So, the makers of Super Meat Boy, Team Meat, apparently have an old school Nintendo Fetish of the worst kind. First you have Super Meat Boy, which has vague connotations of Super Mario Brothers. Though the reality is the name is all it really has in common with Super Mario Brothers, that and being a side scrolling platform game. The Binding of Isaac is sort of like this, only with The Legend of Zelda. It sort of has the same cadence and style in name and shares a lot of game play style.
The reality is, other than the basic interface design, The Binding of Isaac shares very little with The Legend of Zelda. The presentation is similar but the game itself is a rogue-like. This game’s primary gimmick, and the source of it’s possible lone flaw, is it’s randomness. It can be extremely cruel at times. The ability to complete the higher levels tends to be closely associated with the items and upgrades you find. These upgrades tend to be pretty random and are also often dependent on if you have enough coins to buy them. This can lead to some rounds where you manage to become an overpowered juggernaut and others where you’re essentially the same guy on Level 3 as you started out.
Assuming you can even make it to level 3 without upgrades. There is also the problem of keeping yourself alive in this random mess. Some rounds, enemies will almost always drop hearts and coins, others you’ll get nothing. There does seem to be some level of algorithm in place to keep things fair, it just could use a bit of tweaking. The game does do a pretty good job of keeping the earlier enemies easier and the later enemies more difficult.
It also is surprisingly not as frustrating as it seems like it should be. This was a trait shared by Super Meat Boy. It also becomes easier as you become accustomed to how the enemies act and move. Now, granted it does start to shove curveballs at you like nobody’s business later in the game, like having the laser blasting aliens with small corridors to navigate, and swarms of flying spitting creatures in a room full or rocks.
Despite the frustration, the gameplay is pretty solid, and decent.
The real likely turn off to some people is the game’s somewhat grotesque nature and it’s somewhat mocking of religion gameplay. The Binding of Isaac is a story from the Bible where God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. The basic plot of the story is that Isaac’s mother is told by a mysterious voice that her son has become corrupted and he must be taught humility, or something along those lines. There are numerous references to biblical elements. This is mixed in with what is essentially a horror house of bloody enemies often based on bodily organs. Often enemies spew blood pellets or drop piles of shit on the floor. It’s generally something that people who have a more sensitive disposition will probably find offensive.
This game has one final really great point going for it, it’s cheap. It’s almost like some sort of experiment in marketing but the game is only $5, which is hard to pass up. It’s frustrating as hell but it’s fun enough that it’ll keep you coming back, assuming you’re not turned off by the slightly disturbing imagery involved.
The Binding of Isaac is available on Steam here.