The Binding of Isaac: Fight away with the tears

October 18, 2011

The Binding of Isaac is made by one of the guys who made Super Meat Boy, Edmund McMillen. Where the latter was a tribute to Super Mario Bros. and platforming, the former is a tribute to the original 8-bit Legend of Zelda. Instead of intensely-difficult levels you have infinite tries to beat to progress through, there are only six randomly-generated levels, and when you die, you have to restart.

The dungeon levels use the same size rectangles as from the original Zelda, and instead of using a sword, you shoot with your tears until all enemies in the room are dead (like in Smash TV). Each level has a special item room, a room with a miniboss or wave of enemies, a shopkeeper, and a secret room. The thing is, because they are randomly generated, you have no idea what will happen. Sometimes the first level gives you little gear, while other times you get an awesome item and the boss room within two minutes. Even the bosses are randomized. There are only so many, but you are not guaranteed to fight the same bosses every time.

The only gripe we have is there is no real way to minimize the game, though using F to switch in and out of fullscreen is a great feature. we’re still discovering new items, and there are some that are shockingly disturbing and gross (one of them is so bad we can’t even write the two words for what it is in this review).

And that is the one caveat that must be given: it’s very dark, and if you hold any major Western religion, your own mother, or even the principle or idea of females or motherhood with any sort of respect or reverence, Isaac might be a little difficult for your stomach or morals. But if you are fine with the bashing of religion and God or the crass presentation of, um, feminine hygiene, then count this game as flawless.

The Binding of Isaac is five dollars, but has more replay value than many full-priced titles. When we heard about the ability of this game to randomly generate dungeons and rooms we were skeptical, and thought surely it would start to feel familiar after a while. The enemies and items become familiar, but the design of dungeons as a whole never feels familiar. Simple graphics, simple premise, but every playthrough an adventure. How often do you see that?

Pros: Randomly generated dungeons, huge lexicon of items and powerups
Cons: Can be offensive to some, no option to minimize game

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.