Review: The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
If you had come to me before I had played The Binding of Isaac and told me you were making a twin-stick shooter based off a story from the bible, I would have called you insane. Nicalis has proved me so, so wrong. Binding of Isaac melds all of the elements of a great arcade shooter and a roguelike and does it almost perfectly. With the numerous variants of enemies and power-ups, no run is the same and over time it proves to be an extremely lasting experience.
The Binding of Isaac is loosely based on the aforementioned bible story of Abraham. Isaac’s mother gets a message from God saying that her son is plagued with evil, and she must fix him. The story continues on until Isaac’s mother is asked to kill Isaac to show her devotion to God, which she attempts. Isaac escapes into the basement of his home where the game begins. While the story is hardly important to the overall fun of the game, it provides a fitting and fascinating opening to the game.
‘Isaac, shocked and appalled of what his mother just tried to do is weeping. He uses his overabundance of tears to shoot at an interesting cast of enemies that are living in his basement and deeper into the depths of the earth.’
The shooting mechanics of Isaac are OK at best, mainly because you can only fire your tears in the four cardinal directions. In most twin-stick shooters you are able to shoot 360 degrees around your character to cover for all angles. Whether this was a design decision or just to keep continuity with the PC version, I felt it was unfair that I was able to be blindsided diagonally.
‘As Isaac ventures under his home, he finds bombs, pills, and strange items that alter him and his tears.’
The power-ups are the lifeblood of this game, and are what keeps it interesting from run to run. Every time you clear a room, put out a fire, or destroy a piece of poop, an item may drop. Bombs are used to blow up enemies and rocks while keys are used to open up locked doors; pretty self-explanatory. The wildcard items are the pills which either buff or nerf your Isaac from anywhere to one room to the entire rest of the floor. It adds a risk-reward element to using items, but nothing too terrible that would ruin your experience. The last form of items are located on pedestals. They are either a permanent boost or an item you charge by clearing rooms. Just like the pills, these add a whole new dimension to the game. Stacking items and building up your Isaac as the floors increase in difficulty are what make the game exhilarating every time you play.
‘Isaac walks through the halls, and suddenly discovers a red room framed with a skull. He ventures inside only to discover an enemy way over the size of the creature’s he’s come across so far.’
Each floor that you come to has a boss room containing one of over 50 bosses included in the game. Each one has its own patterns, tendencies, and weaknesses, which make them fun to learn but repetitive once you’ve beaten them a few times. I’ve played through Binding of Isaac plenty of times and once you learn the patterns, the bosses become more of an annoyance than any sort of challenge. The bosses are never changed in any way, so its easy to figure them out. I wish the bosses were more difficult, or at least had a little more variety to keep battles fresh and exciting.
Content-wise, besides the main story you can run through there is also a challenge mode to play. You start off with a set amount of buffs selected for you, and try to make your way to the final boss like in the main mode. It’s essentially the same thing as the story mode, only with power-ups that you know you’re going to have. I didn’t find it that fun, because I enjoyed the randomness of the main mode, over getting to choose what you enter with.
Music and graphically, the game succeeds as well. Having played the original on PC it took me a while to warm up to the new art style but I eventually came around. It looks gorgeous, especially on the Vita’s screen. As for the music, I think it sets the right tone and feeling for the game, and is a pretty memorable soundtrack to boot.
The Binding of Isaac pulls off everything it tries to do, and very well. The story is interesting, the gameplay fantastic, and the art and music are wonderful as well. The only things I found wrong with the game were that the bosses were repetitive and the challenge mode was lacking fun. Honestly though, that’s just me being nit-picky. The Binding of Isaac Rebirth is a fantastic game, and I fully and wholly recommend it to anyone with a Vita or PS4
A copy of this game was purchased for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Engaging premise
- Fantastic gameplay
- Randomness adds replay value
- Art and music fit gameplay and story
What I Dislike:
- Repetitive bosses
- Challenge mode is OK