The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is an infamously strange game, which is why it was with slight befuddlement that we saw Sony include it as a recent PlayStation Plus freebie. Conceived by Team Meat's Edmund McMillen, the title is a twisted take on the twin-stick shooter genre, served with a heaping spoonful of NES-era Zelda. But do its retro stylings make for a satisfying experience, or should it be relegated to the basement?
As you can imagine, the title’s story is a darkly comic retelling of the Biblical parable of the same name. God instructs Isaac’s mother to kill her child, but before she is able to carry this order out, Isaac quickly locks himself in the basement. He then, inexplicably, has to make his way through various levels of the dark and dangerous dungeon in order to extract his revenge.
Combine this slightly questionable premise with intense gore, absurd imagery, and a bizarre preoccupation with faeces, and you’ve got a game that can only be described as an acquired taste; if any of the aforementioned elements sound like they may be a turn-off, you'll probably want to give this one a miss. However, if you like your humour served pitch black, then this is probably the game for you.
Despite this uninviting veneer, Nicalis’ latest actually has a relatively standard core. You’ll wander through a series of increasingly challenging dungeons, twin-stick shooting all of the nasties in your path, while dodging bullet hell-esque barrages. After entering a new room, your job will usually be to simply clear out all of the enemies, and then collect your reward for doing so. This loot will usually be a key, some bombs, or a few coins; however, you’ll also sometimes be gifted with trinkets or pills. The former grants a passive state boost, while the latter usually provides a onetime bonus.
You’ll also find general stores along you merry way, as well as several other non-combat style rooms. Eventually, you’ll find a boss room, and be forced to square off against a randomly selected and incredibly devious enemy. There are several bosses in the game, each more bizarre and uncomfortable than the last. To reiterate, if the thought of fighting massive flagellating hunks of festering flesh turns you off, then perhaps give this title a wide berth.
The game also features several different playable characters, each favouring a slightly different play style. These are unlocked by completing objectives, such as scrounging together 55 coins in a single run, or managing to acquire seven full hearts. There are also several challenges, which, when completed, unlock new trinkets to find in the main game. Usually, these challenges centre on completing the title under a specific set of circumstances.
As this is a roguelike, both the layout of the rooms and the dungeon as a whole is randomly generated each time that you play. While this means that the game has the potential to be endlessly repayable, it can also be frustrating at times. For instance, if you’re dumped in a particularly challenging layout, there’s little that you can do except hope for a good string of special abilities. Unlike many other entries in the popular genre, though, the title isn’t so difficult as to feel completely insurmountable.
However, the real star of the show comes in the form of the aforementioned special abilities. These ingenious augmentations are given as a reward after toppling a boss, and are also scattered throughout the levels themselves. There are an alarming variety of powers on display, with some particular highlights including one which makes your projectiles ignore the laws of gravity, and another which leaves a continuous trail of enemy-trapping glue in your wake. What’s more, these powers stack, so the likelihood of you encountering the same combination of skills is almost impossible. In this way, you’re forced to constantly readjust your strategy, making for a consistently engaging and addictive experience.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the title’s presentation. To be clear, the blocky 16-bit aesthetic is certainly charming, but the juvenile subject matter – as well as the proliferation of scatological chicanery – does get a bit tiresome after a while. Similarly, the music does a good job of increasing the intensity of the experience as you continue through the game’s many dungeons, but isn’t particularly memorable or interesting in its own right.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is a fast-paced and fun twin-stick shooter. Its strengths lie in its tight gameplay, and the almost infinite replayability created by its endlessly inventive special abilities. Similarly, its darkly humorous story and visuals are nothing if not memorable. However, if you aren't prepared to truck with this deranged premise, then you probably won't enjoy your time in the basement.
I like this game way more than i feel i should.
I love the concept and the style, I'm just rubbish at these types of games so it was a big turn off for me.
Perfect game IMO. 10 out of ten. Best game of the year if not of all time.
I liked the gameplay but the style and story are so gruesome and bad that i didn't enjoy play through this and gave up.
I love the grim dark and dirty styling of the game. I found it quite punishing the first few times I played it. However once I got a play through that gifted me with some more interesting and damaging power ups I got into it...it's hard not to enjoy being a cursed floating wraith being that has a constantly laser beaming eye with infinite range and bombs that home in on enemies, all the while being orbited by a little...imp...thing that aggressively defended me. The piles of poo everywhere are a bit weird tho.
Disagree about the music. I've had the theme from the first basement in my head for days. I love this game. The power up system is genius, the art style is very well done (albeit an aquired taste) and the game play is extremely addictive.
This may well be my favourite game this month.
I think it controls a little bobbins tho, especially when using the right analogue to fire as it still only fires in 4 basic directions. Kinda flies in the face of the 'fast paced' notion when your having to shuffle around just so you can get into a firing line. Aside from that's not too bad, not had any decent power up yet though
@ferrers405 I feel the exact same way. Gameplay is average-good...but the style, story, etc are not for me.
And the biblical connection is a VERY loose connection.
I have download it, but haven't try it yet.
This isn't even close to the account provided within the pages of scripture.
The real story goes a little something like this:
God instructed Isaac's father (not mother), Abraham, to sacrifice his son as a test of loyalty, to see if Abraham loved God enough to give up his son for him (which is what God was planning to do for man with His son Jesus, but first he wanted to see if man would do the same for Him). So Abraham told his son Isaac to come with him to make a sacrifice. As Abraham lay his son on the alter and raised his knife, an angel of The Lord stopped him, and informed him a goat was entangled in the brush, and to sacrifice the goat.
Just in case anyone was curious to know, now you know
I like this game way more than CoD, I've beatin it 4 times and i haven't even scratched the surface!
I loved the original PC version and since getting the Rebirth I fell in love with it all over again. I'm so addicted to it that many of the games I paid £40-50 for have been gathering dust. I've probably spend more hours playing this than anything else on the PS4 and it was free with Plus. Bus journeys during London's rush hour are now a joy as I play the Vita version on my way to work. The gameplay is great and the fact that everything is random makes each play-through a different experience each time. The dark humour is great too. I would give this a 10/10 myself (which I would normally say no game deserves). BTW you can turn of the pixelated graphics mode to return to the original flash graphics if you want.
I tried it & it's well ODD It's not bad game. But it's a shame it hasn't got 2/3/4 player modes Or you can't play the story game with other people. Played Knack last week with my Nephew & it was FUN in 2 player mode. Oh well.
I have played maybe 20 minutes of it & love the art style & old school mechanics but was confused with how certain things worked At one point I got something to d with a deodorant can & my face was zombie like, half green & I had no idea what it did. After just picking up Unity, the constant Destiny & TLOU & the games of the next weeks (FC4, Dragon Age) I think this will be a game I will come back to later on but one I so far likeand am confused a bit by (when I first heard of it I thought it would be a lame biblical game & I was excited, but this is almost as good as a bible game with wrestling mechanics)
@JaxonH It's not supposed to be just based on scripture it's also biographical and based on the creators dysfunctional and abusive childhood...which involved his family being ex junkie religious nuts, that accounts for the pills in the game and the biblical connections.
@Munkyknuts understood, but I still wanted to clarify the difference
@JaxonH lol that's fine...I was just clarifying that it isn't meant to be a like the bible story, it just shares some themes in common.
It's an odd game with strange reasons for existing...your clarifying of the story it's named for isnt a bad thing, and provides context for anyone unfamiliar with it.
@JaxonH Since you're rying to provide accuracy some of what you're saying is your opinion (part about God trying see if someone would do what He was going to do)
and more importantly is that they were merely making a twist on it. lot's of other games have reference s too I'm sure.
the game is insanely hard - I would really love to get into, I like the overall gameplay and style, it but the extreme difficulty is just unbearable for me.
The only difficult games I like are the Souls Games - and they are much more rewarding - but here theres too much focus on luck imo
Also a shame that it is not cross-buy
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