning to pink as an extra-large floor loads.  No longer will the game randomly slow down thanks to a high amount of on-screen objects.  Some of the rooms have also been tweaked, so that you won’t walk into a room and instantaneously take damage anymore, making the game a lot more fair than before.

         Rebirth also dons a new graphical style, sporting an old-school look in contrast to the thick lines of the original.  This takes a bit of getting used to, but overall, many of the animations and sprites move a lot smoother than before.  For anyone that misses lines, there is a Flash filter, though this is more of a pixel smoother than anything.  The soundtrack is also brand spanking new, moving from Danny Baranowski’s atmospheric electronica to a more eclectic and straight-up creepy style of music.  Both of the soundtracks are excellent, and this is about the only point that the original can contend with.  Whichever one you prefer is down to personal taste, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you at least didn’t listen to both of them once.  


         The Binding Of Isaac: Rebirth is an excellent point to jump in for people that were perhaps interested in the original, and a fantastic follow-up for the hardcore fans of the previous game.  The addictive nature and gameplay is still omnipresent, and there’s almost nothing but improvements across the board from its predecessor.  It’s brutal both on the difficulty front and its interpretation of religious extremism, and it’s hard not to respect it for that.  But if you’re not already put off by either of these, then it’s worth the trip to the basement.  Besides, worst case scenario, you can just leave all that you own to your cat Guppy, right?
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Re: The Binding Of Isaac: Rebirth review

Post by MickeyG on Sat Jun 06, 2015 7:01 pm

cool review Very Happy
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