Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Pain of Isaac

Binding of Isaac comic
Lies. Isaac was never loved.
  The Binding of Isaac, the top-down procedurally-generated shooter by Super Meat Boy dev Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl, is an absolutely punishing game to play. Although the curve doesn't slope up as steeply as Super Meat Boy, the Binding of Isaac has a more diabolical approach to frustrating the player.

Binding of Isaac Bosses
Creative boss design
  The story behind the Binding of Isaac helps explain, or at least give a setting to, the absolutely chaotic world that the player is thrown into. Spun off the religious tale the name comes from, the Binding of Isaac has the same theme, with god telling Isaac's mother that he was full of sin and should be killed, to which Isaac flees, and finds himself in a hellish world full of biologically deranged brethren. Instead of the ubiquitous brawny hero that is frequently casted in most games, Isaac starts off as a pixelated, naked baby whose first weapon consists of his own tears.  Every level is heavily populated with uniquely grotesque enemies, each a wonderfully disgusting combination of pale, bulging flesh and various body parts. As the game progresses, Isaac gains the ability to upgrade his weaponry by disfiguring his own body. For example, a peculiar upgrade called the Chemical Peel causes Isaac's tears to deal more damage, yet burns off half the skin on his face.

Binding of Isaac shop
In-game shop featuring buyable upgrades!
  By making each level completely randomly generated, the Binding of Isaac makes every playthrough thoroughly unique. The game throws diabolically designed levels at the player, placing enemies in frustratingly difficult areas for the player to cross. In addition, once the player dies, Isaac loses all of his upgrades and progress, and has to start all the way from the starting stage. Though this doesn't sound as bad given that there's an upgrade on every stage, facing difficult bosses at the beginning of the game without the proper upgrades can be nigh impossible. This might come as a major turn-off for players, especially after the twentieth playthrough, but this permadeath feature keeps the Binding of Isaac perpetually fresh, and always keeps the player guessing what they might find in the next room.

Binding of Isaac enemies
In-game level design
  The Binding of Isaac features an incredibly simplistic gameplay as well. The WSAD keys move the player and arrow keys fire tears, touching enemies will damage you, and getting hit by flying projectiles will also hurt you. The game purposely has a simple combat system, and in this way puts the entire game in the player's hand, making every death completely at the player's fault. Every attack in the game is completely dodgeable, and requires quick thinking and fast fingers on the player's part. However, those completionists seeking to collect every last coin on the level might tear their hair out thinking of ways to reach that desperately needed health stranded on an island in the middle of the room, just out of reach. In this way, the Binding of Isaac empowers the player to play based on skill, rather than just receiving an overpowered pickup.

Binding of Isaac Bosses
Isaac vs. Bosses
  I confess, this game made me cry at parts that seemed absolutely impossible. Facing a difficult boss with only half a heart yet incredibly rare upgrades made this game so frustrating I almost wanted to put the game down. Yet, I found myself crawling back to experience the pain all over again in a sadomasochist sort of way. Every playthrough gives the player the chance to pick up that lucky upgrade or rare item, and the disgustingly cute enemies you might encounter give the game a laudable atmosphere and a fantastic way to spend hours of time.

Freshness Rating: I love splishing around in this pool of my own blood! :D

Steam Link

1 comment:

  1. i really love this game i have had it for a few months and have played over 40 hours on it its really good with a replayability aspect