“ISAAAAC!” I’ll never forget the first time I heard that scream erupt from Isaac’s mother after I’d finally KO’d that freak. At first I revelled in the fact that I’d finally completed the game. Then suddenly as the credits rolled, it dawned… I had only just begun.
The Binding of Isaac was released on September 28th 2011, almost a year ago. Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl created the game, the same pair that conceived Super Meat Boy. But today, we focus on Isaac. At first glance, it’s essentially a multi-floor dungeon crawler with power-ups. But nope, it’s so much more than that. So you should play it! Here’s why…
1. IT’S HARD. REALLY, REALLY HARD.
Remember when games were unforgiving? There were no checkpoints, shortcuts and when you died, you actually died. So many modern games spoon-feed players. Well, here I refer you to Dark Souls, along with it’s brilliant motto ‘Prepare to die’.
The Binding of Isaac makes you work hard, which is so rare nowadays. But victory always feels so much sweeter when it’s earned. So after you’ve died to flies, floor traps and bosses so many times you want to literally eat the game – remember, it’s better this way. And when you finally do win, well, you might actually feel a sense of pride.
2. SO. MANY. ITEMS.
This isn’t an understatement. There are almost 200 items in the game including the DLC, each of which changes an individual aspect of your character. Of course you have the standard health/damage/speed up, but when you come across beauties such as The Virus, which makes Isaac poisonous to enemies that touch him, you realise how many potential combinations there are within the game. It’s amazing to come across a potent combination that turns Isaac into a tank, speed demon or just a killing machine (My personal favourite is Sacred Heart, Polyphemus and Mutant Spider… what’s yours?).
Additionally, each items as a visual effect on poor Isaac, eventually making him a bit of a freak, which is hilarious. Not to mention collectable pills with different effects (some negative as well!), collectable companions, space bar activated rechargeable items, money and bombs. Isaac loves to hoard.
3. DIVERSE BOSS BATTLES
At the end of every floor, there is a boss battle. These are the most adrenaline-fuelled portions of the game, demanding your full attention and skill, or you will very quickly die. Seriously.
There are around 30 individual bosses. That’s a lot, considering the game only takes around an hour to complete at the best of times. Obviously you don’t fight them all in one playthrough, but one will be randomly chosen at the end of each floor, and there are around 6-8 floors. But wait, there’s more!
Each boss has a variety of FORMS. A colour palette change indicates a different version of the boss, usually a more dangerous one at that. For instance, while the Duke of Flies usually spits flies and slowly drifts around the room, he could actually shoot back, increase in speed, spawn harder enemies etc. Needless to say, that’ll keep you on your toes.
Oh, and there are also 7 additional mini-bosses based on the 7 deadly sins. They aren’t nice either.
4. PRACTICALLY ENDLESS REPLAYABILITY
When you complete The Binding of Isaac for the first time, don’t celebrate. If you truly want to complete the game, there’s a lot of work to do.
First you must complete the game 9 times to unlock a new boss. When defeated, the next floor unlocks, which must be completed 6 times to unlock the next floor. When you complete finally complete that, you’re still not done.
There are 7 playable characters. Each has a different play style, starting items and stats. When the game is completed, you unlock items depending on which character you used throughout the playthrough. Also there are challenge maps with set parameters of gameplay (such as no items, but shooting bombs instead of tears). Without prattling on, you get the idea. It’s a hard game to finish, truly.
Not to mention that fact that every floor is randomly generated each playthrough, so you’re never playing the same map twice. Now that is true replayability, at its very best.
5. IT’S A DAMN GOOD GAME (AND CHEAP!)
All these factors of gameplay would mean nothing unless the actual experience of The Binding of Isaac was enjoyable in the first place. But don’t worry; it’s goddamn awesome.
Not only did the game review well, it developed a cult following, players who dedicated themselves to finding the perfect combinations, the secret rooms and the best gameplay strategies. As a result, Isaac has his own amazingly detailed Wikia page, showcasing all items, all bosses and everything else. People love Isaac.
During the recent Steam summer sale, the game was available for less than £2, with the DLC adding an extra 60% of content for less than £1. Think about it, all of this, and for less than the price of a bus fare.
So it’s pretty clear that I’m a massive fan of The Binding of Isaac. But I’m confident that you will be too, if you give it a shot. Don’t worry; I’ve missed loads of stuff out here as well, like the trinkets, tarot cards and super secret rooms. But some things are worth discovering yourself. And I urge you to discover The Binding of Isaac. Available right now on Steam