The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, Review - Games Weekly

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Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, Review

Edmund McMillen has a flair for transforming disgust into delight. The indie designer made one of the few games to fill me with genuine Xbox envy in 2010’s Super Meat Boy; a title which somehow made an oozing sentient steak a platforming icon.

Yet that bleeding, super jumpy ribeye isn’t even close to as vom-worthy as the procession of putrid sights you endure in this adorably sickening 2D dungeon crawler. Rivers of poop and tumour monsters don’t get more appealing than this.

The real genius that sits at the centre of Isaac’s worryingly moreish core comes with its wonderful procedurally generated nature. Hunted by his momma at the behest of the Big Man Upstairs, the naked nipper of the title must descend through ten increasingly stomach-churning layers of his basement. Of course, the real number lies closer to infinity, as a random level generator means no two playthroughs ever incorporate quite the same layouts.

Enemies, room patterns and bosses are all mixed up and morphed to create a constantly fresh experience that’s impossible to second guess. Expecting a spike pit full of petrified turds in that third stage opener? Here, have a room full of vomiting coffins. With a constantly changing carousel of monstrosities, complacency never sets in.

Not only does this structure obliterate boredom, it means the game can cycle through dozens of random power ups that boast incredible imagination. Swig Jesus Juice to increase the range of Isaac’s tear projectiles. Adorn a Juicy *ugh* Sack to trap monsters in a sticky residue. Pop on Mom’s Bra to temporarily freeze foes. A mite more interesting than an HP heart, huh?

Master Bind
Really, there’s very little to fault. Alright, if you suffer from cack-handedness the steep difficulty may be off-putting you have to complete a run of the game in a single sitting.

Yet such is the quality of the disarming art, the forever-fresh challenge and the breathless depravity of monsters (such as a boss that uses its unborn twin and an umbilical cord as a weapon), Isaac is hard to resist. A disgustingly good time.

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