Also available on Wii U, 3DS, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, iOS, Windows, OSX, and Linux
The Binding of Isaac is a game that I've been interested in trying for a couple years but had never bothered with given my usual prejudice against digital games. Retail release on Switch, however, means that I'll take the plunge. Having spent a bit of time with the game, it's certainly...interesting...though I must confess that I don't quite understand the cult love of the game.
The Binding of Isaac is a rogue-like shooter, and it's a pseudo-twin stick shooter at that. I say "pseudo" because the A/B/X/Y buttons determine where you shoot. It's not a true twin stick shooter since you don't use the right control stick to aim and shoot, but when you press the left face button, you shoot left, so on and so forth, regardless of which direction you're moving. It's actually a pretty comfortable control scheme despite my initial expectation of hating it. I would still prefer a true twin stick scheme, of course, but I've got no gripes with this control scheme.
As a rogue-like, there's not a concrete or linear storyline, but the basic premise of the game is rooted in Judeo-Christian mythology. "The Binding of Isaac" refers to the biblical story in which Abraham took his son, Isaac, to be sacrificed to God. In the game's premise, Isaac is a creepy naked clay-looking kid who lives a secluded life with his crazy mother who spends her time watching psychotic televangelists on TV. The lady, showing clear symptoms of schizophrenia, hears "God" telling her that her son is corrupted by sin and needs to cleansed. So she takes away all his clothes and toys and locks him in his bedroom. Then "God" tells her that her devotion is still questioned and orders her to kill her son. She takes a butcher knife and goes to kill him. Isaac finds a trapdoor underneath a rug and hides from his mother. The game consists of Isaac's thoughts and fears taking the form of hallucinations.
As I said at the beginning, I don't really understand the hype behind this game. The gameplay is fun, and the premise is interesting, but I just wasn't as ensnared as most folks seem to be. Part of that, I think, is my general dislike of rogue-like games. While there are certainly exceptions, I generally don't care for procedurally generated games. I want my games to be defined narratives, defined dungeons and maps and progression. That's not to say that rogue-likes are bad, but they're not my cup of tea, and because of that, I'm naturally a bit predisposed to be unimpressed with The Binding of Isaac. One thing I can say is solidly positive, even with my relative dislike of the game's design, is the art design. The visual style is very distinctive, and it really gives the game a dark, hopeless feel.
The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ is certainly an interesting game with an interesting premise. For those who enjoy the new-game-every-time nature of rogue-likes, there's a lot to love here. I, personally, am not a fan, and the scenery gets a bit stale after a few games for me. The visual design is great, but some more landscape variation in the basement rooms would be a welcome change. Overall, definitely check it out if you're a fan of rogue-likes, and if you see it on sale, I'd check it out even if you're not. I didn't find it to be as groundbreaking as some, but it's definitely a well-made game, and it's clear that a lot of care went into its development.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm Mr. Deck
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach history at a high school in central North Carolina; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.