Developer Team Meat
Platform PC/Mac/Linux (PC Reviewed)
Things You Might Like
- Classic gameplay reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past
- A series of bizarre powerups
- Team Meat’s signature art style
- Randomly generated dungeons
- Disgusting enemies and dungeons
Things You Might Not Like
- Disgusting enemies and dungeons
- Killing enemies with your tears (literally)
- The game’s overall madness
The Binding of Isaac is a twisted dungeon crawler which plays well while supported by terrifying imagery and bleak aesthetics. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.
3 out of 5 Monsters Killed with Your Tears
Hoo boy, this game. Let’s preface the review with that statement. The Binding of Isaac is the second game from the creators of the wildly successful independent hit Super Meat Boy. Super Meat Boy had some pretty grotesque bits but they weren’t what I would l call ‘over the top’. This is of course leaving out the idea that the protagonist lacks any skin. Many of us spent several frustrating hours trying to conquer that game, but had a blast doing so. It was innovative, challenging, and an all-around great time. Naturally, I was excited to hear about their second venture. So…here’s the thing. Team Meat went a little darker with this one. Let’s take a look at the end result.
The Binding of Isaac, as the website will tell you, revolves around a young boy named Isaac whose Mother goes crazy and thinks she’s hearing God speak to her. It turns out that God wants a sacrifice to prove her faith, and Isaac would meet that need nicely. Upon hearing this, Isaac escapes into the basement. This is not just any old basement, full of raspberry preserves, old baby toys, and that deer head your Dad used to have mounted on the wall until your Mom told him that it ‘creeped her out with its Devil eyes and it’s going in the basement now’. No, this basement has several levels to it comprised of what I can only describe as Satan’s own nightmares and populated by terrifying creatures of both human and inhuman nature. Long story short, you’re not safe here. Fortunately for you, these otherworldly opponents have a weakness…your tears. So like I said, this game.
I can barely describe the things you will see take place on your computer screen. Most levels in each dungeon (aka sub-levels of your Mom’s basement) contain a horde of nightmares straight from the pages of what I can only assume is the brochure for Hell. Enemies vary from severed heads that shoot blood at you (these heads may or may not float of their own volition) to partially sentient human-like remnants that possess twisted new visages such as a worm-like form. One boss that you’ll frequently fight in your many playthroughs is only a giant head. He spews blood at you and attempts to crush you when he leaps. This is on par with the decor of the levels themselves, which feature torch-lit rooms filled with animal waste and various other disgusting obstacles. Sounds fun, right?
By now you’re thinking, ‘Josh, why would I want to play this game?!’ I will tell you. Aside from the carnival of nightmares you’ll frequently experience while playing this game, it actually requires skill to play. This is what keeps me coming back. That, and I had to play it to tell you all about it. You can use a keyboard and mouse to control it, but I prefer both hands on the keyboard. WASD will get you moving around and the Arrow keys will direct your tears. This means that you can only shoot one of four directions at once and bear in mind, no diagonal shots. This is where it gets especially challenging.
As I said before, your weapons are your tears. However, that is not your only recourse. You will also find bombs and a series of increasingly bizarre power-ups that will help you escape your mother, only to face her in a final showdown. Some, such as the Spoiled Meat, will actually increase your health despite the name. Another, the Shoop Da Woop, gets you
a chargin ur lazr and lets you spew forth laser beams from your mouth for a limited time. Others are even less savory and will have a number of effects on enemies and/or yourself. It is worth noting that The Binding of Isaac has no save feature. The game tracks overall progress, but your real test is measured in playthroughs. I have not completed this adventure once. I have put about two dozen attempts into it, only to be crushed at the third dungeon. Skill is king here and I admit that I need a lot more practice before claiming ultimate victory.
In closing, The Binding of Isaac is a terrifying and disgusting romp through the nightmare realm of one toddler’s basement and beyond. For $5, you can do worse to sate your appetite for the bizarre.
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