The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth: Of poop and pixels

November 13, 2014


There’s no denying that The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is a huge package offering lots of replay value. With over 200 items, randomly-generated maps and enemy placements and rewards for completing the game multiple times, Rebirth is a completionist’s dream.

In a nutshell, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is a roguelike inspired by classic Legend of Zelda games and Robotron. The visuals look like they belong in A Link to the Past and the combat is simply pressing the face buttons to fire in the four cardinal directions. Item pick-ups are available in item rooms, shops, boss rooms, arcades and libraries. Some of these rooms, like the item room, are guaranteed to spawn in each layout. I’ve only seen one library and a handful of arcades in my time with the game, though. Items range from health, range and damage increases to shot effects like slow, charm and fear. The items you get absolutely define how you’ll need to play. Sometimes a run will be super-easy thanks to a great item combination, while other runs will be hugely entertaining but nigh-unwinnable.


Boss variety is great, and bosses from the PC original have been tweaked in Rebirth to be more challenging. And if the base game doesn’t offer enough difficulty, Rebirth also comes with a hard mode. I’m barely good enough to competently play on normal difficulty, but it’s nice to know the option is there.

The original game didn’t have controller support. It was easy enough to download a controller program and create a profile, though. Rebirth mimics that perfectly. Every control in the game is customizable. If you want to put movement on the shoulder buttons, attack on the D-pad and item usage on the face buttons, you can do that. I was thrilled to see that I could create the same control scheme I used on the PC here on the PS4.

There are a couple of things I’m not crazy about, however. First, and I’m not surprised by this: the game is gross. It’s the creator’s prerogative to tell whatever story he wants, but The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is a disturbing game with disturbing visuals. You make deals with the devil in a quest to kill your mother, and shoot tears at monsters made out of feces. Second, the music in Rebirth is, in every way, worse than the music in the original game. I respect the choice to create a new soundtrack for a new release, but original composer Danny Baranowsky knocked it out of the park, and the tracks included in Rebirth just don’t measure up.


The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is a very interesting game. The subject matter and presentation may turn some players off, but if you can make it past those things, the mechanics are tight, the enemy and boss designs are interesting and the sheer amount of variation from run to run is enough to keep me coming back. I was almost invincible when I found items that made my shots home in on enemies and act as shields that canceled out their shots. The fact that those two items work together to create a whole new way to play the game is fascinating, and I can’t wait to find more item combinations like it.

Pros: Wealth of items to discover, randomly-generated maps, fully-customizable controls
Cons: Subject matter and visuals are gross, music not as good as previous version

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.