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The Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac photo
The Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth coming to PS4, but other platforms unlikely

'Outlook NOT good'
Nov 20
// Ben Davis
Afterbirth, the expansion to The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, was released last month for PC users. Owners of Rebirth on other platforms have since been left waiting, but according to a tweet yesterday from Edmund McMillen, the...
Afterbirth ARG photo
Afterbirth ARG

Binding of Isaac's ARG is over, unlocks new character

Dug up a lost boy
Nov 14
// Nic Rowen
The craziness and drama surrounding the release of The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth has been almost as fun as the game itself (which in my opinion is pretty damn fun). As reported two weeks ago, the initial launch of the expa...

Review: Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth

Nov 06 // Nic Rowen
Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth (PC)Developer: Nicalis, Edmund McMillenPublisher: NicalisMSRP: $9.99 (DLC),  $24.99 (Bundle with Rebirth)Released: November 4, 2015 Afterbirth's “back of the box” bullet points are impressive – 120 new items, new level variations for every floor, a pack of new bosses and enemies, a new character, and an entirely new game mode to round it off - but those numbers only tell half of the story (maybe only a quarter). Any game can just add a bunch of new stuff, a crate of duplicate items, a pack of palette-swap enemies, a few coats of paint on some old levels, whatever. What makes Afterbirth so special isn't just how many new little doodads have been dropped into the game, but how perfectly the new additions entwine themselves into the experience. How they fit right in, but at the same time dramatically warp and twist the classic Isaac experience into an entirely new entity. Afterbirth takes a lot of risks to introduce new wrinkles and mechanics. Almost every new item does something wild, or weird, or aggravating. The Glass Cannon lets you fire a powerful mega shot every few seconds, at the cost of depleting your health down to a perilous single half-heart. The Fruitcake randomly changes the type of tears you fire with every shot, constantly shuffling between spread shots, homing tears, holy bolts, and the occasional randomly exploding fire shot (always a treat when you’re not expecting it). Items like the Scalpel, an infinite use ability that lets you make portal style tunnels between two points (either in the same room or different ones) complete changes the way you approach room exploration and some boss fights. Things like the occasional “Item Recycler” in an item room that will let you pay coins to change the offered item to another random selection, lets you make smarter, more interesting choices about how you play. This isn’t just “more stuff;” it’s all different, surprising, and exciting stuff. As someone who spent an ungodly amount of time with the original game, one of the things I've enjoyed the most about Afterbirth is finding new combinations and synergies with old items. There is more of an emphasis on layering and blending items rather than just replacing them in this expansion. An old standby like Mom's Knife can now be combined with the laser beam spewing classic Brimstone to create a spray of butcher knives that will travel across the screen. Or a mix of old and new, like the freshly introduced Incubus pet, a little demon that will mirror Isaac's tear effects, combined with a traditionally poor item like Soy Milk to scrub a room clean with hundreds of tiny, but rapid, tears. Further encouraging fresh experimentation with old items are a slew of new transformation effects. Collecting certain items that belong in the same set will result in a character-changing new look and a bonus ability or two. Rebirth only had two transformations (including the much beloved Guppy transformation that would change Isaac into brokenly powerful manifestation of his dead cat). Afterbirth comes correct with nine entirely new transformations to mutate poor Isaac. The effects of these transformations are weaker on average than the Guppy buff, but are sourced from item pools that are far more common, including several junky items. It's a smart change, instead of being monomaniacally focused on becoming Guppy, there are now potential advantages to picking up so-called dud items, encouraging smart play with a long-term vision. Or they can just serve as a consolation prize for a few limp item rolls. The new boss enemies follow the same philosophy, not just “new,” but “new and different.” Some of them are entirely fresh Afterbirth originals, while others are revamps of classic monsters. All of them are humongous jerks (often to the point of feeling overly difficult and imbalanced compared to the original cast of bosses) and they're all pitching curve balls. Even lightweights like Little Horn, a mere first floor boss, introduce crazy new tricks. He's a diminutive imp who spontaneously creates cartoon black holes for you to fall in which he'll try to herd you towards with slow moving tracking shots like a devilish sheep dog. Bigger bosses (telling would be spoiling) get even crazier, assaulting Isaac with entirely new mechanics as well as blatantly unfair levels of firepower. One particularly crazy fight involves a boss that will buff himself and summon allies if you don't destroy the icons he is constantly spiting out, making it a frantic race to stay on top of them before things gets out of hand. The new fights are wacky, crazy, and occasionally frustrating, but most of all, they're all fresh. Greed Mode, introduced in Afterbirth, turns the traditional Isaac dungeon exploration experience into a much more tightly focused, wave-based horde mode. I like to think of it as Isaac for the person who only has 15 minutes. Get in, kill a few waves, get some money, try to cobble together a build, and get out (by death or by victory) before your lunch break is over. I don't know if it will have a ton of staying power, but it is a fun alternative to getting deep and dirty in the basement. New floor variants and room layouts keep things fresh. Themed floors like the Burning Basement or Dank Depths have their own flavor, unique obstacles, enemies, and (universally killer) soundtracks. There are plenty of new room types, varying in all manner of size, shape, and hazard, making the dungeon crawl feel more natural and less like moving through a grid. Many of these layouts introduce new trap and puzzle elements, confronting players with spike floors that rise and lower in alternating patterns and need to be shut down by pressing different buttons, or explosive TNT chambers that need to be set off in the right order to avoid damage. Again, smart and exciting. There are also innumerable smaller changes to go into, some of which are obvious niceties (like expanded HUD options to display collected items without pausing) while others you can't discuss without sounding like a crazy person to non-Isaac nuts. Little things like “Devil Deal rooms will convert to soul heart prices automatically if you sell your last red heart!” or “the co-op baby can place bombs again, hallelujah!” I know, it sounds like gibberish, but to the diehard Isaac fanbase, these are big deals and welcome changes. Like many roguelikes, Isaac has always had a slightly masochistic bent. I've always said that the unforgiving and random nature of the game is something you have to lean into, have to embrace to really enjoy Isaac. Sadly, Afterbirth takes that bent and presses on it until it breaks, reaching a peak of difficulty that has even an roguelike-apologist like me throwing up my hands in frustration on a regular basis. For every clever, interesting, and fresh idea Afterbirth has, it also has some dickish, spiteful, little aggravation to throw at you as well. Those handy item room recyclers I mentioned earlier? Sure, you could get one of those in an item room, or you could get an item surrounded by spikes, or a “bonus” room infested with monsters, what a cute joke! Those new rooms and traps? Neat, until you wind up in a boss room the size of a closet with TNT barrels or spike blocks in all four corners, have fun with that! The new bosses? Sure, they all have new and clever mechanics, but many of them also flood the screen with nearly unavoidable shots and a legion of minions in addition to whatever fresh hell they're also bringing. I imagine the idea was to challenge seasoned players with this expansion, to push the skills of hardcore Isaac players to their upper limits. But the difficulty in Afterbirth goes so far it loops back around on itself, ending up with a game that feels more luck based than ever. In Rebirth, I used to feel that any run, no matter how unlucky, could be saved by smart play and excellent dodging. In Afterbirth, I’ve had several rounds that felt so hopelessly stacked against me that instead of galvanizing me to play better, they just demoralized me into throwing in the towel, hoping for better items in the next run. That's not a great way to feel after 200 hours of experience in a game. The nastiness of the difficulty spike leaves me in an uncomfortable position with this review. I think that the vast majority of changes made in Afterbirth are superb. The astounding creativity of the new items, modes, and rooms is flat out inspiring, as is the sheer amount of new additions. Afterbirth has found ways to significantly add to and improved on a game that I already considered to be a nearly flawless. I don't want to diminish that accomplishment at all - in a perfect world, this is what all DLC would be like. I'm still having tons of fun with the game and I'll probably be playing it for another hundred hours or so, but I'd be lying if I said I was having as much fun with Afterbirth as I did with Rebirth. It found my limit. You should absolutely play Afterbirth. If you're already an Isaac diehard, or someone fresh to the genre, Afterbirth has hours upon hours of genuine joy in store for you. But you should know it will also have moments of soul-annihilating frustration. Maybe that's the price for flying so close to perfection. [This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]
Afterbirth review photo
Deal with the Devil
The Binding of Isaac has always been a game of contradictions to me. It's both a game that embraces the fickleness of chance and the purity of skill. That encourages you to play around, explore, and experiment, but also rewar...

Afterbirth secrets photo
Afterbirth secrets

Isaac devs Edmund McMillen and Tyrone Rodriguez are a couple of monsters

Sadists delight
Nov 04
// Nic Rowen
[Update: The plot thickens. Edmund has taken to Twitter over the past few hours saying the missing items were the result of a post-launch bug and not part of some nefarious plan to punish dataminers. Cagey as ever, Edmun...

The Binding of Isaac photo
The Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth is out now on Steam, have a trailer!

Coming soon for other platforms
Oct 30
// Ben Davis
Afterbirth, the expansion to The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, was released earlier today on Steam. Just in time for Halloween! There's also a creepy release trailer to go along with it, featuring a disturbingly realistic vision...
Afterbirth pre-order sale photo
Afterbirth pre-order sale

The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth's pre-order discount is perfect

The price point of the beast
Sep 14
// Nic Rowen
The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth is now available for pre-order on Steam with a hefty 40% discount that brings the price down to an entirely appropriate $6.66. Normally I don't advise pre-ordering anything, but given how much...
Binding of Isaac photo
Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth is releasing on October 30

Devil's Night
Sep 07
// Darren Nakamura
When Edmund McMillen brought word of the new Greed Mode in The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth, most of the shouts in the comments were, "Looks great, when can we play it?" Soon enough. The features for the DLC are detailed over...
The Binding of Isaac photo
More structure, risk/reward
The Binding of Isaac is one of the kings of procedural generation, but Greed Mode in the upcoming DLC Afterbirth is set to give it a little more structure. Instead of a random layout, each floor has the same plan, with a stor...

Isaac: Afterbirth photo
Isaac: Afterbirth

The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth is bringing giant death lasers

Oh god, so many lasers
Aug 19
// Laura Kate Dale
[Editor's Note: This week I've had a teenager named Sam Burdis with me on work experience, learning about the wonderful world of games writing. Today I've given him a shot at doing a news post for the Destructoid front page. ...
Fingered photo

Sup Holmes probes into darkness with Fingered devs Edmund and James

Sup Holmes every Sunday at 4pm EST!
Aug 16
// Jonathan Holmes
[Sup Holmes is a weekly talk show for people that make great videogames. It airs live every Sunday at 4pm EST on YouTube, and can be found in Podcast form on Libsyn and iTunes.] [Update: Shows over folks!...

Super Meat Boy dev: Fingered is how I got back into game design

Aug 14 // Chris Carter
Destructoid: So what have you been up to lately?Edmund McMillen: Just actually got back into more full time dev work, after a six or more month break I took to get my personal life back in working order and prepare for my wife's first upcoming release "tiny daughter: the reality!"The past few months I've spent getting the Isaac expansion design fleshed out, regrouping with Tommy on Super Meat Boy and purging out this finger game with James.James Id: I gave up real world responsibilities to make a game that will inevitably make everyone ask "Where's Mewgenics?" In addition, I've been filming myself naked for the release video, working 24 hours in the editing bay and with bug fixes. I won't know what to do with myself once this is all released.What compelled you to create Fingered? It looks pretty out there, and by out there I mean rad.Id: Edmund had mentioned that he had this game idea, and I kind of jumped at the opportunity. I've been playing a lot with creative coding and generative design, so once I heard the idea I knew exactly how to implement it. So I latched onto Edmund like a dog in heat, and pumped this thing out. As we were making it, I think we started seeing how weirdly satirical it was getting. So I guess the premise of the game just grew on the design. McMillen: I literally hadn't worked or thought much about game design for the first time in 13 or more years... I had fucking lived, eaten, and breathed game design for a very large part of my life and it was hard to get away from it or take a much needed break without feeling utterly worthless in the process. but I had some pretty horrible family stuff happen to me that forced me out of it and also forced me to get my priorities straight, so I totally got away for a while.Fingered was how i got my feet back in the water, it was a small game I made with a friend that was being made purely because we wanted to "have fun making a weird ass video game." It was a very refreshing way to jump back into game design for me, its nice to get back to why I started making games and kinda enjoy that feeling again.Also, it's going to win all the awards and get me mad bitches!Id: I guarantee there's going to be some angry women, sure... but it's not right for Edmund to call them that. I apologize for him and will whip myself for penance.What's the reasoning behind the really low price point of $1.87?McMillen: Its a small game... closer to an app or one of my larger flash games from before Super Meat Boy, so a low price point felt appropriate.Id: I want to be poor forever. I hate rich people. Edmund, I hate you! Bernie Sanders 2016!!! McMillen: Fuck the police! [embed]305504:59979:0[/embed]Sell us on Fingered. What's the single coolest part of the project?Id: The game makes you question characteristics and stereotypes. Not in a "we're gonna change the world" way. More like "wait... what does a person who is ____ look like?" I've played the game with people where they are almost deconstructing how they judge people just to win a round. I didn't expect it at all, but I guess that's what you get when you have a pretty decent idea for a game.McMillen: The random generation is pretty awesome, and I drew a lot of bullshit and when randomized you literally get a billion very different looking people.. that aspect is quite fun for me. I'd say the best selling point though is just to say we ripped off Guess Who and phoned it in... it's Papers, Please wrapped in a giant bloody American flag covered in hamburger grease with a smaller Confederate Flag stitched to it just slightly out of eye shot. Tell us a bit about yourself James, and how you came up with the idea of these surreal trailers for your games.Id: I don't know how to sum myself up, so let me outline my schedule tonight: I'm going to watch a movie called Max: Mon Amour. I heard it's a movie about a woman who cheats on her husband with a chimpanzee. I'm going to watch it, half inebriated, occasionally stopping it to listen to Art of Noise, or King Missile... something that reminds me that there's stuff I still like. I'm bound to shit myself silly due to the stress of releasing this game, so I'm most likely going to get a few hundred pages through Clash of Kings. This process is making me miss my fiancé though. I'm glued to this chair as she watches 90210 or plays Rebirth. I'm hoping the game does relatively well so I can make a movie that no one would want to watch, but I'll be happy if I can make rent. I also really want to make out with the few legal age fans I have.The trailers are just things that come to me mostly. Edmund will usually have an idea, but I'll try to subvert it into something bonkers. I grew up on psychotronic-type television and movies, and music videos. Oh god the music videos! So there's this itch I have to scratch with every video I do. I'm lucky that Edmund is sweet enough to support it, because I really don't think anyone would ever ask for what I'd make... strange to say since I quit my day job to make video games and videos!Oh, my night just started with listening to Sylvester's "You Make Me Feel Mighty Real". I wasn't expecting that...McMillen: Truth be told, James was a troll on my website's forums back in 2000. He annoyed me then and still does now...Id: Edmund, when is Isaac 2 going to come out? When is Super Meat Boy Forever? Is there going to be additional Isaac DLC. Gish? Aether? Time Fuck? What about Mewgenics? Why are you distracting yourself with these shitty games when all we want is Mewgenics. GIVE US FUCKING MEWGENICS OR I'M GOING TO SET MYSELF ON FIRE IN FRONT OF YOUR HOUSE! IT'LL BE YOUR CHILD'S FIRST MEMORY EDMUND, SO RELEASE IT NOW!!!! Do you feel like you still have time for as many side projects as you'd like after hitting it big over the past few years?McMillen: I have time for whatever the fuck I feel like working on whenever the fuck I wanna do it, that was the true independent freedom I was working towards for all these years and it feels good to make something that embodies that.I'll always probably have one or two larger projects going, but honestly who knows what my life will be like when my daughter is born. What's next for the Isaac franchise?McMillen: Afterbirth will be coming out in the next month or two, we should be announcing the release date in a week or so. Afterbirth is a mega update to the game that should add a good 200+ more hours to most peoples games and adds a great deal of new and interesting ways to play/things to do.After that I'm honestly not sure, the community has expressed interest in a fully supported level/chapter editor, so there is a chance that once Afterbirth is released Nicalis and I may start working on a mini expansion that adds something along those lines as well as a few more items/playable characters. But I think it's safe to say that if we add any more substantial content to it, it may as well be in the form of a sequel than DLC.Speaking of Isaac, how would you compare its success to Super Meat Boy?McMillen: At this point Isaac is easily my most successful game, beyond the fact that the original sold three million copies and Rebirth crossed the one million mark recently on Steam alone. Rebirth is also my first game I've released on all current gen systems including handhelds and I think that's pretty damn amazing.That said, Super Meat Boy and Isaac are very different games, I'm sure if Super Meat Boy were a randomly generated game with more luck based aspects that you could play for hundreds of hours it would probably be a lot more successful than Isaac. How are Super Meat Boy Forever and Mew-Genics coming along? Any targeted release window in mind? McMillen: Super Meat Boy Forever is back in development again and is my primary project at this point now that Afterbirth is basically complete on my end and Fingered is [almost] out. Mew is on hold till after Forever is out, the only target release is "when its done."Id: Please buy Fingered, I just want to make it through September.
Team Meat interview photo
Things get weird (awesome)
I recently caught up with Edmund McMillen of Team Meat, who is working with frequent collaborator James Id on Fingered, a small project that's launching next week. We ended up talking about Isaac, what Team Meat is up to currently, future timelines for existing and potential projects, and a whole lot more.

The Binding of Isaac photo
The Binding of Isaac

Binding of Isaac: Rebirth hits Xbox One, Wii U, and New 3DS July 23

Poo and tears for everyone!
Jul 07
// Zack Furniss
Rejoice, fans of fetuses and feces! The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth will be coming to the Xbox One, Wii U, and New 3DS on July 23. Please note the new there, as it will not be available on the older model. It's wonder...
Rebirth alone photo
Rebirth alone

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth 3DS lacks local multiplayer, cross-platform saves

Will be $15
Jun 12
// Jed Whitaker
Local co-op will not be available on the New 3DS version of The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, confirms Tyrone Rodriguez, the founder of Nicalis. Tyrone also notes that patching it in after release is unlikely. Cross save is also...

Reggie wanted The Binding of Isaac on 3DS all along

Jun 07 // Jonathan Holmes
We talked more about that, Edmund's feelings on if Isaac is appropriate for children, our chances of ever seeing Super Meat Boy on a Nintendo console, his Newgrounds days, plans for a new game, and a lot more. It's essential reading for any fan of Isaac or any of Edmund's many other games. It also comes with a double sided Splatoon poster, which is pretty neat. You can pick up the issue here, or a year's subscription to Nintendo Force here. 
Binding of Isaac photo
Way to go, Reg
[Update: We added some samples from the magazine in the gallery, including a look at both sides of that double-sided Splatoon poster, featuring some original art by Anita Sarkeesian Thor Thorvaldson. It's really good!] The Bi...

The Binding of Isaac photo
The Binding of Isaac

New boss teased for The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth expansion

Rag n' Bone
Jun 03
// Zack Furniss
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth's expansion, Afterbirth, is shambling ever-closer. Yesterday, Tyrone Rodriguez of Nicalis teased a new boss, Rag Man. This mummy-lookin' homie has purple eyes, purple attacks, and the abilit...
The Binding of Isaac photo
The Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth to have daily challenges

Now I can suck daily
May 27
// Zack Furniss
In the months since November 2014, I've slowly developed some semblance of skill in The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. While I've still got quite a lot of playing to do if I wish to earn the Platinum God achievement, I'm impresse...

Fighting games and roguelikes are my personal school of hard knocks

May 26 // Nic Rowen
Titles like The Binding of Isaac, FTL, Nuclear Throne and (my latest obsession) Darkest Dungeon make it their business to stymie and frustrate your futile attempts to get to the credits screen. They delight in throwing a wrench into the works, tearing apart promising looking runs or dungeon crawls with a few merciless rolls of the RNG. They move around the win conditions and goalposts from the traditional idea of “I gotta get to the end and dunk on the last boss!” to “oh God, please just let me survive a little longer this time.” Victory isn't just marked by, well, victory, but by discovery and learning. Seeing a new enemy, figuring out a new trick or strategy, and learning to avoid whatever awful thing killed you last time. Those small successes are what dubs a run a win. It's tough to turn that switch that demands progression off in your brain. It has been dutifully conditioned by years of games where victory is the expected outcome. But it's those wild unfair swings in a roguelike that completely mess you up that makes them so satisfying. The emotional roller-coaster of suddenly losing a beloved party member, or picking up an item that completely gimps your current build, or getting screwed by a few unlucky rolls that leave you facing almost certain doom. These factors that push you out of your comfort zone and force you to come up with new strategies broaden your horizons, you have to think about the game and really consider all of your options rather than relying on one or two recipes for success. Those runs that truly are hopeless? Well, they just let you appreciate the good ones a little more. It took me a long time to realize it, but fighting games are much the same when you get right down to it. While you always want to win a fight, just adding more notches to your W/L ratio isn't, and shouldn't be, the goal. What you really should be aiming for is learning. When Street Fighter IV came out, I was very hot-to-trot for some online play. I remembered dominating at SFII in grade school, all the hours I sunk into collecting every ending in Alpha 3 on the PS1, the times I used to rush through Marvel Super Heroes on one quarter in the arcade. I thought I was good at fighting games, and was looking forward to a chance to prove it. I swagged online like I was O'Hara from Enter the Dragon, obnoxiously breaking boards in front of Bruce Lee like it meant something. My fights ended up going about as well as his did -- Boards, and CPU opponents, don't hit back like the real deal. [embed]292757:58670:0[/embed] I'll be completely honest, I almost quit playing fighting games at that point. Nobody likes to lose, especially when you're losing at something that used to be a point of pride for yourself. Thankfully, despite its rough and tumble exterior, the fighting game community actually has a great attitude about these things. EVERYBODY loses. It's what you take away from those losses and how you come back from them that defines you as a player. Shortly after SFIV came out, I was introduced to David Sirlin's Playing to Win, a book that is all about the philosophy of fighting games and is as close to a bible for the fighting game community that exists. I remember when I first read it I distinctly thought “this guy is an asshole.” Playing to Win can be a very abrasive read if you come from a background of playing fighting games for fun. If you ever thought your next door neighbor was cheap for constantly sweeping in Mortal Kombat 2, or angrily called someone a “spammer” for repeatedly tossing out fireballs from across the screen, or think there is such as thing as too many throws in one round (a philosophy I can no longer recognize except in direct reverse), Sirlin's opinions will probably rub you the wrong way. These self-imposed rules and ideas about how the game should be played are the foundation for what he considers a “scrub mentality,” a mental framework that will always limit how far you can go in fighting games, and ultimately, how much joy you can derive from them. Embarrassingly, I saw a lot of that “scrub mentality” in myself. The way I'd get angry at “coward” Guile players for tossing endless sonic booms, or frustrated with people constantly choosing the blatantly over-powered emperor of Muay Thai, Sagat, for easy wins. But when you stop looking at what other players are doing as “cheap,” and start looking at your losses as learning experiences rather than straight out defeats, a lot of that frustration evaporates. It takes real effort and time, but when you internalize that outlook, fighting games become less stressful, more enjoyable, and infinitely more beautiful. Of course people are going to throw sonic booms as Guile, he's a machine made by the Air Force to do exactly that. It may be true that Sagat (or whatever character) is over-powered and easier to win with and disproportionally popular as a result, but how can you blame people for making a choice that will tip the odds in their favor? You have that choice and opportunity too, and if you decide to stick with a different character you'll just have to make peace with the fact that you'll run into tough matches and try and develop a strategy to deal with them. You can either get frustrated, stomp around, and quit/uninstall the game forever, or you can thicken your skin. Learn how to roll with the punches, and take something away from the mistake. Either figure out ways to avoid it in the future, or come to peace with the idea that sometimes things are out of your control. These are not new concepts, ideally we should always be trying to find the positive side to a set-back or learn from a mistake. But to me, at least, nothing else crystallizes the idea of learning from a loss into a rock hard truth than pitiless rougelikes and fighting games. And after spending so many years immersed in both genres, I like to think that I've been able to take those lessons and apply them to other areas of my life. It's not always easy, and I won't claim to be some kind of Zen master who never gets frustrated, but I know I'm definitely a more patient person now than I was five years ago.
Learning from failure photo
Learning from my (many) failures
The last few years of games for me have been all about defeat. Constant, unending, expected defeat. I think I'm better for it. It wasn't always like that. In fact, for most of my life, games have been all about completion, vi...

Binding of Isaac: Rebirth photo
Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

Edmund McMillen wants to improve The Lost in The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

Plus some new Afterbirth content
May 05
// Ben Davis
In this week's update for The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, Edmund McMillen publicly acknowledged the existence of the super secret character, The Lost, and announced that he'd like to alter the character in a way that would bal...
Isaac Eternal Edition photo
Isaac Eternal Edition

Binding of Isaac: Eternal Edition update is a free helping of torment

The Devil's in the patch notes
May 03
// Nic Rowen
A free update for the original Binding of Isaac has been released today for anyone who has the Wrath of the Lamb expansion. The new Eternal Edition will let you relive all of the glory of the original game's choppy flash base...
The Binding of Isaac photo
The Binding of Isaac

Check out The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth on the Wii U GamePad

23 glorious seconds
Apr 29
// Zack Furniss
When The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth came out last November, I got sucked back into the dark, dank basement full of doo-doo for a good two months. This video of Isaac on a Wii U GamePad is enough to get me thirs...
Afterbirth update photo
Afterbirth update

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth expansion to feature new transformations, ruin my life

Norman Bates chic
Apr 28
// Nic Rowen
Well I'm doomed. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth expansion, Afterbirth, is going to include a whopping eight new transformations to discover, experiment with, and obsess over. I'm already addicted to transforming into Guppy the...

Faith in gaming: The influence of Christianity in videogames

Mar 29 // Ben Davis
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron My favorite game to tackle Judeo-Christian themes is definitely El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. The story is inspired by the Book of Enoch, and follows Enoch on his quest to find the fallen angels and prevent a great flood from destroying mankind. He is aided by four Archangels (Uriel, Raphael, Gabriel, and Michael), as well as Lucifel, who is commanded by God and is constantly communicating with him via cellphone. El Shaddai is all about style, and it really showcases the beauty of religion through its story, music, and artwork. Much of the soundtrack consists of choir vocals and heavenly melodies; it's one of the best videogame soundtracks I've heard. The artwork is equally beautiful, with surreal, heaven-like landscapes and breathtaking stained glass-inspired visuals. It's really an incredible game to experience, and I wish more games would try to tackle religious stories in a similar manner. The Bible and other religious texts contain many bizarre and exciting stories which would be perfect for videogames, and not just those cheesy Bible Adventures types of games. Shin Megami Tensei series The Shin Megami Tensei series takes inspiration from all kinds of religions and mythologies, one of the most prominent of which is Christianity. Many of the demons and personas that can be fought and/or summoned in the series are taken directly from the Bible and other Judeo-Christian sources, but given their own unique designs to fit in with the SMT universe. There's the big guys, like Satan, Lucifer, and Helel (all separate entities in SMT games); the archangels Uriel, Raphael, Gabriel, and Michael; the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, in the form of White Rider, Red Rider, Black Rider, and Pale Rider; the many spheres of the angelic hierarchy with Angel, Archangel, Principality, Power, Virtue, Dominion, and Throne; and plenty of other personalities. Many of the games contain a compendium, which allows players to learn about where these characters come from in Judeo-Christian folklore. Christianity takes a larger role in the plots of some Shin Megami Tensei games than others. In Nocturne, for example, Lucifer introduces the main character to powers known as Magatama, turning him into a Demi-Fiend. The player can choose to help Lucifer in order to learn more about his true identity, but a God-like figure known as Kagutsuchi will occasionally try to interfere and steer the player away. The final boss of Nocturne actually turns out to be Kagutsuchi himself, essentially leading player to defeating the Shin Megami Tensei universe's version of God. Sure, it's rather blasphemous, but it's all in good fun. It's clear that the series holds a deep appreciation of all religions, Christianity included, based on the character design and influences. I actually learned a lot about Judeo-Christian folklore by reading up on all the different demons and personas; it was honestly a joy to learn about each new character. Dragon Quest series One thing that always stood out to me about the Dragon Quest games was their emphasis on churches. Most of the Dragon Quest games, save for the first game and some of the spin-off titles, have featured churches which serve a very important purpose. Of course, Christianity isn't really a religion in the world of Dragon Quest. They have their own fictional religions, but it's obvious that the churches are inspired by real religions such as Christianity. The churches of Dragon Quest mainly serve as a save function. The player must make a Confession to the pastor, who will record all of the player's deeds, thus saving the game. Churches also offer Resurrection, which revives fallen allies; Benediction, which removes curses; Purification, which removes poison; and Divination, which reveals the amount of experience points necessary to reach the next level. Players will be visiting church quite often. I guess the reason this always stood out to me was because I had never seen such an obvious reference to religion in a game before playing Dragon Quest, or at least to the type of religion I grew up with. It's kind of strange, given how prominent and influential religion is in real life. I mean, there's plenty of mythological religion in videogames, like the goddesses of The Legend of Zelda and the powerful demigods of Final Fantasy. But seeing something as simple as a church in Dragon Quest, something religious that I could actually relate to, really left an impression on me. The Binding of Isaac Some may see The Binding of Isaac as an anti-Christian game. The story revolves around a boy named Isaac and his mother, who hears the voice of God telling her to kill her son, and so Isaac flees to the basement to escape his mother's wrath. It's pretty clear that the story decries the type of extremist Christians who try to use the Bible for their own personal benefit at the expense of others, but there's also an appreciation for religion there which is quite apparent when you look at all the items, enemies, and characters in the game. All of the characters are based on Biblical figures; you can play as Isaac, Magdalene, Cain, Judas, Eve, Samson, Lazarus, Azazel, and Eden (which is more of a location in the Bible, but still). Many of the bosses in the game are also based in Christianity, such as the Seven Deadly Sins, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Uriel, Gabriel, and even Satan himself. The game is also bursting with religious items. While Isaac can become demonic and powerful if he picks up certain things, many of the best items in the game are actually holy relics based in Christianity. For example, if he finds an Angel Room, he's pretty much guaranteed to get something helpful: a Guardian Angel, Holy Water, a Rosary, a Mitre, a Scapular, a Halo, a Communion Wafer, and more. Holy items usually offer protection over power, but in a game like Isaac with enemies crawling all over the place, they are extremely useful. Isaac can also find the Bible, a reusable item which grants flight, allowing him to fly over any obstacle. He can also use it against Mom to give her a taste of her own medicine, which instantly defeats her, although it will destroy Isaac himself if he tries to use it against Satan. I think The Binding of Isaac attempts to be a conversation about religion. There's nothing truly anti-Christian in the game, and in fact there's a lot of stuff in there where Christianity is helpful and comforting. But it's also not afraid to point out some of the more problematic aspects of religion as well. It's an important conversation to have, so it's nice to see videogames trying to tackle the subject. Bayonetta series Bayonetta may be about witches with stiletto guns and crazy hair-based powers, but the story also takes a lot of inspiration from Dante's Divine Comedy, which represents medieval interpretations of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, based on the views of Roman Catholicism. In the Bayonetta series, the titular heroine travels through the worlds of Purgatorio, Paradiso, and Inferno, fighting angels of the various spheres of angelical hierarchy as well as the demons of Inferno. The angels are particularly great. I love their over-the-top holy designs, complete with feathery white wings, halos, gold plating, and everything you would expect to see from the Roman Catholic version of Heaven. I also enjoy the short cinematics which introduce each new angel, indicating their names and which sphere of the hierarchy they reside in, complete with glorious hymnal music. It may seem unusual to be fighting angels, who are typically the good guys, but it's not as though the game takes itself too seriously. I don't think Christian gamers should feel weird about playing games such as Bayonetta, Shin Megami Tensei, or The Binding of Isaac, not only because these are fictional stories, but also because there is a clear sense of respect for the source material there. These aren't ham-fisted ideas shoved into a game to bash someone's personal philosophies; they're carefully researched religious references used to entertain, educate, and/or spark conversation. These were just a few, but of course there are plenty more examples of Judeo-Christian and Biblical influence in videogames. You'll see it everywhere if you're really looking for it. Games like Darksiders feature characters loosely based on religion, while other games like Dante's Inferno take religious stories a bit more literally. I would honestly like to see more prominent religious themes in videogames, as I think they can make for some really interesting storytelling. And it's not like you have to believe in a certain faith to enjoy such stories, as they usually offer universal advice in their themes. Even if the stories and characters are specific to a certain religion, the themes and lessons expressed can often apply to anyone.
Religion and videogames photo
And God said, 'Let there be games'
Religion is not something that is discussed much when talking about videogames, even though many games often feature religious themes and stories based on religious texts. It's difficult to avoid these things, since religion ...

Isaac shirts photo
Isaac shirts

Bind yourself in Isaac shirts

Show your naked crying boy pride
Mar 22
// Nic Rowen
These Binding of Isaac shirts from combine the terror of Isaac with nostalgic love for Zelda, creating something that is making me reconsider my “no game t-shit” policy. The three new shirts include a...

Binding of Isaac: 10 tips for making The Lost playthrough easier

Feb 28 // Corduroy Turtle
This character, known as 'The Lost', is a ghost. He can fly right off the bat and his stats are all pretty normal except for one tiny, little detail: he has absolutely no health. This means that not only does he die in one hit, but a bunch of the items in the game have no effect on him or will kill him if you try to use them. As you can imagine, the idea of beating the game multiple times with a character who can die from something as small as a fly was not only daunting; it was terrifying. Long story short, I did it. It wasn't easy, it wasn't fun and to be completely honest, I don't recommend it! But if you're like me and you just have to do it, I guess I have some tips for you. These by no means will guarantee your success but hopefully they'll shed a little light on the long, depressing road that lies ahead of you. 1) Do everything else first There's a ton of stuff to do in Rebirth, and almost none of it requires playing as The Lost, so focus on all of that first. Seriously. Enjoy the game. Beat the Cathedral and Sheol paths with every other character on Hard. Complete all of the challenges. Fully upgrade the shop by plopping 999 coins into the donation machine. Unlock every possible thing you can before doing this. Not only will it allow you to get comfortable with the game, but you're going to want every possible item in the mix if/when you decide to tackle this nightmare. 2) The Lost does have some advantages Wait, The Lost isn't a total piece of shit? Well, sort of. As I mentioned earlier, he can fly, which is a huge help. This allows you to grab any items you can see on-screen without worrying about spikes, pits or rocks that would normally block your path. You're going to want every bomb, key and chest you can get your hands on so this is huge. You also won't have to worry about the damaging effects of "creep," which is the poison trail that some enemies leave in their path. This also means that you can "hide" from certain enemies and attacks by hovering over rocks. This tactic is absolutely necessary for survival but just keep in mind that there are enemies that can also fly, and there are plenty of attacks that are unaffected by rocks, so you're by no means invinsible. A somewhat pleasant side effect of having no health is it grants The Lost free admittance to all Challenge Rooms. Though they can be a huge risk, Challenge Rooms can have free items inside which are always nice. Plus, if you're carring a card or pill that allows you to teleport, you can grab the free stuff and immediate get the fuck out of there without having to survive the impending battle. However, the biggest advantage The Lost has over the other characters is that he gets free Deals with the Devil. Devil Rooms will sometimes open up after boss fights and usually you have to sacrifice precious health to gain the items inside. But since The Lost literally has no health, everything is free! There are some really great Devil-exclusive items so grab what you can. Damage ups are a definite. Items that cause fear are also nice. Just be careful and remember that not all Devil items are helpful. The Razor Blade actually hurts you when activated, which will obviously kill you before you can enjoy the increased damage. The Dark Bum, who is normally a welcome addition to any run since he can spawn soul hearts, offers no help to The Lost. In fact, since there's a chance he could spawn a enemy spider instead, he's actually a huge liability. Trust me. 3) Play on Hard at all times Here's the thing: most of The Lost's items can be unlocked by beating the various end-game bosses on Normal. BUT, if you truly want to unlock every item in the game, you need to realize that one of those items is called Godhead and it requires that you beat all end-game bosses with all playable characters... on Hard. Since you definitely won't want to play as The Lost any more than you have to (trust me), you might as well knock out Hard mode right from the start. It's not as bad as you think. Playing as The Lost is already hard as fuck so you probably won't notice anyway. 4) Be wary of champion enemies Since you'll presumably be playing on Hard, champion enemies will be more common. More often than not, these guys will have more health, as well as added quirk that can really be a pain in certain situations. Dark teal enemies will explode upon death, but light blue ones release an 8-way tear shot when killed. These two version have killed me countless times so it's good to keep your eye out for them so you can act accordingly. 5) Abuse the donation machine If you followed my earlier tip of donating 999 coins to the Donation Machine, you can thank me now. Not only do fully upgraded shops offer more items to choose from, but certain extremely helpful items will only spawn in fully upgraded shops. Also, you can use the Donation Machine as an ATM when you're low on cash, as long as you have the bombs necesssary to make a withdrawl. I used this tactic so often that my savings went from 999 coins down to a measly 22 cents by the time I finally completed my Lost playthroughs. Not going to lie, I was scared. Anyway, here are a few shop-exclusive items that can help you out big time: Black Candle - A passive item that prevents/removes curses for the rest of that run. Some curses cast darkness over entire levels, hide the map, or even disguise items as question marks until you pick them up. Since these happen randomly and are always a pain in the butt, the opportunity to avoid them completely is lovely. The Candle, Red Candle - These are space bar items that can do massive damage if your aim is true. They also recharge every few seconds which means you can use them multiple times per room. They absolutely chew through bosses. Stop Watch - A passive item that slows down all enemies in every single room. Need I say more? This obviously gives you more time to react to certain attacks but also slows down and shortens the range of enemy projectiles. It's somewhat rare but one of the best items in the game. There's also a Broken Watch item that sometimes grants the same effect, but also has the chance of actually speeding up the enemies in a room. Yikes. Maybe think twice before picking that one up. Blank Card - A space bar item that mimics the effect of any card or rune you are currently holding. Though I wouldn't recommend this 100% of the time, it can be amazingly powerful under certain conditions. For example, if you're holding the Chaos Card, you now wield a throwable projectile that can kill any boss/enemy in the game immediately, and it recharges every four rooms! Insane. There's Options - This item will let you choose from two items after defeating a boss, instead of being stuck with one. This is sort of a big deal when you consider that a lot of items offered after defeating a boss are just simple health upgrades, which do nothing for The Lost. It's nice to have options. 6) Guppy items are your friend Collecting any combination of three Guppy items will cause you to transform into Guppy himself, which makes you super powerful. As Guppy, you spawn tons of blue flies as you do damage. Not only will blue flies follow you from room to room and kill enemies for you, but their damage scales to your current power level. As you get stronger, so do they. No matter who I'm playing as, I'm always fantasizing about transforming into Guppy. It's awesome. Here are the items: Dead Cat, Guppy's Collar - Extra lives! These are basically necessities when playing as The Lost. No matter how powerful or prepared you are, certain rooms or difficult bosses will take you by surprise and all it takes is one small mistake to ruin a promising run and send you back to the main menu with nothing. You'll want the insurance of a few extra lives to save your ass in a crisis. Guppy's Head - A space bar item that spawns two to four blue flies per room. It's far from being the best space bar item but if you have nothing else in that slot, it's certainly nice to have. An important sidenote is that it counts as one of the three Guppy items needed for the transformation regardless if you keep it on you or not. Just picking it up once is good enough. Nice. Guppy's Tail - Drastically increases the number of red chests you come across, thus greatly improving your chances of seeing other Guppy-related items. The Left Hand trinket does sort of the same thing. Red chests can be risky, since they can also have troll bombs or spiders inside but that's just a risk you have to take. Be prepare for anything to jump out! Guppy's Hairball - Arguable the least attractive of all the Guppy items. This lump of wet hair gets flung around your body and can damage enemies, growing in size with each kill. It's more of a distraction than anything, in my opinion but it's not totally useless. It can also sort of block projectiles sometimes. Guppy's Paw - Nope, I was wrong. This one is almost totally worthless. For a character with health, Guppy's Paw can turn one red heart into three soul hearts. Pretty cool. For the Lost, it just gets him one step closer to the Guppy transformation which I guess is just fine. Remember, just like Guppy's Head, you don't have to carry this around forever. Just pick it up and put it right back down if you want to. 7) These can make your life a lot easier Not all items in Rebirth are created equal. In fact, some are stupid good, especially when playing as The Lost. Besides the aforementioned Dead Cat which grants you with nine precious lives, here are a few items that can really take a run from "ok" to "OMG this could be the one." Brimstone - This item turns your tears into a full-screen beam that can clear entire rooms in less than a second. Sure, it needs to be charged fully before it can be shot, but you can negate that a bit by charging it before you enter a room. Plus, it passes through all obstructions which means you can just point and shoot without worrying if things like rocks are in your way. Combine this with Spoon Bender (homing tears) and, holy lord, you don't even know. Daddy Longlegs + Gnawed Leaf - Yeah, I know I said "single-handedly" earlier but if you're lucky enough to stumble upon this combo, you've won the lottery. Daddy Longlegs is really good on his own since he seeks out enemies for you and stomps the shit out of them. But combine that with the protection of Gnawed Leaf, an item that makes you invulnerable as long as you don't move, and you can basically clear rooms by doing nothing at all. I'm going to be honest with you, I've never actually gotten this combo myself, but I've read about it and I'm jealous. Holy Mantle - This passive item negates one hit per room. It doesn't seem like a lot but when that's all it takes to end a run as The Lost, it's a really big deal. I can't tell you how many times I've been hit by a boss mere seconds before I could deliver the final blow. It's heartbreaking. If you come across the Holy Mantle, thank your lucky stars. Mom's Knife - The ultimate killing machine. On its own, it's already a force to be reckoned with, but when you combine it with damage upgrades (like Polyphemus) it has no equal. It absolutely obliterates bosses and can make your life a whole lot easier. It also has the added advantage of doing damage to anything it touches without having to be shot. Obviously you don't want enemies to get that close to you, but if they do, all you gotta do is carefully poke them to death. Trinity Shield - This item protects you from enemy shots in whatever direction you aim it. It makes certain boss battles, like Mom's Heart, a lot less stressful. In all my hours of play, I've only seen it pop up twice, so don't hold your breath for this one. 8) Please don't pick these items up This feels like it should go without saying but, y'know, I'm gonna say it anyway. Certain items are what I call "run killers." Others, while not necessarily the worst thing in the world, will definitely hurt you more than help. To clarify, it's okay (recommended, actually) to pick up any and all space bar items you come across since it will remove them from the pool of items that can show up later. Plus, these can be dropped when you come along something better. What I'm referring to here are passive items which have a permanent effect on your character after being picked up. To do this properly, you're going to need to know what every item looks like, whether they are passive or not, and what their effects are. It's not easy. I've played these games for hundreds of hours and I still get Ipecac (explosive shots) and Chemical Peel (damage increase) confused from time to time. Here are some that I learned through painful trial and error to avoid completely when playing as The Lost. Ankh, Judas' Shadow, Lazarus' Rags - These items cause you to transform into another character upon death, which is bad. For example, if you die and respawn as Lazarus, then go on to complete the game, you obviously won't get credit for beating it as The Lost. Also, don't quote me on this, but I think they can even take priority over the 9-lives item, meaning you would transform into another character and be stuck as them before you start dipping into your extra lives. Bad news. Basically, they offer absolutely no advantage to The Lost so don't pick them up! Ipecac, Fire Mind, Dr. Fetus, Bob's Brain - These are items that change your tears into explosives, or in the case of Fire Mind, cause random explosions. Explosions are powerful but incredibly dangerous. Seeing as how the game is already hard enough when playing as The Lost, why add the constant threat of blowing yourself up? Take my advice and ignore these items. The ONLY situation in which it might be okay to pick one of these up is if you luck out and pick up Pyromaniac beforehand, which makes you immune to explosive damage. Even still, explosions push your character around and could possibly push you into something that could hurt you so,... just don't pick them up. Eve's Mascara, Ludovico Technique, Number One, Soy Milk, Strange Attractor, Tiny Planet - Maybe I shouldn't be lumping these tear modifiers all together but they've all single-handedly ruined decent runs for me in the past. The problem with these items is the disadvantages outweigh any advantages they might offer. Eve's Mascara, for example, increases damage, but slows down your tears so much that it's hard to hit anything. Same with Ludovico Technique, which gives you one massive tear that you can steer around on its own, but very slowly. Tiny Planet is just a total disaster of an item, and Strange Attractor actually makes your tears magnetic, which is terrifying. Maybe you don't hate these as much as I do but you have been warned. Pick these up at your own risk. Bucket of Lard, Tarus - These items reduce your movement speed. Not a great idea since you want to be able to dodge attacks as quickly as possible. Even though Tarus can grant you a few seconds of invincibility after a certain amount of time, it's just not worth the overall decrease in speed. Leo, Thunder Thighs - These items grant you the ability to crush rocks, pots and mushrooms that you come in contact with. Usually, this is a really handy, but as The Lost, this actually removes the ability to hide within those items to avoid damage. On top of that, bomb rocks and some mushrooms can actually cause immediate damage, which will end your run. Not smart. Guillotine, Isaac's Heart - To be completely honest, I avoid these items no matter who I'm playing as. The Guillotine causes your characters head to float around their body, which can make it hard to aim your tears accurately, and also makes it sort of difficult to keep track of where your body is exactly. It's weird. Isaac's Heart makes your character immune to damage (cool...?) but forces you to protect a heart familiar that follows you around. Anything that touches the heart will do damage to you, which will kill The Lost immediately. Definitely not cool. 9) Take your time This is probably the most important piece of advice I can give you, besides #10 I suppose. There is no reason to rush so make sure you're taking your time when you play as The Lost. Be patient. Wait for openings. Don't just bum rush everything and hope for the best. I had plenty of promising runs get cut short because I stopped paying attention to the little things and got careless. If you're going to do this thing, you need to be focused the whole time. 10) Don't die Hahaha, yeah, that's not going to happen. You're going to die A LOT. Over and over. It'll feel like there's no hope. Just keep in mind that all it takes is one good run. Well, two if you want to get technical about it. No matter how badly you just did or how close you got, victory could be just around the corner. I had no idea when I picked up Sagittarius (piercing tears) in the first floor of the basement, after hundreds of attempts, that I would be claiming victory in the Dark Room less than an hour later. You really never know. Maybe this collection of tips will help you capture the elusive Godhead item and you too can feel the immense sense of relief wash over you as you realize you'll never have to play as The Lost ever again... ...until Afterbirth comes out, that is. Fuck.
Promoted blog photo
It's still really f*cking hard, though
[Dtoid community blogger Corduroy Turtle offers some strategies for achieving 100% completion in The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. What a guy! --Mr Andy Dixon] The concept of difficulty is likely different for everyone. Personal...

Binding of Isaac DLC photo
Binding of Isaac DLC

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth DLC coming this year

Get ready for the Afterbirth
Feb 13
// Ben Davis
Edmund McMillen announced some new details today about the upcoming DLC for The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, aptly titled Afterbirth. It looks like it's going to be a HUGE expansion with tons of new content, which Edmund says, ...
Binding of Isaac photo
Binding of Isaac

OG Binding of Isaac getting DLC love

Don't go cryin' to your mama
Feb 04
// Robert Summa
I'm not going to lie to you, I've never played the original Binding of Isaac. Hell, I didn't even know there was one separate from The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth that has gotten extensive playtime on my Vita. Well, for those ...
More Binding of Isaac photo
More Binding of Isaac

Fan ideas will make it into The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth's expansion

A new mode will 'almost double the amount of things you can do'
Nov 25
// Jordan Devore
As a fan of The Binding of Isaac, I had lofty expectations for Rebirth and it more than delivered. Problem is, I don't have enough time to play it (and make any real headway). And now there's more content on the way. Like the...
Binding of Isaac photo
Who beats off on paper? Werewolves. That's who.
Max and I started playing The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth because it's a good-ass game, and we like to do gaming. Max has actually never played any iteration of Binding of Isaac before, so I let him go first, knowing that I'd only have to wait a few minutes before my turn.

Team Meat photo
Team Meat

Team Meat and Rebirth dev talk about the woes of fans datamining The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

All the secrets have been ruined
Nov 13
// Chris Carter
Recently on a stream called Vinesauce, Edmund McMillen and Tyrone Rodriguez, the original creator of The Binding of Isaac and the guy who lead the Rebirth project respectively talked about datamining. In short, most of t...

Review: The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

Nov 11 // Nic Rowen
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth (PC [reviewed], PS4, Vita)Developer: Nicalis Inc, Edmund McMillenPublisher: Nicalis, IncReleased: November 4, 2014MSRP:$14.99 Everything about Binding of Isaac is crazy and feels like it somehow shouldn't exist. But it does, and there is a kind of naughty thrill in that, like getting away with a rude joke at the dinner table. For those unfamiliar with the original, Isaac is a roguelike twin-stick shooter/dungeon crawler where you play as a small naked boy named Isaac, whose mother, believing she has heard the commanding voice of God, is trying to kill him. He desperately flees into the basement where he encounters deadly insects, mutated siblings, and every sort of grotesquery you could care to imagine. He fights them with his tears. Yup. Every run is a new experience, a single chance at heaven or hell. If you die, it's back to scratch. The game is deeply mysterious, featuring no fewer than 16 different ending, at least 8 unlockable alternate characters, 4 bonus levels, and literally hundreds of items to discover, unlock, and experiment with. It's a deep, dark rabbit hole and if you have any kind of completionist streak it will ruin your life (take it from me). Isaac may present itself in the familiar sheep's clothes of a Zelda clone, a fun romp through some old-school top-down action, but that's just the skin-suit pulled tight around the beast. At its heart, Isaac is its own twisted, beautiful monster. The most notable difference between Rebirth and the original Isaac is the shiny new engine and graphical overhaul. The original was made in Flash, giving the game a distinctly smooth and cartoony look, and with no shortage of technical problems to boot. Rebirth ditches Flash (and thankfully all of the bugs and glitches associated with it), dropping the smooth lines for a more detailed, SNES-era pixelated look. More importantly than the faux 16-bit trappings, the new engine allows for a smoother and more stable experience. Where the frame rate of the original would drop through floor like a bowling ball when too many shots or enemies got on the screen, that's no longer an issue. Rebirth runs at a flawless 60 FPS come hell or high water. With the smoother graphics come some gameplay changes. Rebirth is a much more shooty (to use my highly technical vocabulary) game than fans might be used to. The dependable frame rate allows for much more intense fights than the original ever dared to attempt, veering into bullet hell shmup territory on occasion. All of the new bosses introduced in Rebirth (and there are a lot of them) are much faster and aggressive than the old guard, and some of the returning enemies, particularly the final bosses, have been overhauled to be FAR more trigger happy than they used to be. I never thought I'd be happy to run into the likes of Loki or Peep, but I'll take them any day over the new recruits in Satan's army. Thankfully, bullet hell is a knife that cuts both ways. Rebirth does not shy away from crazy item combinations that completely break the game. At one point I had a fully upgraded rate of fire with floating anti-gravity tears mixed with ricocheting rubber cement and a boomerang effect. I would step into a room, hold down the fire button for about a second or two, let go, and watch the entire room be enveloped in tears and instantly eradicate everything. The game might have gotten more difficult, but there are also more items to help turn it around. Along with the other technical advancements, there is more variety in the shape and size of the dungeon chambers in Rebirth. Rooms are no longer limited to the single screen rectangular format they used to be. You will come across long hallways rigged with traps, huge arenas filled with enemies, big multi-screen affairs that will scroll along with Isaac's movement. These massive rooms have hosted some of the most intense moments I've had with Rebirth, the added space allowing for multiple mini-boss battles or elaborate traps. Rebirth includes a small, but delightful, two-player mode. At any time player two can join in as a tiny, floating ghost baby at the cost of one of player-one's heart containers. Ghost baby is definitely second fiddle, unable to plant bombs, walk through doors, or pick up items (no cheating and grabbing something from across a gap), but he will benefit from whatever kind of shot upgrade Isaac has collected. It won't become the new way to play Binding of Isaac any time soon, but having a wingman is loads more fun than it has any right to be. Rounding out the new additions are a few quality of life tweaks. Control pads are now supported on the PC version, and work perfectly fine if that's your preferred style. You can choose between “Normal” and “Hard” modes now, letting you somewhat regulate what brand of insanity you're looking for. Hard mode, of course, hides its own set of exclusive items and enemies, so anyone looking to collect all the goodies should prepare to suffer for the compulsion. Rebirth graciously now allows you to quit mid-way and return later, instead of holding you hostage to a good run. (“I'm going to be late but I have fully powered tears and twelve heart containers! I mean, the divorce rate around here is like 55%, so I can probably get another shot at being my brother's best man, right?”). It is potentially a life-saving addition for the truly possessed. Rebirth surfaces the randomized “seed” of each run, a small series of numbers you can input to generate the same map/item pick-ups. You can replay particularly great runs, near misses, or swap favorable map layouts with friends. This is a shockingly generous addition that seems to run counter to much of the game's otherwise unforgiving and hard-nose posture. It seems so out of place that the idea rankled me. I respect the purity of the one-chance, perma-death run. Watering it down with de facto do-overs cheapened the experience for me faster than fall of the Berlin Wall devalued the Soviet Ruble. As an addict of the first game, my favorite enhancement is also the least consequential, Rebirth is able to visually stack multiple items on Isaac with fewer conflicts than before. It may seem silly, but watching Isaac's strange transformation from a tiny naked boy to a pustulating, winged, blood trailing monster, or failed Siamese twin with a chemical burn, or lipstick wearing cyclops being followed around by the floating head of his dead cat, or whatever, is one of the greatest pleasures in the game to me. My heart always broke a tiny little bit when one item would overwrite another, or just not appear at all. I love just about everything about Rebirth and (if you couldn't already tell) I can't recommend the game enough. But I feel like I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the poop. There is a lot of poop in this game, a lot of tasteless dead baby jokes, gross out gags, and weird Christian imagery, all of which might rub some people the wrong way. Personally, I don't mind that stuff and I think the game earns some of it's nastiness (the very core of Isaac is a sad story of child abuse as seen through the eyes of the child experiencing it after all, it's going to be horrifying and juvenile), rather than just being gross for grossness sake. Still, it's going to be a deal breaker for some people. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is hands down the best version of Isaac. It improves upon the original, a fantastic game in its own right, in every conceivable way. If you haven't played Isaac yet, this is the version to get. If you are a fan of the original, these are so many new items, enemies, and experiences to be found in Rebirth that it feels far more like a sequel than a remake. Rebirth is an incredible experience that can't be missed. Descend into the basement, lock the trapdoor behind you, and don't look back.
Rebirth Review photo
The best game you'll ever play about washing poop out of a basement with your tears
In 2011, I lost a chunk of my life. An insidious tendril of addiction, despair, and obsession caught me by the ankle and dragged me into the The Binding of Isaac's darkened basement. I lost dozens of hours, whole days at a ti...

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