“The Binding of Isaac:” An Indie-Gamer’s Review

ss_57c7fb142d6b8f7d38ab62d9f39a055a5b2d4c4c.1920x1080In my gaming career, I have done many things that society might look on as “immature” or “extreme.” I have thrown my Xbox controller across the room. I have yelled obscenities at my monitor and I have smashed my computer keyboard. In spite of all this, I have never cried over a game. That’s until I played “The Binding of Isaac.”

“The Binding of Isaac” is an independent video game, released in 2011, by Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl. McMillan is half of Team Meat, a development team behind the critically acclaimed and painfully difficult “Super Meat Boy.” If you have played “Super Meat Boy,” this will give you an idea of the level of difficulty to expect from Mr. McMillen’s games.

“Isaac” is a single-player action adventure rogue-like (rogue-like is a genre characterized by permanent character death and randomized levels) with the dark, twisted sense of humor that was found in “Super Meat Boy.” It is available for Macintosh, Windows, Linux, Playstation 3 and the Playstation Vita.

The game is obviously influenced by the Biblical story of the binding of Isaac, but you won’t find much of the original idea of the story in the game. In the game, you play as a child (Isaac) who flees from his mother, who tries to sacrifice him. You shoot tears and other projectiles at enemies as you collect power-ups to aid your quest for the end of the level the end of the area, and finally, the end of the game. This is a somewhat futile endeavor if you aren’t someone who has hours and hours of time to invest in the game, or someone who already is already incredibly skilled at rogue-likes. I am neither of those people.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy a challenge; I loved “Super Meat Boy,” which was an infuriating game itself. However, “The Binding of Isaac” was beyond my abilities.

This is not to say that it isn’t a good game. In fact, I think it’s awesome. The art is wonderfully stylized, the flavor text on all the items is incredibly creative, hilarious and  enjoyable. The soundtrack by Danny Baranowsky is also excellent, though probably not something I’d listen to every day.

I enjoyed playing this game from hell, though I don’t know if I’ll have the patience to complete the whole game, let alone unlock the extras.

Now that I think about it, maybe the game is supposed to make you cry, since that is what the main character, Issac, does throughout the whole game. Maybe the tears of rage and frustration are supposed to help you ‘get into character’ while you play. If that’s the case, bravo to McMillen and  Himsl. You have achieved your goal.