Wot I Think- The Binding Of Isaac: Rebirth

2011’s The Binding Of Isaac was the evil, twisted twin to Spelunky – both perma-death, procedurally-generated games with superficial accessibility masking extreme precision of design and a long path to mastery. Isaac, though, went for an over-caffeinated shmup angle rather than measured puzzle-platforming. A tale of a young boy descending into a hellish world of blood, faeces and religious perversion in search of some kind of redemption, what it’s really about is surviving a horde of monsters with the help of gruesome upgrades. The Binding Of Isaac: Rebirth is a new version in a new engine, with new items, art and music. It remains, uh, unsympathetic to Bible fans.

You probably already know if you’re buying it or not.

If you don’t, let’s get this out of the way first: The Binding of Isaac is a brilliant hybrid of twin-stick shooter and roguelike. It’s twitchy and frantic, and the body/religious horror presentation will repel as many players as it amuses, but it’s also an impeccably crafted game. Every enemy requires its own strategy, every item or upgrade can change the course of events significantly, and the greatest rewards stem from the greatest risks. TBOI takes over people’s lives, despite being a short and entirely beatable game, because every new combination of random enemies and random items manages to feel like a brand new adventure, infinitely more important than any you’ve had so far. I’ve put more hours into it than most other games, but rarely write about it because it’s hard to vocalise ten-minute obsessions with fleeting betterment. It’d be like blogging every thought that went through my head during my morning jog. (Of course I don’t go on morning jogs, but sometimes I think about it).

Now, onto what’s changed. Rebirth squats somewhere between remake and sequel, and never quite becomes either. The simplest description is that it’s the same house with a loft extension and a new coat of paint. The heightened (or is it? I’ll get to that shortly) glossiness takes something of a back seat to a general intent of pushing at Isaac’s bounding edges just enough that it doesn’t feel like a straight retread, and for some of us might even become a comfort game for another two or three years.

Unsurprising is a new rogue’s gallery, populated with more gruesome distortions of Isaac’s own image and half-dark, half-silly creatures made from blood, faeces and tumours. Unsurprising too is a new collection of upgrades and mutations for Isaac’s pew-pew ‘tears’ attack.

To some extent, this is a straightforward more on top of what the Wrath of the Lamb expansion for the original game already daubed all over its claustrophobic walls, and half the fun of Rebirth is just finding out what everything does, and how best to use it. Clearly I haven’t seen all the additions yet, but thus far the balance has been approximately 50:50 old to new foes and pick-ups. Plenty to keep me going, basically, and so far nothing’s seemed either over-powered or drafted in from another game. There’s been a great deal of care.

The major change, for me, has been the room layouts, though. BOI vanilla did a great deal with a not a lot, in terms of placing enemies and obstacles around small rectangular rooms in such a way that each one seemed relatively distinct and perilous, but now we’ve got a bunch of new room shapes. There are the vast, multi-screen ones you’re afraid to move too far across while you’re battling something, for fear of dragging another nasty into the fray (I stumbled into one with two Monstro bosses earlier), and there are the ones which restrict you to a small jagged ledge in one corner while enemies float towards you across an impassable chasm which takes up most of the screen. Aieeeeeee, basically.

These are simple tweaks, but they shake things up both in terms of tactics and presentation. This now feels more like an unpredictable underworld than a group of rooms bolted together. The level map resembles a patchwork of odd shapes, not a simple grid, and the sense of being a little guy lost in a big, bad place is heightened just that little bit.

As for the other presentation overhauls, well, it’s a mixed bag. Mostly it looks much-improved, as there’s much more detail in the backgrounds and creature designs, and loads of incidental touches like a godray here or entrails there. Less effectively, it’s also opted to offer either a pixel-edged standard mode or particularly hideous ‘smoothed’ mode, both of which look worse than the clean, hand drawn-like lines of the original game. No matter else what his monstrous, puritanical mother might accuse him of, this new look is Isaac’s most terrible sin. As it happens, I’ve also played Rebirth on PS Vita, and it looks ten times better because it’s not blowing the image up to fill a large, high-res screen. Whether the PC came second place in platform priorities or there’s a very deliberate Make It Lo-Fi, Er, Even Though We’re Adding All These New Shiny Bits ethos at play I don’t know, but it’s sad porting the game out of Flash seems to have resulted in even more visual handicaps. Perversely, it now looks like a Flash game upscaled to fullscreen.

The music’s had an overhaul too, throwing whining guitars, skeletal piano and synthesised eviiiiiil into the mix, and sometimes winds up sounding comically overblown as a result. It’s taken an effective soundtrack and tweaked for the sake of it, rather than because it needed it. I never muted vanilla Isaac’s music, but Rebirth’s has felt grating at times.

All of this is said from the perspective of someone who spent dozens if not hundreds of hours with the original game, of course, so like a hifi gonk comparing the same record on different speakers I’m looking for the differences rather than having a general sense of how appealing the whole thing is.

Oh, there are two more entirely positive changes. The developer’s bullish refusal to code in gamepad support is gone, and now you can use your pad without any third-party fiddling required. Though I’m still playing it on keyboard, of course. The other big addition is a very welcome ‘Normal’ mode, easing the way in for newbies – The Wrath of the Lamb expansion had made the original a pretty brutal endeavour from a cold start. ‘Hard’ mode remains, and will be where the Isaac faithful spend their time. Which, I very strong suspect, will be an awful lot of time. This is a feast of a game.

Without question, this is the version of The Binding Of Isaac that I’ll be turning to for the forseeable future, and the version I’d recommend buying if you’re new to the series. Given it’s much broader of content than the original and still packed with surprises I’ve yet to uncover, let alone master, Rebirth very much lives up to its name. I do feel it makes some stylistic misfires that let the side down, but perhaps that doesn’t matter. Just one more go. Damned forever.

The Binding Of Isaac: Rebirth is out now.


  1. fauxC says:

    I actually think the setting/mood of this game is a real issue. I liked the mechanics of the first one and would have played it a lot more if I hadn’t been totally repelled by the immature scatological/body-horror context.

    There’s no constructive point about child abuse or religion being made, it’s just childish grotesquery “for the lolz”.

    • Crainey says:

      You must be a big fan of Hatred.

    • Snids says:

      I’m the same.
      Otherwise I think I’d love this game. I can deal with the biblical themes and the scatology. They’re clearly there to shock and offend.
      But yeah, child abuse? Misfigurement of children played for laughs?

      No thanks.

    • Shieldmaiden says:

      I just find it massively off-putting, which is a shame, because I really enjoy the game. I don’t have an issue with any of the game’s content, it’s just unappealing to the point of spoiling my enjoyment.

      • Premium User Badge

        Bluerps says:

        Yeah, I feel the same. I played it for a short while and then stopped, because I didn’t want to see any more mutilated babies.

      • fake_squirrel_gamer says:

        I feel the same way. I bought the original game about a month ago when it on sale, and I’ve been playing it off and on. I like the gameplay, but the setting makes me profoundly uncomfortable. I found an effect the other day where the only change was a disability reference. It wasn’t even really a joke, or the joke was that Isaac was disabled? That’s not really satire or commentary, it’s just offensive comedy in the worst way. It doesn’t attack anyone that needs to be attacked. I think that the tone is what will make me eventually abandon this game.

        Plus I’ve already found like 3 meme references and that is inexcusable.

        • Distec says:

          Being uncomfortable and referencing disabilities is now offensive? And are you sure it was intended as comedy?

          I fully respect that the subject matter here is not for everybody, and I don’t blame anybody for walking away from it. But I don’t like that the game itself is being treated as the problem here.

    • unitled says:

      I think you’re maybe doing the game a disservice… There was a great article some time ago on RPS about the use of grotesque imagery in BoI and how it reinforced the themes of game; seeing these things, the feelings of initial revulsion and then acceptance, and on to eagerness to devour them shows how the game changes YOU as you play, as much as the game changes itself.

      There is quite a complex story behind it too that people have pieced together from little snippets gathered during the game, a lot of it apparently drawn from feelings McMillen had when younger.

      This is the article, with a sample quote:
      link to slowdown.vg
      “We don’t even stop to question that Isaac is being transformed into a monster before our very eyes. It seems natural since he is battling the process of external abjection in the game’s ludus as well as narrative – all the while the player grows more and more comfortable with the grotesqueness and uncanniness of it all.”

      I feel a little disappointed people are thinking the disfigurement and abuse motifs are being played for laughs. BoI is a brutal and unforgiving game, and draining in a physical and emotional way. As Isaac gives up parts of his humanity to succeed, so the player inures themselves to the horror on screen in order to progress. It builds into a ludo-narrative coherence.

      • Snids says:

        Yeah it’s weird for me. I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with any other game.
        I can sort of appreciate it, and I kind of understand it from an artistic viewpoint. Hieronymus Bosch, Gustave Dore, Andres Serrano “Piss Christ” etc.
        If they were exactly the same sprites but coloured green and re-contextualised into some kind of Giger-esque flesh alien setting I’d be fine.

        But yeah, real babies are born with deformities with horrible illnesses and such.

        I’m basically totally soft since having kids.

        *that is a great article*

        • unitled says:

          Okay, I accept your point. These images aren’t thrown in casually because DEAD BABIES HAHA FUNNY AREN’T I EDGY, there is an ‘artistic’ point to it. But I can appreciate these themes and images may make some people uncomfortable and wouldn’t at all begrudge someone not playing because of it!

        • ThornEel says:

          “Hieronymus Bosch, Gustave Dore, Andres Serrano “Piss Christ” etc.”

          Congratulations, by putting those on the same line, you just failed art.

          • SuddenSight says:

            Oy! This is a polite comments section.

            Besides, considering that all three artists are widely considered “artists” and all three have made art that combined images that are often described as “grotesque” with religious themes, I’d say the comparison is apt.

          • ThornEel says:

            Ok, let’s look at it this way :
            One is known for never-seen, grotesque depictions of fantastic creatures in a way that caught the imagination at its time, inspired countless later illustrations and still stands out today ; in addition to many other famous paintings that still find their place in art books.
            One is known for fantastic-looking illustration of the Divine Comedy (of course, pretty much everyone remembers only the first act, but heh) in a way that, greatly helped its (already high) success by striking the imagination and glance of the reader ; in addition to vivid illustrations of urban life and beautiful landscapes in printmaking, drawings and paintings.
            One is known for putting the symbol of the world’s most persecuted group in a jar of piss ; in addition to things most people never heard off, but it was this one work that was cited here.

            Do I really need to say more?

          • Stickman says:

            Wait, Christians are the world’s most persecuted group? I mean, it’s weird to even make it a contest, but you’d have a hard time convincing me that Christians are winning, even if you include persecution by other Christians.

          • SuddenSight says:

            I feel your point shows again why this list is such a good example. Clearly 2/3 of the mentioned artists are popular and well liked. But one is not. And yet all of them mix religious themes with grotesque images. The point here is the use of religious themes and grotesque images alone does not determine if something is “art” – or even if it is “good art.” You clearly dislike Andres Serrano’s attempts at “art” – I don’t blame you, he doesn’t seem to have the most positive take on Christianity. But one example of someone using themes you dislike to create art you dislike doesn’t mean those themes are never justified, as the other two (well-liked) artists proves.

          • unitled says:

            Yes, I can’t help but think this sort of proves the point… These are artists who mix grotesque and religious imagery in various ways, whether they’re well regarded as artists or not. So all an apt comparison.

      • Phasma Felis says:

        I’m not so much offended by the game as driven to eye-rolling disdain by it. I know a lot of people feel like it has a deeper meaning, and I’m certainly not going to say you can’t feel that way, but for me it’s about as deep as a puddle. This is gritty edginess as imagined by a 15-year-old. I’ve played most of McMillen’s games, and he’s a great designer with a hard-on for sophomoric gags; I understand that Isaac was partly inspired by his childhood trauma, but that doesn’t automatically make it deep.

        (And I still sank dozens of hours into it, mind you, because it’s a great game. I would have spent even more time if the presentation wasn’t so childishly offputting.)

        • unitled says:

          That’s fair enough. I’m in the camp which loves the gameplay, and loves the grotesque aesthetic of it. I also feel one reinforces the other. Honestly, it’s probably one of my favourite games ever, and I’m not even particularly good at it!

          I actually liked that (original) game felt like a Newgrounds game too… It’s hard to describe, but it has a grimy, internet-underbelly feel to it, like the video-game equivalent of an exploitation film or a video nasty. The fact that several of the items were explicitly influenced by internet ‘culture’ (like shoop-da-whoop) adds to it, and could even (maybe) be interpreted as the tendency of various internet conclaves to repeat and reuse symbols until they become meaningless… these items are placed alongside horrific and scary items with no other context!

    • Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

      “There’s no constructive point about child abuse or religion being made”

      Im not too sure what you mean by constructive, but its not really a point hes making, its kind of an explanation of the mindset, or the outlook a child in such a circumstance might have. It is in part about Ed MacMillians childhood, growing up in a fervert religious house, himself being a strange (to his family) comic book obsessed kid.

      Its about Isaac retreating into a terrifying, confusing world when faced with the fact that the one person who is left that should love him instead tries to kill him.

      I dont see why you think its “for the lolz”, or what gave you that idea.

      • Distec says:

        There’s a popular sentiment that if you’re going to depict this kind of content, then there needs to be some “meaningful reason” to do so. The problem is that “meaningful” is going to be different from person to person.

        To be fair, I probably have my share of bugaboos as well. But I don’t have any issues here.

    • eggy toast says:

      Personally I would pick ANY theme over swords n boards or WWII

    • BTA says:

      This is pretty much my feeling on it. I understand a point’s being made with the references to religion/abuse (even if I think it’s not being made particularly well) but my big issue is the scatalogical humor that really feels like a bad attempt at being edgy for the sake of being edgy. I played the original for a while when it came out and found the gameplay itself to be great, but I just wish it had an aesthetic that wasn’t so needlessly filled with grossout humor (and in some cases, actually offensive for no reason, as another commenter noted). There’s ways to make things disturbing that aren’t just “haha, poop!” and ways to make enemies disturbing that aren’t just “look, they’re fat!”, etc. It feels really childish from the developer side, not from Isaac’s point of view, and it kinda undermines whatever serious points were being made.

      …that being said, it’s free for PSN+ users, so I’ll probably give it a try on my Vita and see if I can stand it enough to enjoy it this time around.

    • Contrafibularity says:

      It may be a real issue for you personally, but that’s fine, because not all games are meant to be enjoyed by all people. I think the gameplay, the overarching themes and aesthetics form a nice coherent whole, more so than most roguelike games in fact (excepting Teleglitch which is perfection). I’m quite curious why you would think these elements are merely “for the lolz”, though, because it is beyond obvious that they are not.

    • Sjatplat says:

      People play Grand theft auto for the joy. Is the satirical aspect of that franchise forgotten by the majority. Then why? Because the developers hid it to not scare off byers? Or is the satirical aspect of that franchise an excuse to be bad? TBOI does not hide it´s intensions. It´s message is pure and brave.

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      I agree, perhaps there might be a deeper meaning but on the surface it always felt (and looked) like playing an immature Newgrounds game.

    • splifyphus says:

      It’s very strange to me that people think that the setting of this game is just gross childish scatology ‘for the lulz’. As a professional artist who grew up in a twisted, fundamentalist household, not only is this an incredible game from a design standpoint, it’s also the only game I’ve ever played that actually interacts with the human condition and our religious/philosophical concepts and traditions in a mature, artistic way. Yeah, that’s right, I said it – for me this is the first game I’ve played that isn’t just adolescent wish fulfillment – this is art.

      And all Art has poo in it somewhere. Deal with it.

    • trilogique says:

      Man, you’re a real big pussy, aren’t you?

      • unitled says:

        Brilliant. Someone express a distaste with what they perceive as a childish tone to the game, and you respond with the ultimate childish (and sexist-tinged) insult. Well done you.

  2. Hideous says:

    I disagree with one point of this review (but that’s how opinions work, isn’t it) – I do actually really like the new art style. The “clean” style of the original I was not a fan of, because it just looked so much like Flash. Because it was. That was also the reason they couldn’t have gamepad support in the last one, I think. Because Flash doesn’t have gamepad support.

    I really miss the old music though. DannyB’s tunes got stuck in my head for days, whereas I can’t even remember these after shutting down the game.

    I also don’t think they added a normal mode – pretty sure they added a hard mode. Normal is what the old game was like (but starting out, it’s a lot easier because you haven’t unlocked the harder stuff) whereas Hard is even harder.

    • SuddenSight says:

      It is a choice of words, I suppose. But in terms of difficulty, the new Hard mode is closer to how hard Wrath of the Lamb was and the “Normal” mode definitely feels easier.

    • unitled says:

      I’ve only had a handful of runs so far (maybe 5?) but have already managed to defeat… well, avoiding spoilers, the second ‘final’ boss, and unlocked Eden. It didn’t seem obvious to me that the game was easier, but maybe I’m still used to the original game; I seem to remember beating it 6 times made the whole game harder?

      Still, some of the new bosses are whooping me every time, Dingle especially is hard as I haven’t got its attack pattern down!

      • Synesthesia says:

        Just avoid his three charges, then wail on him.

        • unitled says:

          I’m getting the hang of it, but what is getting me is I *always* forget he shoots after he whistles and spawns the mini-poops.

      • Cake Dispenser says:

        You got to remember that Dingle a big boss! Iv been able to beat him if I have a good boss room setup. You have to get in between rocks or poop. This will protect you when he charges at you and you can pick him off when he cools down in front of you in your safe spot. If you do that he wont be able to reach you at all, though you need you need to watch when he shoots at you that’s when he whistles or when closes his mouth to charge his next shot. You’ll need ditch you safe spot for a couple of seconds.

    • Synesthesia says:

      You are not alone. Flash animation always looked cheap. The new engine and art is a lot better imho, too. Sound is much, much better this time around. Level detail, and variation in rock formations, details, details, details.

      I’m still torn about the music. This one is dynamic, i think? I haven’t hated it yet, though. The store one i love.

    • ColonelClaw says:

      I’m with you on the art style. Edmund McMillen has said on numerous occasions that the game is partly his love letter to the original Zelda games, and that he wanted the first Isaac game to be pixel art all along. Limitations in Flash prevented this from happening. I think the new art is pretty much fantastic, and the animations are crafted to a particularly loving level.

      • Baines says:

        If it was good pixel art, it might be more acceptable. But Rebirth’s pixel work is weak, simplistic in the wrong ways. It too often does look like the original art was simply run through a pixelization filter.

    • aldrenean says:

      I agree, I think the pixel art looks great. And though I did love the original soundtrack, I quite like the new music as well — I love the Sheol track in particular. It’s a bit less background music than the original, so if you don’t like it it’s sort of in your face, but I personally love it, as I would often put on my own, more dynamic music to play to.

  3. Crusoe says:

    Great write up as usual, Alec.

  4. Crainey says:

    I kept meaning to get around to playing Binding of Issac (original) but never did, maybe someday yet. I get that the developers are PC purists, but I find it funny they never added official gamepad support, since games like this feel more natural on pad (imo).

    • Crusoe says:

      Pretty sure being coded in Flash prevented them from adding gamepad support to the original.

      • malkav11 says:

        Yeah, it was never that they didn’t want to do it, only that Flash is kind of terrible for games.

    • Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

      They arent really Pc purists. I know its not a team meat game, but it kinda is none the less. Super Meatboy had controller support, and came out on consoles (they even recommend people use gamepads for the game, even on pc) and rebirth has come out fo ps and vita so far, with wiiu and 3ds being rumoured and hinted at.

  5. SuddenSight says:

    I disagree about the art (I love the new art, except in cutscenes) and the music (I prefer DannyB’s, but the new music is by no means annoying or bad).

    But I want to focus on some massive improvements no one seems to be mentioning: the backgrounds and the sound effects. The backgrounds have so much more detail, with little bobs that move around and make it feel slimy. Plus the lighting system make it look more like you are IN the room, as opposed to a set of sprites layered on top of a picture of a room. The Curse of Darkness makes the game look proper spooky.

    The sound effects are also soo much better. Isaac’s old tear noise used to sound like someone flicking their cheeks. The new sound feels more crunchy and significant. The whole range of sounds BoI R has just feels better to me.

  6. shoptroll says:

    I don’t mind the new art style, but I wish they had the option to use the old soundtrack. New one hasn’t really grabbed me yet.

    However, I’m just happy the game no longer chugs on my system (thanks Flash!) nor has that annoying 10+ minute hang between floors where the color palette for the game goes purely white and black. There was nothing more annoying than finishing the Catacombs and Flash deciding to go crazy while loading the Womb/Utero.

    Gamepad support is nice, but I’m just using the D-Pad and buttons on my F710. Twin sticks feels weird when you can only shoot in cardinal directions.

  7. DrScuttles says:

    The new soundtrack is alright. I guess. Pleasantly ambient in places, but the old soundtrack made me feel so much more sorry for the poor little fella, mutated and twisted, barely holding onto life and battling his way through Mom’s womb. Hopefully some enterprising sort will mod the old soundtrack into the new game.
    By far the greatest improvement is that for the first time ever, Isaac runs consistently smooth no matter how busy the room gets. I coped fine with the old one, but the new smoothy smooth and gamepad compatibility just make it feel so damn right.

  8. khalilravanna says:

    I love the game, but then again Edmund McMillen can do no wrong in my book. That being said, my only complaint, though it is somewhat major, is the total lack of resolution options. Edmund stated himself that there would be “resolution options that don’t suck” [1] and yet there are legitimately no resolution options. Maybe it’ll be patched in but right now I’m pretty displeased running this thing blown up to all hell on a 1440p monitor.

    1: link to edmundm.com

    • Jalan says:

      A few things Ed hyped up/talked about didn’t happen – your example is one, the in-game function to upload a character’s look after a run being another, as well as a fabled TF2 hat that was said to be given to those who pre-ordered the game. If the lack of those things proves anything at all, it’s that people really shouldn’t get their hopes up before the final product actually drops. And maybe, just a little bit, that developers ought to keep the pie in the sky talk (the Molyneux effect, I guess one could call it) to a minimum to avoid things not being delivered/hopes getting dashed/etc. when release day does hit the fan.

  9. Janichsan says:

    The developer’s bullish refusal to code in gamepad support is gone, and now you can use your pad without any third-party fiddling required.

    If I recall correctly, that was less a matter of refusal but more of technical limitations of the Flash version. I think that even was one of the main motivations to make the new version.

  10. MrLoque says:

    I desperately tried to enjoy it but despite my efforts… the grotesque setting completely kills the mood. I like the game/concept/mechanics but I cant’ stand the setting. It’s a shame, because if it was set with different stuff (space? knights? whatever…) I’d love it.

  11. OctoStepdad says:

    Its upsetting to here the setting is off putting to a lot of people. I know a couple friends that won’t be buying the game for that reason. And that really weird trailer they put out a couple months ago didn’t help.

    I have been able to look past all the setting/story and been loving the great gameplay since the first one. But I don’t blame people for not buying this.

    • DrScuttles says:

      Then again, more people are playing* Binding of Isaac than Call of Duty.

      *okay, COD outnumbers it slightly if we add together the single and multi player components.

    • unitled says:

      “And that really AWESOME trailer they put out a couple months ago WAS AWESOME.”

      Fixed that for you… Seriously, one of the best trailers I’ve ever seen. All the McMillen games have had awesome trailers.

  12. Stirbelwurm says:

    When talking about additions to the game, I feel the new local coop mode deserves to be mentioned, too.
    Then there are the seeded runs (granted – mostly BoI veterans will be interested in that and they most likely already know about it), which enable you or any other person to try a certain run again, under the same conditions, which let you replay a good run or compare your run time with others.

    • NailBombed says:

      I am currently trying out a Northernlion seeded run from his Rebirth Ep. 2 video on the UToob. The whole seeded run aspect for me is very interesting as well – I played a lot of TBOI before Rebirth not knowing about Spidermod and seedruns so having those implemented from the off is great. Hopefully Rebirth at some stage will have online as well as local co-op – that way I can give more CASH THROUGH THE SCREEN to help Isaac reach more people.

  13. aliasi says:

    A quibble with the “unsympathetic to Bible fans” – one of the points of BoI is it reflects both Edmund’s experience with the Catholic side of his family and the evangelical fundamentalist side. It isn’t anti-religion, so much as anti-certain-kinds-of-religious-experiences. Simplest example: the “angel room”, which you only have access to if you pass up one of the deals in a “devil room”. Angel rooms contain some very good items, and unlike the Devil room, they’re free. All of these items have a religious theme, too – a guardian angel, a mitre, a scapular, all the way to the rare-and-awesome Sacred Heart.

    And, of course, the Bible instakills Mom. For such a simple-seeming game, the theme really is complex and it’s not something you can only summarize as “child abuse and hatred of religion and poop”, although all of that is in there. I think this is one reason the fans of BoI accept the imagery; it really is the sort of thing that might come out of a very creative child’s mind.

  14. dolgion1 says:

    You missed out on mentioning a few key things. First, is that the biggest improvement over the original is the steady, silky smooth framerate. Finally this game play like a proper native program rather than something that hardly fits into the unnecessary corset that is the flash runtime. Secondly, there is FINALLY Steam Linux support. I can now play the game at work in my lunch break. Sure, WotL runs natively in Linux, but they seem to refuse enabling the Linux version on Steam. Rebirth does it right for the off.

  15. nimbulan says:

    The real disappointment of this remake is the new music. It all sounds so…misplaced. It doesn’t fit the theme, the tempo’s wrong…I don’t know why they got rid of the fantastic music from the original.

    Everything else about Rebirth is awesome though.

    • Ditocoaf says:

      I think Edmund and DannyB had some disagreements?

      I dunno any details, I just remember encountering that idea at some point.

    • Jalan says:

      Like Ditocoaf mentioned, Ed and Danny aren’t on the best of terms with each other these days. Only they know the exact reason obviously, but whatever it is has led to Danny’s soundtracks for Super Meat Boy and the original Binding of Isaac being removed from Steam and the CD version of the Super Meat Boy soundtrack no longer being up for sale through Danny’s Bandcamp (with no mention on whether it will return, if ever) and even the original Binding of Isaac: Rebirth trailer being pulled down because it happened to use Danny’s music. It’s an unfortunate mess that fans of the two have to suffer through, essentially.

      Some have speculated that Ed was unsatisfied with Danny’s approach to music for the original Binding of Isaac, wanting a more ambient tone that he felt fit his game better than Danny’s end result. Whatever the case, Ridiculon seems to be the go-to guys for Ed now (they’re working on Super Meat Boy Forever and Mewgenics) and Danny’s got his own irons in the fire (Crypt of the Necrodancer, etc).

      • malkav11 says:

        That’s really too bad. That soundtrack is probably the most memorable thing about the original Flash version for me, and that’s a pretty impressive feat in a game festooned with horribly deformed infants and piles of poop everywhere.

        • Jalan says:

          I’m also a larger fan of the original’s music. I feel as though Danny nailed the exact jingle/melody type reminiscent of what Ed has said his ultimate goal for Isaac was, which was to have a 16-bit Zelda-esque dungeon crawler. Ridiculon’s music in Rebirth I don’t have a problem with, outside of the fact that the ambient approach is the exact opposite for the type of game Rebirth wants to brand itself as.

          I’ll also strongly miss FamilyJules7x’s soul shattering guitar work when it comes to places like Sheol or the intro to the fight with Satan.

      • sswam says:

        Danny Baranowski makes pretty much the best video game music in existence. The soundtracks for “Super Meat Boy” and “Crypt of the Necrodancer” are my favorite video game music, and the latter isn’t even finished yet! Can listen to them practically every day while I work, and I don’t get sick of them.

  16. Shardz says:

    Mr. Hankey strikes again…

  17. Sjatplat says:

    FauxC: it’s just childish grotesquery “for the lolz”
    MrLoque: the grotesque setting completely kills the mood. I like the game/concept/mechanics but I cant’ stand the setting. It’s a shame, because if it was set with different stuff (space? knights? whatever…) I’d love it.


    The binding of Isaac is clearly a cautionary tale. It explores fundamentalism, the biblical story of abraham and gods request to sacrifice his son and it also is a coming of age story with a dark resolution. This is based on McMillens own experience and the game seems heartfelt. It is one of few games that dares to touch these themes with intelligence. This is not exploitation. Playing the game really do not make me want this to be the reality for ANY child – good thing I think.

    “If the game had knights and space and such I would have loved it.”
    – sorry dude, everything in this game: the enemies, the layout, the upgrading, the luck system is there because of the theme. If you grow up under such extreme conditions as isaac does, what can you rely on?

    Luck? – Check. It´s a major part of the game.

    Fighting pure enemies that doesn´t pretend they love you (like your mother)? – Check. (Imaginary friends is a part of childhood but that is also true for imaginary enemies as a way of coping with people close to you that hurt you in the name of love(god) and for their own satifaction.

    – Feces? Check. Feces, farts and other strange and funny happenings below the belt is a major part of chilhood. I will argue that the feces and farts is one of the comforting parts of isaacs journey through the dungeon. It something he can relate to and understand at his age. (Some say that bowel movement is a childs first pleasure in its sexual development. Has your mother told you about the first time you made a dump in the toilet all by yourself as a toddler – and you came running to show your mom, proudly, what you just have created? )

    Should games explore these themes – or should they all be knights and princess in distress. Should all games be escapism?

    I disagree with the review on the new graphics. They are faster, they give the feeling of being underground much better than the boggy, unpredictable flash version. And the new lighting effects heightens this.

    I also miss the Baranowsky tunes. I like the new ones, but Baranowkys music was closer to the theme of the game.

    This revamp/remake s is a better game in nearly all aspects.And the original was already superb.

    • ColonelClaw says:

      Nicely put!

    • Cake Dispenser says:

      The music was alright in the new one I did like Baranowkys cause it fit better with the game.

      • Sjatplat says:

        I think that if they could use both the new music together with Baranowskys tunes it would be splendind. The new music is great for the dungeon atmosphere and Baranowskys tunes is great for the theme. I´m curious about why Baranowsky didn´t join Rebirth.

        Listen to Baranowskys piano versions of his tunes from the first game:
        link to dbsoundworks.bandcamp.com.

        That´s a gifted musician!

        Track 4 – Tomes has a Philip glass vibe to it.

        • Jalan says:

          Danny didn’t do those piano covers (I’d like to think he’s not so arrogant as to cover his own music, unlike some artists these days), they’re all performed and arranged by Brent Kennedy (he also did a Super Meat Boy piano cover album as well). Danny just happens to host the albums on his Bandcamp.

          Also, for why Danny’s music wasn’t used for Rebirth see link to rockpapershotgun.com – most of what I wrote is able to be found/corroborated through Google/etc. (Reddit posts, Ed’s Q&A on his blog, the Steam forums for specific games and so on).

          • Sjatplat says:

            “Danny didn’t do those piano covers”

            Ah. That was ignorant of me. I didn´t see that. And when I think about it, yes that would have been strange if he did a cover of his own music. Anyway, the piano pieces was good I think, and does show how strong the original music was.

            I suspected there had to be some disagreement between the two – if so it´s a sad fact.

  18. Tchom says:

    When did people become so averse to dark humour? Why shouldn’t you be able to take the weight out of heavy subject material by making light of it? Everybody experiences tragedy, humour seems like a much better way of dealing with the absurdity of it than either ignoring it or treating it with world-ending solemness


    An important question that only today I realised wasn’t touched upon: can you save-and-quit this time or do you have to play the entire game to the end like the original?

    • Melody says:

      Something tells me that if it wasn’t mentioned the answer is probably going to be “no, it’s still like the old one”

      • Triskadelionus says:

        You can! When you exit a game it allows for you to continue later, same room, etc.

  20. Triskadelionus says:

    For those of you who prefer the old Flash style, you’re in luck!
    link to bindingofisaac.com
    You can unlock a variety of filters including one that smooths everything to look like Flash

    • Jalan says:

      It doesn’t really compare. It’s just like applying a weird anti-alias effect onto an emulated version of an SNES game. The pixel look is still there, just not as rough and… pixel-y. The scan line/arcade-style filter seed is more of a novelty than it is anything else and outside of someone wanting to test their tolerance to it I can’t imagine too many people willingly playing with it each time they begin a run.

  21. HisDivineOrder says:

    Changing the graphics and soundtrack to be worse than the original is a sin that makes paying so much more for a new version of a game that most of us already have. Really, it’s kinda stupid.

    He needs to make a high resolution version of this game, stat. And also let us change the soundtrack back to the original.