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The Binding of Isaac

Developer / Publisher: Edmund McMillen
28 September 2011
The Binding of Isaac - cover art
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3.32 / 5.0
0.5
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804 Ratings / 2 Reviews
#1,417 All-time
#54 for 2011
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Releases 3
The Binding of Isaac Unholy Edition
2012 Edmund McMillen Headup  
DE 4 018281 674397
The Binding of Isaac Most Unholy Edition
2012 Edmund McMillen Merge  
CD-ROM
GB 5 060264 370283
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Title
Edmund McMillen's The Binding of Isaac introduced a cartoony, bullet hell-esque roguelite that wed their affinity for classic Zelda with late 00s internet/gaming culture and gross-out humor, alongside strong religious themes applied to its sparse storyline. Each of its many upgrades and mechanics could alter one's playthrough in an unpredictable way, but engine limitations and slow movement prevented its potential from ever fully realizing.
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Blah_Blee 2021-06-30T16:26:23Z
2021-06-30T16:26:23Z
6 /10
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Probably the best desktop time-killer of all time and one of the only games I've tried to 100%. Sure, the gameplay is kinda barebones, but the sheer ridiculousness of what you can accomplish with the item pool is a wonderful spectacle all its own.
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vvvvvvvvvv 2021-07-02T01:45:54Z
2021-07-02T01:45:54Z
4.0
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In The Binding of Isaac, you play as child named Isaac who has escaped to the basement to avoid his mother's sacrificial attempts to appease the voice of God. The basement happens to full of dangerous rooms laid out in a Zelda like way; although randomised each time you play. Each floor you descend has a larger map size and different possible enemies, but the layouts, amount of enemies, and items are all random. This adds a lot of charm and replay value because each adventure is different, although the mechanics remain the same.

There are tons of items to find, and each one is added to your collection which gives you an incentive to play until you have seen everything. It isn't so obvious what the items do by their look or name so some experimentation is needed. There are items that give you extra abilities like stronger attack, more health, faster attack rate, and these also change your appearance. It is really cool watching Isaac transform as you progress, for example; from looking his normal child self to growing twice the size, having devil horns and wearing a cape.

Although the game seems like it should require dual sticks to control, sadly there is no native controller support, so you are required to acquire 3rd party software. If you don't choose this option, you will be left with the awkward keyboard controls. Isaac can shoot in 4 directions, and if you want to shoot diagonal, you will have to use your momentum to do so. There are all sorts of enemies from slug like bugs, flies, or mutant creatures which have different movement patterns and attacking behaviour. Isaac strangely fires tears to damage enemies and also has limited bombs as a secondary attack.

There are coins to pick up, although these seem quite rare, and can be used to buy things in the shop which you may find in the level. The game is tough and hearts seem to be dropped sparingly. Given you only start with 3 hearts, it seems a near impossible task especially when there are many enemies darting around firing at you. Some foes spawn more enemies, and killing some enemies can cause them to split or even explode which adds more complications. You may not have free movement in the room given that the rock placement can cause maze like arenas which means you can easily become cornered.

There's definitely enough challenge in the game and plenty to discover if you are willing to persevere and invest the time. There's a few characters you can unlock which have different health, movement and attack speeds which can pose even more of a challenge or require a slight change in your approach to dealing with the enemies. There's even a challenge mode which gives you certain starting items or conditions.

The Binding of Isaac does seem very disappointing when you first pick it up, but if you give it enough time, it certainly does grow on you. It does seem very challenging, almost a bit impossible at times and you do seem to have to rely on finding good items to give you that vital health and attack boost. It certainly has a strange charm to it and you can easily pick it up and have a quick go now and then.
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Following Super Meat Boy's commercial success in 2010, Edmund McMillen took the opportunity of financial stability to shield against the risky release Binding of Isaac, which wed the top-down gameplay of Miyamoto's Legend of Zelda with procedurally-generated dungeons to tell a religiously-charged tale of unnerving horror and cheeky black comedy. He would team up with fellow programmer Florian Himl and co-developer of Meat Boy Tommy Refenes to make the final product, with old friend Danny Baranowsky back as composer for the game's original music.
The result was even better than their last game: Binding of Isaac is a functional and highly-replayable; it may be brief but its radical difficulty should elongate the number of times you'll pick it up again.
The game's multifaceted tone is perhaps its main spice and what keeps it alive after multiple playthroughs: both the audio and visual detail are contrived to make things feel serious and dark as well as goofy and cartoony. On the level floors you'll see dainty mounds of poop along with the blood.
Meanwhile the story is actually kind of creepy: you play a very young boy named Isaac whose schizophrenic mother tries to sacrifice him to God after already stripping him of clothes and locking him in the cellar. (The cellar in which mutants, bugs, corpses, and other children lied, complete with the demons symbolic of the Seven Deadly Sins.) Even between levels Isaac curls up and weeps in remembrance of past traumas of psychological abuse. It may be comically over-the-top, but I still find it disarming after all this time to realize that your character kills enemy with the downpour of his tears. (I know I'd be bawling in the face of this much shit at the age I'm at now let alone 5 or 6 or however old Isaac is. Goddamn.)
But my favorite detail implemented is the fact that the developers went through the effort to make Isaac piss himself each time you enter a room with the minimal amount of health left. That made me and the game finally click, because that's when I realized that McMillen and his team were aiming to make you feel aggressively vulnerable. And with the harsh difficulty of the gameplay this wasn't mere aesthetic: Binding of Isaac has depth as an action game built around the horror genre's tension of feeling helpless against your enemies, and putting that insecurity in the spotlight.
As for the comedic tone, some of the humor can fall flat (the cringeworthy "Shoop da whoop" meme reference comes to mind) but a lot of jokes work as more fluff of sad crap (no matter how ridiculous) that happen or happened to Isaac to sustain those relatable feelings of hurt, fear, and depression.
In a sense, Binding of Isaac is a representation of what ambitious arcadey games should be like: aesthetic and gameplay work together to set an engaging tone and keep it that way till the end.
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ZeeDDD65 2016-04-06T17:43:10Z
2016-04-06T17:43:10Z
6.5 /10
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I'm not going to rate this game, but I will say this: While I still think that this game is pretty fantastic (though not 5/5-worthy material by any means IMO), there is seriously no reason to go back to this due to Rebirth existing apart from four reasons:

1. You've played Rebirth, but haven't played this and are curious about what it's like.
2. You want to listen to it's amazing soundtrack in the context of the game. Seriously, it's a shame that having this soundtrack wasn't at least an option in Rebirth, although at least you can listen to it for free on Bandcamp.
3. You haven't played Isaac before period, and noticed that this was available for $1 or less during a Steam sale. If you're going to go for it then, and buy Wrath of the Lamb in the process because, hey, it's cheap too, don't install that immediately. It automatically makes the game harder.
4. Well, you just want to go back to it for fun.

Don't get me wrong, this is still something that I think is an absolutely great game. But I'd highly recommend just playing Rebirth over this just because that's an improved version of both this and Wrath of the Lamb with so much more added to it.

4.5/5 but Rebirth exists
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Catalog

Abelton The Binding of Isaac 2022-06-30T23:28:04Z
2022-06-30T23:28:04Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Bram_van_Kooten The Binding of Isaac 2022-06-27T21:29:38Z
2022-06-27T21:29:38Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Corzarocks6675 The Binding of Isaac 2022-06-23T12:44:15Z
2022-06-23T12:44:15Z
3.5
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
CoffeeFairy The Binding of Isaac 2022-06-19T04:55:27Z
2022-06-19T04:55:27Z
2.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
TiltControls The Binding of Isaac 2022-06-14T12:42:15Z
2022-06-14T12:42:15Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
TheAllGolden The Binding of Isaac 2022-06-12T23:38:55Z
2022-06-12T23:38:55Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
sdj457 The Binding of Isaac 2022-06-09T14:33:10Z
2022-06-09T14:33:10Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
DiabolicalCon The Binding of Isaac 2022-06-08T16:44:49Z
2022-06-08T16:44:49Z
2.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
guerrilla The Binding of Isaac 2022-06-08T13:48:23Z
2022-06-08T13:48:23Z
2.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Noelcis The Binding of Isaac 2022-06-07T11:58:38Z
2022-06-07T11:58:38Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Veltha The Binding of Isaac 2022-06-06T13:46:40Z
2022-06-06T13:46:40Z
1.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
poisonAshley The Binding of Isaac 2022-06-06T05:52:41Z
2022-06-06T05:52:41Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
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  • Previous comments (5) Loading...
  • Rezzo 2021-04-23 14:53:52.642047+00
    There are mods out there to restore the original look to Rebirth
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  • lowplacelikehome 2021-07-13 23:31:11.791378+00
    Damn this game pisses me off.
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  • xdsocko 2021-08-07 23:44:02.895261+00
    the artstyle is amazing but the gameplay compared to rebirth is REALLY bad, the music is arguably better though and i do miss the original soundtrack in rebirth.
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  • Hollweg 2022-01-14 04:02:05.832661+00
    used to have a good time with this, but after playing Rebirth is painful to go back to playing this. Agree that the soundtrack is still superior than Rebirth's, though.
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  • TheWrongOpinion 2022-03-15 01:58:53.467594+00
    i love this game and spent a lot of time playing it at 5fps on my terrible laptop instead of paying attention to my classes but i'll never forgive it for permanently ruining the word roguelike. i know that spelunky technically did it first but this is where it really started to take off.
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  • alliterativeAlpinist 2022-04-04 13:04:30.11541+00
    Was fun losing one item unlock to a save game fuck up and spending 80 hours on getting it again lol

    Still haven't played Rebirth btw, this is the only version of TBoI that I know
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