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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Binding of Isaac

84 hours, 84 long hours spent playing, "The Binding of Isaac." It took me a total of 84 hours to get every achievement in this game, all 52 of them. It was at times difficult, sometimes extremely frustrating but all the while one of the best games I have ever played.

Isaac is the brainchild of one half of Team Meat Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl. It is best described as a cross between The Legend of Zelda, games like Smash TV and Robotron and the Roguelike genre. You control Isaac who after some unpleasantness with his mother (She hears the voice of God telling her to kill Isaac) escapes into the basement of their home. Once there he has several floors on enemies to fight to try and defeat his mother and save his own life.

The inspirations for this game are worn on it's sleeve. The dungeons and several items are a nod to the Zelda games. From finding maps a compasses to the Ladder you can tell the designers are big fans of early Zelda games. The controls are just like any twin stick shooter you've ever played. WASD keys move you and the arrow keys shoot, these can be reversed for the left handed players which is nice to see. The roguelike features are what actually drew me to this game in the first place as it's a genre that I really, really enjoy playing.

Roguelikes for any that may not know are the spawn of a old game called Rogue. Mainly featuring ASCII graphics you're usually tasked with going through a dungeon of some kind to retrieve some item from the depths. Two tropes for these type of games are extreme difficulty and permanent death both of which Isaac has. If you die you must start from the beginning. There are a few items that can let you respawn after death but they're extremely rare and one is actually a cursed item which does more harm than good.

The first thing that jumps out at you when you see Isaac is the art style. Edmund's dark disturbed cartoon style is seen in all it's glory here. Many creatures look to be the things of nightmares often leaping at you in a fury of bloody projectiles and bodily fluids. It's all really well done and I absolutely love the art style in this game.

Isaac has a definite progression in place. You fight to the bottom of the dungeon, kill all the bosses and unlock a new item, then you do it all over again. On top of that none of the items are explained to you. It's up to the player to figure out what they do, just like many roguelikes. Some of the items (The Pills) even do different things on each play through, so you never know what you're getting into.

With a lot of games the further along you get and the more items you have access to they get easier but not in Isaac. Each time you do a full clear more enemy types are added and some of the older ones are buffed in some way or another. It's a good balance, you unlock the ability to get better weapons and items while fighting tougher foes. The game never feels unbeatable as one simple item or a random health up cam spell the difference between victory and defeat.

But you will die and you will die a lot. The game is extremely tough at first, before you know what all the items do and the enemies patterns you can find yourself dying on the first boss or even before you get to the first boss.

There is hope though. This game's difficulty reminds me of the Souls games. Hard at first but as you learn the game it can get to the point of being too easy and I am at that point right now. I can full clear Isaac pretty much 95 percent of the time. If I pull a bad run with crap items then I may not making it to the end.

I don't want to get to much into the specifics of what can happen in a game of Isaac because this is a game you want to go into as blind as possible, with any roguelike figuring out what everything does is part of the fun and dying and learning from your death is the learning experience you need to get better.

Right now The Binding of Isaac can be bought for 5 dollars and it's worth even more than that. Like I said at the start of this I've spend 84 hours with it. That's a huge amount of game time versus the money spent. There is an expansion coming out in a few months that's suppose to add tons more content to this already content heavy game and it's suppose to be around 3 dollars, still a great deal on fantastic content.

The Binding of Isaac was one of the best games to come out last year, probably the best to come out. It has earned a place on my Top Games of All Time list without question. It's simply fantastic and a great introduction to the Roguelike genre.

Don't waste anymore time, fire up Steam and BUY THIS GAME! It's simply one of the best and games like the is are why I love gaming.

The Binding of Isaac - 10 out of 10

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