Video Game: The Binding of Isaac

Independent video games can be a bit hit or miss, but in large part this happens because they can take risks it theme and game play in a way that a game that takes years and costs millions to make cant. The Binding of Isaac mixes some of the things that I love about independent games with some of the things that I like less about them, but all in all it is an interesting game that is worth your time.

I typically start with what I like, but because the things I like are mostly unimportant I will start with that. The tone of this game is something that I had to get over. It is a mixture of gross out humor and ideas that feel as if they were designed to upset people in order to get attention.  I mention this in part to say that it is worth getting past, because after a couple of games the way the enemies look and the general aesthetic of the game become less important. Still, if you can’t get past jokes about child abuse and enemies like cysts and guts then this game is probably not for you no matter how good anything else is.

And that’s get to heart of the game which is the game play and why I recommend the game. It uses a fighting mechanic and level design similar to the first Zelda game in which every room can have up to four doors and a dungeon is filled with secret rooms, enemies, bosses and items.  But unlike Zelda the maps in this game are random so that every time you start a new game it is a different experience than the last.

It is also a difficult game, especially at the beginning. If you don’t know the secrets of this game you’re going to lose and, most of the time, lose badly. On the other hand with the right combination of items you can become almost invincible.  The simplest of these are the items that you can use to heal yourself along with items that recharge items every time you take damage. Other items can change the way you attack, give you more health or create useful items such as bombs or keys. 

Perhaps the most interesting part of the game are the enemies. They cover the range from very easy to very difficult, but often those that seem easy can become far more difficult in difficult rooms. For example enemies that shoot in a straight line are generally easy to kill in large open rooms, but get into a room with narrow paths and they can be almost impossible to kill without taking damage. And past the simple room enemies are bosses.

There is a boss enemy at the end of each floor. Most of these are random and include things like giant spiders, giant worms and the horsemen of the apocalypse.  As you fight these enemies you learn how to fight them and each time get a bit further into the game until finally you confront your mother. And each time you play you can unlock more items and characters making this an almost infinitely repayable game.

If you like roguelike game or classic video games then there is a lot to like about The Binding of Isaac game play and I am sure a lot of people like the design and humor of the game. Either way, it is inexpensive and a different experience than you are going to get from any mainstream game making it worthwhile for anyone who wants to try out more independent video games.

Not convinced, Check out Northernlion's Lets play. There is a bit of cursing in this video, but not too much.

Elton GahrComment