Indie Play: The Binding of Isaac Review
Every once in a while I’ll come across an indie title that makes me think. It lacks the exciting game play but it tells a story that gets to me and sticks for days after. The binding of Isaac is not that game, the Binding of Isaac is the only indie game I’ve found that managed to make me think and care about a character while also giving me a proper gaming experience worth spending hours with.
The story of Abraham from the bible is about a man (Abraham) who is told by god to sacrifice his son Isaac. The man takes his son to the top of a mountain and just as he raises the knife god shouts down to stop. God tells Abraham that because he was willing to do this it proves Abraham trusts god completely and he may keep his son.
The Binding of Isaac follows this story in a more modern retelling. A woman hears a voice from god telling her that her son is corrupted. She removes all of his toys, clothes, everything and locks him up in his room. She is then told that she needs to sacrifice him to god. Hearing this through his bedroom door Isaac panics and jumps into the basement to begin his journey.
This is where the game starts. If you ever played the original Zelda for the NES then you know exactly what you’re doing game play wise. You go from room to room clearing out enemies and finding special weapons and items. Once you have cleared out every room there is a boos door, go in, kill the boss and then find a hatch leading further and further into the basement.
The most important part of this game is that it’s all randomly generated. Every time you start up the game you need to start from the first floor of the basement in a completely new layout. If you lose your life, same deal, this game isn’t fucking around. The all over the place room and enemy spawns means you really don’t have any idea of what may be coming. Each enemy has a pattern and adapting to that on such a short notice can really mess you up.
But that’s where the balancing system works out! If you’re doing completely rubbish at the game there’s a bigger chance of getting an item spawned that may very well save your life. If you’re doing really well, it makes these harder to come by. The game adapts to how well you’re doing so no matter who you are the adventure can be a fun one. Throw in the fact that everything you unlock in one game gets saved and thrown into the next means that multiple plays reward you for sticking at it.
The part that sticks with me is also what confuses me most. As you play through the game every enemy looks like a deformed version of Isaac. Isaac’s projectiles are his tears and some enemies even cry and run from you as if ashamed of themselves. Looking at the game from the outside just makes it look like a fun, pretty game with good game play. But what I’ve taken from it (and don’t believe this to be true to what the creators wanted you to think about it) is that we’re playing Isaacs journey through his own personal hell.
In the original story it all focused on Abraham, but if you were to look at it from Isaac’s point of view then being young and thrown into that situation, it’ll mess you up. Just the fact that Abraham would raise the knife to Isaac would essentially be the death of him; regardless of the fact he got to live, the one person who was meant to look after and love him in this world was ready to kill. This would cause Isaac to see himself as worthless. Isaac would hate himself and that’s what I think this game is exploring personally.
A young boy is mistreated by his mother and the effects of that cause him to be so distraught that he hates himself because of it; if she can’t love him, who else would. The Binding of Isaac is honestly one of the best games I’ve played in months. It’s fun, thoughtful and has a brilliant art style. For £4 on the Steam store there shouldn’t be any reason to NOT buy it.