The RPS Verdict: The Binding Of Isaac

By Alec Meer on October 3rd, 2011 at 12:18 pm.

Me, at 8am every morning

The Binding of Isaac is a roguelike-or-is-it/shooter/body-horror/religion-bating curio from Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl. It’s… different. It’s nasty. It’s funny. It’s lightning fast. It’s cruel. It’s a lot of things, in one small and very cheap package. But is it any good? In the name of finding out, Alec and Adam gathered to discuss mutant babies, shooting human waste products, dicing with the devil and laser eyeballs.

Alec: So, today’s topic of conversation is the inevitable collapse of Western society. But first we’d better talk about the Binding Of Isaac, the new game from professional sicko Edmund McMillen. Mr Smith, how much of Isaac have you played, would you say?
Adam: Steam says 15 hours, I reckon a couple on top of that. Enough to kill mom three times and die far too many times myself.
Alec: I reckon I’m somewhere similar, except I have failed to kill mom. I have been defeated by her twice, however, and unlocked two of three bonus characters.

Alec: Where do you stand on the ‘what is it?’ question?
Adam: It’s a tricky question. I still see people getting in a lather about the term roguelike being used to describe it but I do think it’s a helpful tag, given the randomness and the disposable nature of Isaacs.I try not to use hybrid terms but Zelda plus arcade plus roguelike works for me. Then there’s the aesthetics, which are an entirely different kettle of rotten fish.
Alec: I’m happy to call it an arcade roguelike, partly because it’s apt and partly it’s because purists get their knickers in a twist about that kind of thing. I’m certainly playing it with the compulsion and packrat mentality of a roguelike, but the recklessness and high speed of a coin-op shmup. And it’s amazing how well those two elements merge together. All I’d say is that it can be to the detriment of the grotesqueness and anger, which I sort of stop noticing because I’m all obsessed by finding power-ups.

Adam: Twisted knickers are very much a feature of the game. I particularly enjoy seeing the different Isaacs I construct. Any particularly horrible builds you’ve had?
Alec: well, I’ve been using Cain, one of the unlock characters who’s faster and hits harder but has lower health. So I’m dependent on the bosses rewarding me with health upgrades. sometimes they don’t, and I spend the game crawling around with half a heart left, knowing the next mistake is certain death.

Oh wait, you mean visually horrible, don’t you? I think having a cyborg laser eye, a cojoined twin on my head and a glass eye in the back of my skull while spraying piss everywhere was pretty memorable in all the wrong ways.
Adam: I’m favouring Cain as well. X-Ray glasses along with his eyepatch create something truly grotesque. Add the coathanger through the head and it’s an avatar fit to reduce me to tears, though a very handy one. Personally I enjoy the fact that sometimes I just don’t find bombs or health upgrades. Knowing I’m screwed doesn’t bother me, it makes me more determined to succeed.

Alec: There’s always a point where everything seems to start going my way, I’m upgraded up the wazoo and have tons of bombs and keys and it all starts feeling kind of easy. I am damned to die within moments of that thought.
Adam: Yes, it definitely has that roguelikey feeling were a moment of complacency or confidence can spell doom.
Alec: are you completionist in your approach, do you try to blitz through or approach it hyper-strategically?
Adam: I have to visit every room, there’s no question about it. And now that I’m better at finding secrets and conserving coins, I try to buy everything as well. It’s not even a case of trying to upgrade my character effectively, I just can’t stand not knowing if there was something new or awesome hidden away that I might miss. And I am still finding new things on most playthroughs.
Alec: yeah, same here. Mostly I’m hoping to find the homing weapon though. That makes life a lot easier. What really concerns me is how much time I spend shooting piles of shit. There’s almost never anything in them. Yet I shoot them all. So now I am the guy who compulsively attacks faeces for no good reason.

Where do you stand on the grotesqueness? Uncomfortable or amused?
Adam: A mixture. I actually find myself intrigued as to how each piece of equipment will degrade or wound the character. Sometimes I flinch slightly but I’ve mostly become numb to it. Mostly, it doesn’t feel comedic to me though so much as genuinely dark. But that’s probably becuase I’m oversensitive and not that amused by farting.
Alec: Oddly, the fart gags are the bit I like least. It’s too openly silly and crude, whereas there’s something vaguely allegorical or angry about most of the other mutations.
Adam: They seem out of place, which is a strange claim to make considering the rest of the game.
Alec: Alec: do you think the game’s trying to say anything, really? Or is it just one man plumbing the depths of his twisted imagination?
Adam: At its best, I think there is more than an attempt to disgust and amuse. The idea of an arcade game with a troubled, vulnerable protagonist is intriguing and there are moments where the horror of the scenario shines through. But on the whole, for every item or enemy that makes me nod in appreciation, there’s at least one other that seems to counter my high falutin ideas. Mom’s pad, for instance. Or the farting.

Alec: I guess it’s a consequence of there being so many gags and upgrades and visual tangents, the sheer quantity means some misfire. But I do agree. Conversely, one of the minor elements I really like is the bartering with Satan thing if you find the right hidden rooms. Sacrifice most of your permanent health but get a mega-upgrade. Is it worth it? Is it strategically wise? Probably not . But I can’t help myself.
Adam: The first time I saw one of those I accidentally killed myself without realising the way the bartering worked. I find them hard to resist but I don’t really think about whether it’s worthwhile – again, it’s a case of needing to own everything that’s available.
Alec: Presumably completing it didn’t dim your ardour to play again? I find it incredibly hard not to immediately click restart when I die. It’s definitely not a game where permadeath is massively harrowing, because it’s so fast and quick.
Adam: Dying feels almost like a taunt. I think it ties back into the visual design – seeing the character stripped back to basics, there’s an immediate compulsion to start over so you can see what he becomes. That compulsion didn’t go away when I killed the final boss for the first time because, although it was clearly the goal, I’d already discovered the parallel goal of simply creating a character. Which is odd because there’s actually very little choice in character building – it’s dependent so much on chance, but that doesn’t bother me particularly.

Alec: Yeah, you can’t alter the major upgrades, they just stack and stack so you have to go with it: but you always want to. I wonder what the limits are, visually. I suppose there’s only so much you can pick up in one playthrough, but if your luck was constantly in Isaac could be heaving with women’s clothes and external hearts and devil horns and roid rage and God knows what. I do find the grotesqueness more comic than horrible, for the most part. There’s a vaguely Ren and Stimpy vibe to it.
Adam: Yeah, I can see that. I should say as well that I do think the art is fantastically done. It looks very plain in screenshots but the detail, particularly on the enemies and player character, is top notch.

Alec: I’m really glad McMillen made this. I like Super Meat Boy, but I find the difficulty-posturing tiresome and without a sense of discovery. This is really him playing to his older, agent provacteur values but with the sense of polish and design smartness he must have acquired from doing SMB. I’m glad Team Meat is only one project for him, and there’s clearly going to be amazing, less commercial things coming from his more outré work with other collaborators.

Adam: I’ve already put more time into it than I ever did SMB and that’s precisely because I feel like it’s rewarding me rather than punishing me.
Alec: So then: the question of questions. Would you recommend The People purchase The Binding Of Isaac? Or is too acquired a taste?
Adam: I would heartily recommend it to anyone even vaguely interested in shooting shit or collecting gloriously demented things.
Alec: I think it’s the most successful transference of roguelikes’ core values to an anyone-can-play game I’ve ever seen. Even something relatively light like Dungeons of Dredmor would be quite opaque to the curious but inexperienced player, but I reckon most people will work this out and, more importantly, be intrigued by what they can do discover, incredibly quickly. And the ‘orribleness of the art stops it from feeling too lightweight. And the stupidly low price means you’re getting value for your pittance even if you only play it once. Hence: most people should buy it. Unless they are particularly weak of stomach or cannot abide people insulting their deity with pixels.

Adam: Yep, I said it in my WIT but it really does remind me of Spelunky in lots of good ways. Engaging, replayable and very hard to put down. It needs a My Little Pony reskin.
Alec: “You found a rainbow!”

The Binding of Isaac is out now.

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90 Comments »

  1. JackShandy says:

    ” I think it’s the most successful transference of roguelikes’ core values to an anyone-can-play game I’ve ever seen.”

    W-what about Spelunky?

    The cool thing about The Binding of Isaac is that all the important enemies are distorted variations on your avatar. Some identical, some mutated variations on your most basic shapes. Then, as you get powerups, you become more twisted yourself. That’s a really cool idea.

    And there should be more games where the final boss is your mum.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lambchops says:

      “W-what about Spelunky?”

      My response also. I really like Isaac and it’s definitely my go to game at the moment for a quick blast of gaming excellence, but I can’t quite see myself pouring quite as many hours into it as I did Spelunky.

    • Cooper says:

      Spelunky is hardly ‘anyone can play’

      Under what seems simplicity in Spelunky are deeply hidden depths of frustratingly finicky movement and item controls.

      Isaac is up, down, left, right + shoot. And the occasional bomb.
      Nothing much more. But it does so, so much with it.

    • rayne117 says:

      “Under what seems simplicity in Spelunky are deeply hidden depths of frustratingly finicky movement and item controls.”

      Exactly how I felt after playing it for a few minutes. And it’s not like I’m a little wuss who can’t take weird controls, I built a butcher shop in Dwarf Fortress, OK compadre?

    • noodlecake says:

      @Cooper They aren’t finicky controls if you configure a gamepad. Spelunky is definitely a game not suited to keyboard play.

    • Sepulchrave76 says:

      Re battling mum at the end: a game based on Braindead? I’d never play anything else

    • Mordecai Walfish says:

      Speaking of gamepad support..

      I have created profiles for Xpadder to use a 360 controller or Arcade Stick with The Binding of Issac:

      360 Controller: http://www.2shared.com/file/XmzPTte7/BindingOfIsaac360pad.html

      Controls:
      Movement – Left analog or d-pad
      Fire / Menu Navigation – Right analog or ABXY buttons
      Bomb – Right bumper
      Special – Left bumper/Right analog button
      1 Time Use Item – Left trigger
      Pause – Start
      Un-pause/Menu Select – Back

      ——-

      Arcade Stick (tested and used with Hori Real Arcade Pro VX-SA & V3-SA): http://www.2shared.com/file/6Vy-KJ54/BindingOfIsaacVX-SA.html

      Controls:
      Movement – Stick
      Fire / Menu Navigation – Buttons 3,6,7,8
      Bomb – Button 4
      Special – Button 2
      1 Time Use Item – Button 1
      Pause – Start
      Un-pause/Menu Select – Back

      Hope someone gets some use out of these, both are perfect control setups for the game ^_^

      NOTE: Make sure the controls for the game are default with “Lefty Flip” and “AZERTY” turned OFF in the options, otherwise these will not work.

      Enjoy!

    • mingster says:

      Thanx for the controller setup. Why it doesnt have a gamepad option is beyond me.

    • Thants says:

      “They aren’t finicky controls if you configure a gamepad. Spelunky is definitely a game not suited to keyboard play.”

      I’d like to disagree strenuously. A digital-movement platformed like that is perfectly suited to a keyboard.

  2. wodin says:

    Didn’t like it. Just to nightmareish. I think sometimes things go to far in overall sickness and this was one of them.

    • icupnimpn2 says:

      Yea I have no interest in the setting or theme of this. Wish it had happy bears instead :(

    • Kdansky says:

      The dark art is part of its content. It tells a story of child abuse, and demonstrates quite of few of these things visually. Manshoots display violence as glorious and awesome. This displays violence for what it really is.

      And underneath, there is an incredibly good game, just like SMB was.

    • icupnimpn2 says:

      … part of its content I find wholly unappealing. The mechanics, features, and gameplay sound great though. Tragic.

    • Khemm says:

      Happy bears? Too scary. Prancing ponies is where it’s at.

    • Gnoupi says:

      There is dark and dark. McMillen’s dark is the scato-dirty-gory kind of dark.

      I like games with a dark ambiance (take Amnesia for example), but this one feels really too “dirty”, like toilet dirty. And that’s my problem with his depiction of “dark”. It’s too disturbing for me, in a way that prevents me from really wanting to play it, while the gameplay was attracting me.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      “…you should have been there years ago. Tell you, the bears then, they were something to see. Those bears they didn’t need no cheeks spikes, and razor collars, and paw hooks, and all that knivery you straps’ to ‘em now”.

      “No paw hooks, what’d they do, just bump into each other?”

      “Heh-nah, the bears back then, they had claws as long as your finger, and wicked teeth”.

      “Bears? Your taffing me. They look pretty mangy harmless, long as they’re not wearing harness”.

      “That’s why I can’t stand the pits now. You don’t know what you missed. They just don’t make bears like they used to”.

    • disperse says:

      @Khemm

      Prancing ponies? Horrifying. I’d much prefer a game of frolicking kittens.

    • Wulf says:

      @Gnoupi

      That’s what kills it for me, too, in all seriousness. I’m not being nasty to this game at all, but I’m a neat freak, and this is toilet humour. It’s toilet humour dressed up as something meaningful, but at the end of the day it’s still toilet humour. It would be sort of like having doody comics talking about cultural equality. Whilst there might be something meaningful there as an art form (and I am not denying this, nor would I dream of doing so), it’s just not something that appeals to me.

      Because at the end of the day, all I can see is toilet humour, I can’t see anything beyond it, and that’s a massive turn-off for me. If it was the Amnesia sort of dark, if it were like Penumbra, or a more psychologically chilling sort of dark, then I’d give it a shot. It would likely scare me silly to the point where I couldn’t complete it (a la Amnesia), but I would appreciate it, I would understand it and I would like what it’s doing. Here, I can only see potty humour.

      And I am a failure because potty humour squicks me. I know this puts me in a group of 1% out of 99% of the Internet, but that’s the sort of person I am. I’m a bleeding heart, I’m bothered by stuff that’s obviously meant to be offensive, and I’m easily squicked. I can’t help being who I am. So this game will never be for me. Though I would absolutely love more stuff akin to Toejam & Earl if anyone ever bothered to do something like that. (Please?)

    • Bart Stewart says:

      I’m pretty sure this is the first and only time I’ve ever seen the crazy “bear fight” conversation from the start of Thief 1 used as a metaphorical monologue on challenging game design.

      Neatly done, Sheng-ji.

  3. Dominic White says:

    The game really does keep growing the more you play it – I’ve not gotten to the point yet, but if you manage to complete it six times, each game from that point on is harder, throwing more enemies and tougher bosses at you. Beat it another three times, and apparently another game-changing variant comes your way.

  4. SurprisedMan says:

    Loving it. I’m enjoying how all the random elements fit together, but I haven’t got close to winning after about 4 hours of playing. It seems like this punising but very-replayable model of indie game design is re-emerging in new forms, and I think Arcade Rogue-like is a very appropriate term.

    Actually, the next Surprised Man game (the last one we made was The Wager) that we are currently working on is similarly roguelike inspired, although it’s a different sort of game entirely, and we’ve been looking to Spelunky among other things to provide inspiration for how to make all the random elements work together. I think The Binding of Isaac will become a point of reference for us too, as we continue working on it.

    • adonf says:

      Oh The Wager was great. Cost my boss a lot of man-hours.

    • SurprisedMan says:

      Thanks! We’re still working on version 1.2 which should have quite a few gameplay tweaks and some more content. Hope to have news soon.

  5. caddyB says:

    I’m waiting for the DLC that lets you kill God.

  6. Jockie says:

    I like the dark elements of this game, but really the only thing driving me forward is to see how fucked up of a character I can end up with, the actual shootery bits of it are a little bit floaty and imprecise for my liking. Still for a £5er can’t complain!

    • Sepulchrave76 says:

      They are a little bit. I’d love if it had precise 8-way fire

  7. Torn says:

    Did any of you unlock “The Womb” after killing mom? I’ve heard it opens a new, very hard, chapter and you fight the ‘real’ mom at the end of it.

    I believe the only way to unlock Judas is also to beat the womb.

    • Carolina says:

      Already killed Mom’s Heart twice. Surprisingly easier than Mom herself, but the Womb maps are quite hard. Since they don’t have any shops or upgrade rooms, your best bet is go straight to the bosses —if you can—.

    • Daryl says:

      Agree on Mom’s Heart being easier than than Mom herself. However, I disagree about the rest. I haven’t actually died in a Womb stage yet, though they definitely are challenging. I would recommend exploring every level fully. You never know what you will find.

  8. Derppy says:

    I love it.

    I have these moments when I scroll through my list of games in Steam and can’t decide what to play. There’s awesome AAA titles, but I just don’t want to dedicate so much time and focus they would take.

    This is the game I launch in those moments from now on. I’ve played a couple hours in total and every single experience has been different. It always feels fresh, even if the levels look exactly the same and the mechanics change very little.

    It’s quick, fun and very surprising. I find the dark themes and ridiculous character modifications hilarious and recommend the game to all fellow gamers.

    This is also a game that could be expanded very easily. At the point when many players have seen everything there is to see, throw a pack of something like 2 new bosses, 5 new monsters and 20 new items in there to guarantee players will spend many, many hours with the game just to see what sort of crazy new things there is.

    I also believe players would gladly pay a few bucks for it as DLC, but I think Edmund is the kind of guy that could even supply some free content if the game sells well.

    After Super Meat Boy and this, I could pre-order his the next game for 30 bucks right now, without knowing anything about it.

    • Tacroy says:

      Well but that’s the thing though! The mechanics do change significantly. The enemies are always constant, yes, but the distribution of enemies you find will vary wildly; sometimes you’ll never even see a particular enemy class for an entire playthrough, and then the next time they’ll be everywhere.

      Particular powerups will change the way you fight, too – if you find the third eye, for instance, your shots change dramatically and it’s no longer worth spamming them; if you find the borg eye thing, your shots are basically hitscan now and no longer curve; if you find the chocolate milk, you can charge shot and your strategy changes again.

      Although as a whole the mechanics are constant, the particular emergent expression of the mechanics that you find in a particular run through of the game will vary a whole lot.

  9. TillEulenspiegel says:

    I’m happy to call it an arcade roguelike

    But that’s a contradiction in terms.

    I dunno, I just find it really odd that up until a couple years ago, everyone knew what “roguelike” meant, and it was clear. And it didn’t mean “anything with permadeath and random generation.”

    You wouldn’t call Thief a first-person shooter, or a sneaky first-person shooter. Because it’s generally lacking the whole fundamental shooting thing. Likewise, calling something “roguelike” when it lacks turn-based, tile-based movement is nonsensical. It’s a defining aspect of the subgenre.

    I don’t even like roguelikes, though I’ve spent a fair bit of time with all the major ones. It’s just…words mean things.

    Here’s the official description:

    The Binding of Isaac is a randomly generated action RPG shooter with heavy Rogue-like elements.

    See? Absolutely fine. Not confused at all.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      It’s a roguelikelike, of course.

    • Adam Smith says:

      It’s quasiroguelikelikeesque.

    • Dervish says:

      I will cease getting in a lather about it when someone can tell me why it doesn’t get a Zelda-like label first.

    • zeroskill says:

      I am more astonished that Smash TV wasnt mentioned even once on this entire page. Oh Smash TV, how I wish you could be a HD remake. Until we meet again, its just me and my MAME.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      @ Dervish:

      It’s because zeldalike isn’t as fun to say.

      Zeldalike.

      See?

      But to be fair, 87% of press coverage for this game mentioned Zelda too. Fact!

    • Baines says:

      You don’t need tile-based movement to be a Roguelike. It is just that tile-based movement is one of the easiest methods to implement. Switching from tile-based to something else doesn’t really gain you much, so it isn’t really done. (While it can address some issues with tile-based, like what to do with diagonals, it introduces new issues at the same time. It may make dancing just out of range more of an issue, and it makes it more difficult to judge multi-turn distances )

      Turn-based is a much touchier issue. It was argued possibly even before people made real-time roguelikes. The best argument to require “turn-based” is that turn-based gives ample time to truly think through every move and its consequences. While you might blast through most of a game, you might find yourself pondering for five minutes over a single move. And you can.

      The best argument for not requiring turn-based is that “Roguelike” is a general/broad idea, not tied to specific mechanics. Some want it to mean “like Rogue” specifically, but still want to apply it to games that have long distanced themselves from being much like Rogue except in increasingly superficial ways (and thus the people who argue it has to be turn-based, tile-based, ASCII art, every possible action having its own key, etc). Others hold it to a general idea or “feel”.

    • Thants says:

      The Binding of Isaac is a randomly generated action RPG shooter with heavy Rogue-like elements.

      Or an action roguelike for short. No one’s saying that it’s a roguelike, but it has certain core-elements of a roguelike applied to a different genre.

  10. Gassalasca says:

    “It’s definitely not a game where permadeath is massively harrowing, because it’s so fast and quick.”

    I have to disagree. I like the setting and the atmosphere, but each time I die, I lose all will to play it.
    I just hate the thought of going through those early rooms again and again….

    • Butterbumps says:

      I find deaths harrowing enough to make me say a rude word quite loudly nearly every time. It doesn’t discourage me from restarting immediately, though.

    • Hematite says:

      Yep, I find the first four(?) levels a yawn because the health drops outstrip my carelessness, then the last two always get me because the health drops dry up and I can’t suddenly switch modes to caring about every hit.

  11. adonf says:

    Bought it, couldn’t play it because I’m unable to use WASD for movement (I must use arrow keys to move the character, which is odd because I’m left handed), went to the Internet to complain that PC games should let the user remap the keys.

  12. qrter says:

    I don’t enjoy the shooting, and the whole theme/art-style feels a bit too emo-y and student-y to me.

    It made me reinstall Dungeons of Dredmor though, which I’m enjoying a lot more.

    • Alec Meer says:

      I’m really tempted to add a word-ban plugin, and the first three additions to it would be ‘emo’, ‘retarded’ and ‘pretentious’.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lambchops says:

      If I find that your plugin has retarded my ability to comment I will becoming rather emo-tionally damaged.

    • Icarus says:

      Can you add ‘entitlement’ to it too please Mr Meer?

    • zeroskill says:

      What Alec said. Please do it, I beg you.

    • Quizboy says:

      Surely it should just auto-replace them with ‘wonderful’, ‘splendid’ and ‘life-changing’.

      Also without ‘pretentious’, how are we to talk about Braid?

    • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

      Don’t forget “overrated.”

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      This think is doubleplusungood.

    • Rob Maguire says:

      Yes, please. And add to that list: doestrade, url7(might not have that right?), and voguecatch. That would eliminate virtually all of the spam I’ve seen here in the past few months.

    • MD says:

      ‘Pretentious’ is a useful word. Sure, some people misuse it, but in a lot of cases it expresses exactly what is meant. You might consider it overused, and those who use it to usually be wrong, but in that case your problem is with them and their opinions, not the word itself.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      Only if it also works for the posts themselves and includes words like verisimilitude. :)

    • Josh W says:

      But then how can you say things like:

      This game has pretensions of dealing with a [insert theme here], but the situation is so contrived as to remove any versimultude from the depiction. Creating a symbolic universe around the theme as experienced, rather than considering it’s causes or apperance in the real world, means that the idea is just there, it has no implication of outside causes. This gets in the way of you developing from empathy for the character or identification with him to analogies with your own life, which could link you to real people in similar situations, and perhaps ways to stop similar things happening. It exists in a bubble.

      Devoid therefore of easy transferal of lessons learned into the real world, or also of critique of the concepts surrounding and supporting the problem, the game also avoids making any attempt to deal with the problems it trades off of, the thematic elements just becoming horror tourism, taking the emotional and aesthetic skin of the problem without engaging with it’s structure.

      In this situation, instead of addressing a problem in any functional way, it simply fixes it in place as a given, leading to a result that is at best irrelevent to it’s themes, or worse unhelpful to anyone who has been involved in such a situation. Another game apparently about totally different themes might actually have more relevence to this game’s themes, and be more valuable.

      As it happens, that’s what I feel about the game!

  13. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    Still haven’t completed it yet (when I got to the last boss for the first time I had but 2 hearts remaining) but I’m definitely enjoying the sense of discovery of figuring out how best to utilize items and defeat bosses. Also each area being reasonably short avoids it falling into the tedium that eventually stopped me playing Dredmor.

  14. pkt-zer0 says:

    Going to recommend Dicing Knight as an alternative action-roguelike-like, except without the dark theme.

    • Wulf says:

      So noted, thank you.

      Toejam & Earl-likes is something that I think the world needs more of. So I’m definitely going to look into that. I’ve been wanting something like TJ & E forever. Hell, a reskin of this game would work, but I just can’t stomach the way it currently is.

      I’d be too much stuck between either grimacing or facepalming to actually play it.

  15. serguma says:

    I must say I don’t usually like repeating the same process over and over after dying, but I’m enjoying this game and every time I am getting better :).

    I think it is worth its price, buy it!

  16. Buttless Boy says:

    I absolutely love the theme/art, partly because I have a dark sense of humor, and partly because it makes the whole thing all the more disturbing. I’m wandering around in the imagination of a horribly abused child, and the art reflects that.

    Also, gotta agree on the comparison with SMB. This is a much better game in every way but production values.

  17. Belmakor says:

    Is there something wrong with me that I don’t find anything about this game interesting? Or SMB for that matter? Also, why have I gotten fed up with DX:HR about 1/3 of the way through when I loved the 1st one. Its depressing when games fail to excite you anymore =’(

    • Skabooga says:

      I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you’re growing older. Once you start having thoughts of settling down and raising a clutch of children, that’s when you know you’re done for.

    • mingster says:

      Yup sounds like your getting too old to play games.

    • Skabooga says:

      On the other hand, becoming more selective in what games you choose to play can also be a good thing. Sure, many of the games I played as a young’un seemed to have this incredible appeal, but it was this same rose-colored view which resulted in me playing hours upon hours of crap games. Looking back, the time I spent with those now clearly terrible games (I suspect even then I knew how terrible they were) could have been better spent doing, oh . . . pretty much anything else.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      See, I reject this whole getting-older/nostalgia angle. Why? Because I adored Minecraft and Dwarf Fortress. Because I find myself inspired and excited by tabletop RPGs like Burning Wheel, just as excited as I was about Ultima Online in 1997. Because I’m capable of approaching older computer games I loved with a critical eye towards game design, and I can articulate what makes them great.

      Certain new games are perfectly capable of evoking all those same emotions in me. That I happen to think most popular, highly-rated new games are shit has little to do with my age. Well, except to the extent that older games have shaped my tastes. It’s mostly to do with modern design trends.

  18. Vermilious says:

    What’s struck me most about this game wasn’t the humor or the art stlye, it was that after three tries, I started hating certain enemies. Not because they were difficult, but because they wimpered. They were actively afraid and ran away. And yet, to progress, I had to kill them. I can’t help but wonder-are they my more pathetic isaacs, trapped and distorted by the game? If I play better, will I stop running into them?

    Point being, wicked fun, and made me have an actual human reaction at points. Well done

    • BatmanBaggins says:

      The whimpering, fly-infested enemies were really the only thing in the game that really made me grimace a bit. The excessive gore and poo and all that is pretty cartoony and outlandish and doesn’t bother me in the slightest, but those hive-head things just seem so pathetic and awful. As in, they’re suffering and I feel bad for them.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      I hate their whining. Of everything, those are the ones who I feel deserve their fate.

      Which is weird. Everything else tries to kill me. They are the only things in the game which aren’t trying to kill me and I despise them and glory in their destruction.

      That makes me a bad person.

    • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

      You could try to think of it as putting them out of their misery. Maybe? Don’t know if that helps any.

  19. Premium User Badge

    Matt_W says:

    Regarding the rogue-like or not discussion: no review I’ve read has mentioned the most important difference between this and rogue-likes: TBoI is not a turn-based game. This is why the rogue-meets-Zelda description is fairly apt. It does have perma-death, dungeon diving, item collection, secret discovering, and (mild) stat pimping, in the vein of rogue-likes, but unlike them, demands quick reflexes and is fast paced like an action game. And specifically, the one-room-at-a-time, kill-all-the-monsters-to-get-a-key mechanic is pure Zelda. There’s also no character generation, so even the (fairly painless) restarts of NetHack and Dredmor are marathons by comparison.

    Agreed, however, that the fart jokes are incongruous with the overall atmosphere of dread that pervades the game due to its (excellent) soundtrack, ubiquitous grotesqueries, and quite chilling hand drawn opening cutscene.

  20. Premium User Badge

    AlwaysRight says:

    Someone else must get the feeling of Toejam and Earl from this?… anyone?

    • Wulf says:

      Yep, except Toejam & Earl isn’t trying to be offensive and squickish, it’s just being inexcusably and unashamedly over the top. So what I get from this is that I need to install an emulator and install TJ & E in co-op again. Again. Again.

      I’ve played that game too many times.

  21. Hematite says:

    Curmudgeon alert!

    I am an old and jaded gamer. I see straight through the artistic trappings to the game mechanics, which I find lacking. I have made a mental note that the game is trying to be offensive, and moved on to my sprite shooting the other sprites.

    I find the early game too easy and the late game introduces palette shifted enemies who will eventually kill me through my own bored carelessness. The hit detection is flaky and the framerate is inconsistent, slowing down when there are too many sprites on screen then catching up once some of them are gone.

    I don’t begrudge the few pounds I paid for this, but I put a couple of hours more into this than it deserved because people keep saying how great it is, and now I am bitter and resentful for that tiny portion of my lost youth.

    I am a withered husk of a man and a lump of coal hangs where my heart should be.

  22. Mordecai Walfish says:

    I have created profiles for Xpadder to use a 360 controller or Arcade Stick with The Binding of Issac:

    360 Controller: http://www.2shared.com/file/XmzPTte7/BindingOfIsaac360pad.html

    Controls:
    Movement – Left analog or d-pad
    Fire / Menu Navigation – Right analog or ABXY buttons
    Bomb – Right bumper
    Special – Left bumper/Right analog button
    1 Time Use Item – Left trigger
    Pause – Start
    Un-pause/Menu Select – Back

    ——-

    Arcade Stick (tested and used with Hori Real Arcade Pro VX-SA & V3-SA): http://www.2shared.com/file/6Vy-KJ54/BindingOfIsaacVX-SA.html

    Controls:
    Movement – Stick
    Fire / Menu Navigation – Buttons 3,6,7,8
    Bomb – Button 4
    Special – Button 2
    1 Time Use Item – Button 1
    Pause – Start
    Un-pause/Menu Select – Back

    Hope someone gets some use out of these, both are perfect control setups for the game ^_^

    NOTE: Make sure the controls for the game are default with “Lefty Flip” and “AZERTY” turned OFF in the options, otherwise these will not work.

    Enjoy!

  23. Wulf says:

    The problem is is that I am weak of stomach. So I think I’ll just stick to Toejam & Earl. I would really love to see a HD remake of that, someday, with loads more random stuff thrown in. Sadly, I worry that the original game might actually have to be toned down for a modern audience, due to it being very over the top.

    I’m completely fine with over the top things, certainly. I love them. But I do have a very weak stomach. So yeah. Nothing against this game in particular, just definitely not for me.

  24. j1yeon says:

    Do you find out at the start that the goal is to kill your mom? I feel like something has been spoiled for me already.

    The rest of the article was enough to solidify a purchase from me… the game sounds quite excellent. I also tend not to overthink purchases less than $5.

    • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

      There’s no real “story” to “spoil” in this game. You have the short cutscene at the beginning that explains how and why Isaac ended up in the basement, and you have the short cutscene at the end showing what happened after Mom’s defeat in the game, but those are all but inconsequential to the game itself. So, no, knowing that you fight Mom at the end isn’t really some super-secret twist ending or anything like that.

  25. Matzerath says:

    I’m loving it! I think Edmund has reached a twisted apex with his art — seemingly minimal but very evocative, with perfect animations. And there needs to be more kudos for the awesome soundtrack.

  26. Bart Stewart says:

    Why all the bile for “purists” and their knickers? It seems rather cavalier for people whose stock in trade is using words to communicate information in an effective and sometimes entertaining way to dump on people who are trying to find words that accurately describe a game.

    In some cases, sure, you get people quibbling over semantic minutiae. This is the Internet. But that’s not always the case — sometimes (as in distinguishing between in-your-face tactics and thoughtful strategy) distinctions matter because they either promote or obscure the discussion and maybe even the making of particular kinds of games.

    There’s a point of diminishing returns for such conversations. But where’s the evidence we’ve reached that point for figuring out how to talk about TBoI?

    Let people make distinctions without insulting them for trying to figure out how to communicate ideas effectively, please.

  27. Premium User Badge

    Tam Toucan says:

    “I’ve already put more time into it than I ever did SMB and that’s precisely because I feel like it’s rewarding me rather than punishing me.”
    This.

    Interestingly the game sucks without permadeath. Twice now I’ve bartered to get the Dead Cat which gives you nine lives and it just makes me sweary and annoyed everytime I lose one.

    With one life dying just gives me the chance to create another character.

  28. TheFuzziestKitty says:

    Genesis 22 is my 2nd favorite bible chapter (after the one where the prophet calls bears to kill children that are making fun of his baldness) so I’m okay with any game based on that.

  29. GBolt says:

    This game calls for a Co-op mode.