Binding of Isaac: Rebirth Review
A Binding Review
Just a disclaimer but this will not be a comparison between rebirth and the original Isaac. Although there will be a few examples of improvement.
So the end of the year has come, and I've had a great one so far. First I want to thank everyone who’s been reading my reviews consistently it helps out so much more than you think. Second, I’ve reviewed some really bad games like Murdered: Soul Suspect, and some really good ones like Shadow of Mordor. It got me thinking, what was the best game I played this year? I didn’t review enough games that came out this year to actually create a list, so instead I’m writing a review for what I believe to be the best game released this year. After 160+ hours in the game, I feel I have the authority to say this is my favourite game so far. Before I start I want you all to know this is my personal opinion and not an objective fact. I know how you people get with your games.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is a remaking of the rogue-lite game The Binding of Isaac created by Super Meat Boy creator Edmund McMillen. The game has spawned a hugely committed community. It has even created a career for YouTube personality NorthernLion who arguably makes a living by playing the game and uploading his antics to YouTube.
The game does its best to tell you as little as possible. This is a plus in my book, because although it lack’s detail it forces the player into learning what is going on without the game holding their hand. Although the downside to this is it is not very welcoming to new players as it can be a little overwhelming at first. The main draw of the game is its randomness. Every time you die, you have to start over from the first level. No two runs you have will be exactly alike. On each floor (for the early game) you are guaranteed two items. There are over 300 items and each one has a unique benefit. Some of the items are objectively good, while others are just bad.
All of the items have synergies with each other, and this is what gives the game its high replay ability. Some of the synergies will guarantee the player a win while others will guarantee a loss. Others force the player to adapt. Adopting new strategies to maximize their success. The game allows you to become extremely over powered to the point where you can’t lose unless you actively try to. These overpowered runs are what makes Rebirth unique, and addictive. There are so many ways for the player to win. A huge downfall of the original game was that each time you played you had one strategy. This resulted in a lot of the wins being extremely similar. Fixing this keeps the game feeling fresh and exciting. Even after 160 hours of playing I still find myself getting synergies with items that make me feel like a child on Christmas Day.
There are strategies that can be adopted by new players, and strategies that should be adopted by high level players. One such strategy is the deal with the devil. From the second floor and onwards the game incentivizes not taking damage. If you can do this then you are rewarded with a deal with the devil after defeating the boss. In the deal with the devil you can trade health for damage. With these deals you can become extremely powerful. Not being able to obtain a deal with the devil can sometimes ruin a run. Every character has a different play style, and I’m not going to talk about all of them, but I will talk about one of my favourites. Eve, who is arguably the weakest character starts with an item called Whore of Babylon which gives a massive stat boost when Eve only has one heart. This incentivizes taking damage early for the boost. Not getting an early deal with the devil can really ruin a run with Eve as it gets hard to manage her health.
The story, which is almost exclusively told through gameplay, is surprisingly deep. Each character, item and enemy lends itself as an aspect to Isaac’s story. Even gameplay mechanics tie into the story extremely well. For example, Lazarus who died and was revived by Jesus four days later, starts with an item that revives the player after death. The surprising amount of detail in the games’ story is astounding. It must have taken weeks to get up to the standard that The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth holds. I’m not going to try and explain the entire story as it is long and subjective. Basically, Isaacs’ mom is abusive, emotionally or physically is unknown. Isaac, being just a young child, is trying to figure out why this is, and he turns to religion. Convincing himself that he has sinned and trying to purge himself of that. If you want to know more, go to the link at the bottom of the review where user Jayborino of Reddit does a much better explanation of the story.
Its controls are tight and easy to pick up but take some time to master. A cute 16-bit art style lends to its extreme adult themes. Some of the enemy hitbox’s need to be fixed, like the wall spiders. Some of the items have been nerfed/buffed to fix some balancing issues. The developers over at Nicalis have been doing a really good job at updating the game with these fixes.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is a testament to good game design. It is proof that a game doesn’t need to hold our hand for us to understand what is going on. The lack of information goes in the face of how games have been treating players, and it not only proved that players aren’t stupid but actually yearn to learn more on their own terms. It showed that a small indie game can spawn a community that is not only large but friendly and extremely welcoming to new players. It’s a game that will always have a place not only in my heart, but thousands of others as a charming and addictive game.
Happy Holidays to everybody! Have a Happy New Year as well. Um, don’t drink and drive. Blablabla. I’m going to do my best at posting reviews back on schedule! Thanks for a great year I hope to see more of you guys next year!