Dungeon of dicks: The Binding Of Isaac’s most hateful enemies

Actually, Ultra-Greed has yet to ever kill me, but it's a more exciting screenshot to open the post than, say, a single bastard spider

The Binding Of Isaac: Rebirth (plus Afterbirth add-ons) is very much my jam right now. It’s been in my life for a while, but December (and now January) was when I fully committed to it. By which I mean ‘it took over almost my entire life.’ I’ve seen so much, I’ve killed so much, and I’ve been killed by so much. I have a degree of skill at the game I never believed possible (and which, clearly, pales into insignificance against that of longer-term players), but even so, there are certain enemies that always, always give me grief, even as I am able to face down far great horrors.

I say enemies. I mean dicks. Absolute, total dicks who have humiliatingly cost me victory on more occasions than I could ever admit to. These are those dicks.

Peek-a-dick

peek

Man, I hate these guys. In their standard spawn, they can’t move anywhere by themselves, though this is half the problem. If they’re tucked behind a rock or a turd, you’ll have to run right up to them – at which point they pop out of the ground and lob a spray of blood-bullets at you. If you’re too far away from them, they remain stubbornly tucked under an indestructible skull, which means they can never be taken out from range. When there are other, roaming enemies in the room, these dicks are the worst, as you can’t even run away safely.

‘Fraidy-dick

coward

Man, I hate these guys. I hate them not because they’re particularly dangerous – they have no direct attack, after all – but because they run away from me on sight, sporadically spawning spiders, flies or slugs as they do. Until they’re dead, the room will just keep on filling up, which means I need to hound them down, hectored by their spawns all the while. But that’s not really the reason I hate them. I hate them because there’s a variant which explodes if I touch it – and, in the split-second it takes me to realise I’ve encountered the suicidal rather than cowardly variety, the dick’s already sprinted right into me.

Pin-dick

pin

Man, I hate this guy. He’s one of surprisingly few Isaac baddies that actually resemble a dick – which is appropriate, because he’s a dick. In my experience, once you learn their patterns, many Isaac bosses tend to be easier to manage than a roomful of random spawns, but Pin (his actual name) frustrates because his movements are that much more random. He spends most of his time burrowed underground, randomly either erupting Jaws-like from below and sailing over a sizeable section of screen while spraying bullets, or simply popping up, hanging around for a few seconds and lobbing predictable shots. Basically, it’s a blind guessing game of where and when he’s going to pop up, which usually needs doing at least half a dozen times.

Door-dick

door

Man, I hate this guy. I don’t mean the door – I mean myself. I hate myself because I cannot resist running through a door framed with spikes, knowing full-well this will damage me on both the way in and the way out, but unable to resist the potential goodies stored beyond it. I also hate myself because I do this knowing full-well that, more often than not, all I’ll find in there is a couple of angry spiders or a self-detonating bomb.

Flaming dick

fire

Man, I hate this… log fire. Usually, Isaac fires are harmless so long as you don’t run right over ’em, but once in a while there’s a bright orange variant. Which sporadically spits a semi-homing shot at you. Rare is the time I outright fail to notice that there’s an orange fire on the scene, but all too often there’s a row of enemies in front of it. It usually takes around three shots to take out a fire, which are hard to line up when all those other dicks are in the way. Which means that I always always, end up taking fire-spit in the back of the head while I’m dancing with everything else. Or, alternatively, I get so paranoid about the fire that some ambulatory horror stomps me to death while I’m trying to extinguish it.

Self-healing dick

liver

Man, I hate this respawning guy. He can’t shoot, but he sure can sprint, able to stick right to the heels of even the speediest build, but that’s not the problem. The problem is that, when killed, he turns into what looks like a mistreated liver on the floor, which will in turn fully recover into a sprinting red git if I don’t land a few good shots on it first. Trouble is, self-healing dick never appears on his own – there’s always a pack of them, with the others sprinting in front of the liver before I can take it out. It all gets a bit Benny Hill, basically, as I’m chased round and round and round by the same guys, often needing a canny bomb or power-up to finish ’em off before they can start the farce all over again.

Ghost-dick

haunt

Man, I hate this ex-guy. Again, most Isaac bosses are a cakewalk for me these days, and The Haunt, as this big ol’ spook is officially known, is technically no exception. But jeez, he’s so boring, it takes so long to kill him and that invariably leads to disaster as my patience crumbles. He’s indestructible until you take out his three micro-ghost-dick chums, who themselves are irritatingly speedy and bouncy, at which point he retreats to the top of the screen, behind a row of spikes. Then he slowly moves left and right and back again and again, occasionally spewing a death ray. There’s a visual warning before he fires, but the sheer tedium of tracking him back and forth and back and forth and bleh means I’ve glazed over after a few passes and wind up with a death ray in the face.

Shit-dick

turd

Man, I hate this turd. Pardon my French, by the way. The single most harmless enemies in Isaac are what I call turdlings, tiny little poo drops with permanent smiles and no particular inclination to hunt me down. But their evolved form is what I call Turdo, a large, aggressive blob of ambulatory excrement who can unexpectedly burst into the sort of the speed that you’d think impossible from last night’s curry. And then he just keeps on going, pinging across the screen like a nauseating maniac, hard to dodge and adding to injury the insult of having been murdered by shit. (The even more evolved form, the boss Dingle, is much easier to deal with because he’s so much larger, so easier to land shots on despite all the hitpoints).

Half-a-dick

half

Man, I hate the front of this guy. I hate it because it’s covered in some sort of bone armour which means I can’t damage him. The only way to take him out is to shoot him in the back of the head, which is easy enough when there’s only one, but an exhausting dance when there’s several or anything else in the room. Certain power-ups will damage the face too, and I live for those.

Indickstructible

invinci

Man, I hate the front, back, left and right of this guy. The inevitable next step from the above, this one cannot be harmed by almost anything. The only way to get rid of ’em is to slaughter any other foes in the room, which is far easier said than done when there’s a half-dozen invincible skull-balls flying about the place.

Laser eye-dick

eye

Man, I hate this eye. Its laser covers the entire length of the room, which basically means that you’re getting hit no matter where you might be. It’s one of those that takes just a couple more shots to kill than you’d suspect, and my inability to entirely remember that has been the cause of many a late-game death.

Actually-a-dick-dick

dick

Man, I hate this what looks suspiciously like a certain part of a guy. The most penile enemy in the game (in my experience so far, at least), it’s a sort of flaccid mole-thing that burrows, pop-ups and fires what seem to be semi-homing shots. It’s chasing ’em down before they disappear again that really sucks – if I have a build with poor range or slow shots, too many of these guys can mean curtains even if I’m otherwise a powerhouse.

The absolute worst dick of all

spider

Man, I HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE this guy. By which I mean, ‘tiny spider who can’t even shoot, die after a couple of hits and who you probably encountered in the very first floor of your first-ever Isaac run-through.’ I have faced down horrors beyond my worst imaginings in Isaac’s misery-turd-dungeons, but, to this day, nothing chills my blood like the sight of a few teeny, scuttling spiders. It’s not arachnophobia – it’s sudden-unpredictable-movement-and-too-small-to-easily-hitophobia. The bastards can lurch suddenly towards me, defying the usual movement patterns I expect from other foes and, God, the number of times I’ve wound up losing a heart and half to a few spiders who are scuttling around the feet of other, tougher foes I’m steadfastedly dealing with. And don’t get me started on enemies that explode into spiders when I kill ’em. Spiders! Why’d it have to be spiders?

21 Comments

  1. grrrz says:

    hey, you be nice to pin, he’s a nice little guy. (the others can indeed rot it hell)

  2. Stirbelwurm says:

    I can understand most of these choices (although I’d add a few different ones), but … Pin? He is easily the easiest boss of them all.
    The positions where he bursts out of the ground all seem to follow a pattern for me, at least I’m able to get it right most of the time. His alternate Scolex on the other hand …

    Also, you can’t post something like without the obligatory: Fuck bloat

    • dagnamit says:

      Came to comment on Pin. Just position yourself 2/3’s the way up the left wall and wait. He will either jump directly at you from the right or pop up directly in front of you. Move or shoot. The key is to not move until he pops up. Pin is hard if you move and the easiest boss in the game if you stand still.

      Right call on tiny spiders. They have the best/worst shot dodging and unpredictable AI of pretty much any video game baddie of all time. Even pros are brought low on the first level by a room full of these things.

    • Coming Second says:

      I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone complain about Pin. I think of all the possible bosses in the Cellar, he’s definitely the one you want to turn up. Even Duke of Flies has potential to be more aggravating if you’ve got a low damage character.

      My least favourite enemies are the utterly uninspired damage sponges that Afterbirth+ introduced. In fact they disenchanted me so thoroughly I wound up playing the fan-made Antibirth way more instead.

    • Guzzleguts says:

      I BELIEVE THAT ‘FUCK BLOAT’ MUST BE WRITTEN THUS

  3. Alice O'Connor says:

    Oh sweet honey child, you’ve still got a lot of monsters to meet.

  4. Crusoe says:

    You made me giggle a lot with this piece!

    I fear for the day you stop writing about video games, Mr Meer.

  5. Shazbut says:

    The two bosses I dread are the Adversary and the Bloat

    • Crusoe says:

      Yeah the bloat is groan worthy

    • Premium User Badge

      maenckman says:

      I can live with one Adversary but the double Adversary rooms in the Chest/Dark Room have the potential to ruin a run unless you are really overpowered. Which luckily is not a rare case in Isaac ;-).

      • grrrz says:

        there’s also the infamous triple adversary in the dark room.
        it’s been a while but the small heart / mask mob is kindof a dick too. up there with the red mole thingy from the womb.

  6. mjlaufgr says:

    Oh, Hush.

  7. Michael Fogg says:

    Thanks for the memory trip to summer 2013!

  8. swatagnat says:

    Great article. Agreed re: spiders. Bastards.

  9. rootfs.ext2.gz says:

    With Binding of Isaac Rebirth, I actually didn’t mind the enemies too much – they were the perfect state of challenging but not too challenging. Then Afterbirth+ came along and bought portals.

    I pretty much gave up on BoI after that and haven’t bothered to buy the game on my Switch because of portals. Such a cheap and artificial way of increasing difficulty that isn’t even balanced… well I played Afterbirth+ on launch for like a month, so I’m not sure if it has improved since then, but I can’t bring myself to actually play the game any more.

    • Nosebeggar says:

      Same, I loved BoI and managed to get 1001% just 2 months before Afterbirth+ released. Afterbirth+ is a mess. I tried the Antibirth mod and it is so full of good items, new enemies, floors, secrets and music that this feels like the final DLC for this game.

      Afterbirth+’s portals, enemy design (they aren’t even true to their own design guidelines) and just general unfairness is completely beyond me. It’s like: oh our game has a reputation for being hard, let’s crank that up a notch. And this notch is the drop made the barrel not only overflow but also break down.

      My girlfriend thinks the same, she tried even longer to like AB+ but gave up yesterday. She says she has not managed to finish a single run in AB+. We’re now playing the excellent Multiplayer they introduced in Antibirth and we’re having a blast. Can really recommend to anyone, very easy install and works alongside the normal BoI.

  10. Nosebeggar says:

    Wanna know how I know that you haven’t met The Bloat or Mask of Infamy, yet?

    They are not on this list.
    The Bloat is de facto THE worst enemy in any game of all time.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Hodge says:

    Excellent list, apart from Pin who is lovely and I’m sure only included as a devil’s-advocate convo starter.

    To these I would add:

    BOSS DICKS:
    Bloat-dick and Adversary-dick. And dicking Carrion Queen for all those red poos. Also Ragdoll-dick but only for appearing so early.

    REGULAR DICKS:
    Bony-dick – just for being an annoying dick.
    Fatbat-dick and most of the AB+ dicks – tedious bullet-sponge dicks.
    Wizoob-dick (+ variants) and Cod-Worm dick – making-me-wait around-forever-dicks.
    Mom’s Hand dick – annoying teleporting shtick dick.
    Buttlicker-dick – Somehow both unpredictable and boring.

    DICK ITEMS:
    Cursed Eye Dick and Bob’s Dicking Brain – Dicking dicks, the both of them. Also Kidney Stone Dick. Dicks all the way down.

    Tiny Planet Dick – Should be the best item in the game yet it’s somehow one of the dickest.

    Fruit Cake Dick and Three Dollar Bill Dicks – The tear effects are all good on their own but mixed together they’re just dicks.

    Explosivo dick – Because I always pick it up thinking it’s Holy Light. Which I realize is my fault but I still think it’s a dick.

    TRINKET DICKS:
    Broken Remote Dick, Mom’s Dick Toenail, That One Explosive Locust Dick, Tick Dick and Cursed Skull Dick can all shoot themselves in the dick.

    • MattM says:

      Fruit Cake!! Nope, it gives you access to some of the most powerful tear effects at a rate greater than what you get when you pick up the actual items. The chance of dangerous effects makes it a bad choice for the lost and the keeper, but for everyone else its a great powerup.
      Fuck Cursed Eye though. Also Fuck those smug people who say its situationally useful. It’s not. Stick and move can work with a lot of the charge abilities but Cursed Eye’s charge doesn’t really up damage that much and the risk of a fuck-up on a long boss is huge.

  12. Reittenkruez says:

    The difficulty curve in Afterbirth+ is not that bad, goodness gracious. I guess you people didn’t always play the game on Hard mode like you should have in the first place. If anything, if you’re not using a controller, you should be, as it makes dodging and shooting effectively much easier.