The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth drips with fun

Daniel Garcia
Opinions Editor

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is a game I have been excited for since it was first announced. The remake of the surprise 2012 indie PC hit The Binding of Isaac, it both reached and soared above my expectations.

Created by notable indie developer Edmund McMillen and programmer Florian Himsl, the original Binding of Isaac was one of my favorite titles from 2012. However, Edmund voiced multiple times his dissatisfaction with the original game, and working with indie development team Nicalis, the result was the new and improved remake, Rebirth.

Comparing Rebirth to the original game is like comparing a piece of stale bread to a chocolate chip cookie. Rebirth is an improvement in every single way. The remake features more or less the same plot as the original. The story of the game is simple: a young boy named Isaac lives with his mother. One day, Isaac’s mother hears what she believes to be the voice of God, telling her that her son has been corrupted by sin and must be “saved”. She unthinkingly complies, removing all of Isaac’s possessions from the house (including all of his clothes) and eventually locks him in his bedroom.

However, the voice of God tells Isaac’s mother she must prove her faith, and demands a sacrifice. The voice orders her to kill her son, and she prepares to comply. Isaac, seeing this from a hole in his door, scrambles into the basement trapdoor to escape his mother, venturing into the darkness below.

This is where the game starts, and it is obvious from the synopsis the game’s story, setting, and tone is very dark and disturbing. This is a make it or break it factor to the game; there is an immense amount of twisted and demented materiel shown in the game, from boss and enemy design to the basic concept.

Much of the game is filled with the blackest humor imaginable, as all of these disturbing subjects are drawn in a cute, almost chibi-like art style. However, for a number of players, it is entirely possible the tone will be too much for some to handle, so know what you are getting into before playing.

The basic gameplay is a genre called “rogue-like”. Essentially, you travel through multiple floors filled with enemies and items. Each floor contains a number of rooms, and you must find the boss room and defeat it to move to the next floor. Along the way, you will find many power ups and items to aid you, all of which stack onto each other.

In addition to passive items, you can carry one active item (used with the space bar) to help you, along with cards and pills that add temporary effects to help you. Or hinder you, if you are unlucky.

What makes this game so addictive to is the randomness of the gameplay. Each playthrough will be different, as you receive a different map layout and get different items, and fight different bosses. There are also plenty of unlocks, such as new characters to play as, and new items and enemies. This results in a game with incredible replay value.

The music in the game is also fantastic. Nicalis developed a brand new soundtrack for Rebirth, replacing the already great soundtrack from the first game. Each track delivers a creepy and dark sound to it, and it is fantastic. A large amount of the music is atmospheric and not easy to hum, but some are ear meltingly addictive. The sound design doesn’t quite top something like Hotline Miami (my personal standard for music and sound design) but it is still laudable.

It is also worth pointing out the religious themes in this game. Religion forms a large part of this game’s story and setting, with many biblical references being presented in items. While I cannot speak for others, I personally never found the religious themes to be insensitive. However, it could be seen as a bit offensive to some, so it is worth stressing this game is not for those with weak stomachs.

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is a fantastic game, and an improvement over the original in virtually every way. Even for those who did not like the original game, I would recommend trying out Rebirth. It is an addicting game that I foresee myself playing for a long time to come.