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The Binding of Isaac

Developer / Publisher: Edmund McMillen
28 September 2011
The Binding of Isaac - cover art
Glitchwave rating
3.33 / 5.0
0.5
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1,084 Ratings / 3 Reviews
#1,679 All-time
#60 for 2011
Isaac, a child, and his mother live in a small house on a hill, both happily keeping to themselves, with Isaac drawing pictures and playing with his toys, and his mother watching Christian broadcasts on television. Isaac's mother then hears "a voice from above", a voice that she believes is that of God Himself, stating that her son is corrupted with sin, and needs to be saved. It asks her to remove all that is evil from Isaac, in an attempt to save him. His mother agrees, taking away his toys, drawings, and even his clothes.
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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
I have to admit, I was intrigued with this game when I saw a friend of mine playing it, I wish they let me try it out before I bought it as that would've saved me the trouble of buying into its hype with how repetitive and ultimately time wasting it is.

The biggest problem here is that this is essentially a game you're expected to complete in one sitting given how it's a clear throwback to older games that didn't have a save feature. The problem here is that a: there's so many dungeons to explore (not helped with the rgn aspect of the game) and b: there's an intricate story that goes along with the gameplay which is something many older games lacked and thus, made this format excusable back then. Speaking of the story and overall lore, I don't care for it as I find it to be rather distasteful due to the bizarre setup, they both have. Yes I understand the games themes as it's about a cowardly boy standing up to his abusive mother as well as its message about domestic violence and committing evil for what you believe to be the greater good, however playing as a kid who is butt naked because his evil bitch of a mother stripped him of all his possessions only to then hunt him down to kill him all because some deranged voice told her to do so? It's just a concept I find too bizarre to take seriously which admittedly I think is the point due to how the game tends to be tongue in cheek throughout the campaign. All of this would be fine (OK it wouldn’t but let's pretend going forward it is) were the gameplay not so repetitive, seriously all you do is go through each room in a dungeon before coming across a boss battle you have to win to proceed to the next floor. Rinse and repeat until you come across the final boss, although if you die at any point, you have to start from the very beginning. All I can say is that this isn't my idea of fun.

So yeah, this is a highly acclaimed game I don't like, I get why other people do mainly due to its themes, but the story is beyond distasteful, and the gameplay is mind numbingly repetitive for my taste.
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Foxylover92 2021-06-23T01:06:47Z
2021-06-23T01:06:47Z
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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

Tim7 The Binding of Isaac 2024-04-14T22:09:08Z
2024-04-14T22:09:08Z
2.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
anms3 The Binding of Isaac 2024-04-06T06:31:58Z
2024-04-06T06:31:58Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
yellowallpaper The Binding of Isaac 2024-04-05T09:13:10Z
2024-04-05T09:13:10Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
fleshtache The Binding of Isaac 2024-04-05T08:54:05Z
2024-04-05T08:54:05Z
4.5
2
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
sathington_willoughby The Binding of Isaac 2024-04-03T19:57:26Z
2024-04-03T19:57:26Z
25
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Nipolag The Binding of Isaac 2024-04-02T12:05:21Z
2024-04-02T12:05:21Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
stillnotasaint The Binding of Isaac 2024-03-30T14:04:05Z
2024-03-30T14:04:05Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Diertz The Binding of Isaac 2024-03-25T11:38:36Z
2024-03-25T11:38:36Z
3.0
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
chiefmozza The Binding of Isaac 2024-03-25T01:32:40Z
Windows / Mac
2024-03-25T01:32:40Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
MaxxGodDamn The Binding of Isaac 2024-03-24T22:55:19Z
2024-03-24T22:55:19Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
agu2005elmejor The Binding of Isaac 2024-03-23T19:06:23Z
2024-03-23T19:06:23Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
communist_soup The Binding of Isaac 2024-03-16T17:30:29Z
2024-03-16T17:30:29Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
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  • Previous comments (8) Loading...
  • 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.
    reply
    • finemotorsmiff 2024-01-04 23:57:29.430309+00
      Maybe get over it? The term “traditional roguelike” exists
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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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  • sunshinerecorder 2022-07-27 20:03:02.237859+00
    was a huge McMillen stan after 100%ing SMB back in 2011, spent all summer waiting for it and not knowing what it will be. still remember how when you unlocked something, the game froze for several seconds, steam achievement popped up and huge notification with some odd writing like CAT'S HEAD UNLOCKED appeared on screen. fond memories!
    reply
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  • thm_yrk12 2023-04-26 18:44:43.830051+00
    if ive never played isaac am i better off playing rebirth
    reply
    • guidop 2023-04-26 21:56:44.31254+00
      yes
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  • NickShutter 2023-09-24 15:21:22.91214+00
    Coming back to this is so painful after Rebirth. Low framerates, bad room layouts, cheap champion enemies... Why did they have to add a hard mode, I had all the achievements before they did that!
    reply
    • alliterativeAlpinist 2023-09-28 11:47:14.640734+00
      From what I remember Florian Himsl added hard mode by himself to help this version maintain relevance. I don't think he succeeded but gotta respect the hustle
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