Review by aero_kinetic

"An engrossing and addicting masterpiece from the mind of Edmund McMillen."

When I first heard about the Binding of Isaac, I was skeptical. Legend of Zelda-style dungeons with roguelike gameplay? That was a tall order. However, when it came out, I decided to drop $5 on it. At worst, it would be a good time killer, I figured. I mean, it was created by Edmund McMillen, how bad could it be?

When you open the game, it's windowed. There isn't an option to make it fullscreen or change the size of the window, as far as I know. This is only a little bit annoying, and I got used to it within a couple minutes. Here is my review.

Story: Isaac and his mother lived peacefully, with her watching Christian tv programs and Isaac drawing and playing video games and such. However, his mother soon heard the voice of God, demanding that Isaac's sinful possessions be taken away. Again, God's voice demanded he be isolated from the rest of the world. Finally, God demanded that Isaac's mother sacrifice her son as an offering to prove her devotion. However, Isaac saw her coming with a knife through a crack in his door, and escaped into his basement with a secret trapdoor. Overall, I thought it was a nice, modern-day twist on the Bible's tale of the Binding of Isaac. There really isn't much plot after Isaac escapes into the basement, but it isn't really necessary - plot isn't the main part of this game.

Graphics: The game looks quite nice, in the style of Super Meat Boy. The enemies start off relatively normal - zombies and flies, usually. However, as you go further, there are meat monsters that spew blood, worms that relentlessly chase you, and far worse creatures. The dungeons are clearly inspired (or ripped off, as one could argue) by the original Legend of Zelda, but that's not a bad thing; in fact, it works quite well for the game.

Gameplay: Ah, the main part of the review. You start off in Isaac's basement, in a room that has the controls written in chalk. You move with the WASD keys, shoot tears (yes, tears) with the arrow keys, use items with the space bar, and drop bombs with either the shift or E keys. The only complaint I have is that it is sometimes difficult to aim precisely when you're limited to four directions, but that's just part of the game's difficulty, I suppose.

The gist of the game is that you wander around a randomly generated dungeon level, defeating enemies, gathering single-use items such as pills and tarot cards and permanent upgrades. It starts off easy, but the difficult ramps up quickly. When you get to a demon-looking door, that is a boss door. Bosses vary from easy to keyboard-crushingly difficult. Of course, these bosses generally get more difficult as you move down the trapdoors after each boss, dropping you deeper into the basement. The objective of the game is to get to the final dungeon level and defeat the final boss, which is invariably the same enemy.

Remember how I said the game plays like a roguelike? Well, unless you get a certain item, you must restart from the beginning of the game if you die. Yes, it sounds bad, but that's just part of the games addictiveness: it gives an honest-to-god punishment for dying. You must start the game without any powerups and upgrades you gained last time, but you now have a new dungeon to explore and plunder.

Sound: The sound effects work well with the game, but the music is superb. It varies from soft, ominous piano work to faux metal, depending on the situation. It fits very well with the game, and I've found the music stuck in my head when I'm not playing it. I shouldn't be surprised that the music is so fantastic, though, since the same musician did the music for Super Meat Boy, which was fantastic also, albeit in a different fashion.

Replayability: Infinite. Truly, this game is ridiculously addictive, and after you die with tons of awesome upgrades, you'll be angry, but want to play again to see what items you'll get. I've found myself getting three levels down with lots of coins, powerups, and upgrades, only to be defeated by a difficult boss. Did I get mad that I lost everything? Well, yeah, but I wanted to play again, to see what I would get and if I could get further. I rank the addictiveness of this game on par with Civilization - that's saying a lot.

In my opinion, for $5, The Binding of Isaac is one of the best deals out there right now. If you want a game that you can play for a few minutes or several hours, a game that will last, this is the game for you.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 10/03/11

Game Release: The Binding of Isaac (US, 09/28/11)

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