Monday, December 22, 2014

3 days of...Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

A Lesson in great Design

I have had my eye on Binding of Isaac for quite some time, being a fan of roguelikes. I played the original version a while ago and fell in love with the concept. The way that Edmund McMillan integrates the Biblical mythos in a way that is both coherent and creepy. Not many games can pull that off so obviously, and even though it may be offensive to some modern day Christians, I still find it a refreshing departure from the revisiting of greco-roman mythology that invades the market these days.

However, I want to talk more about the design of the game. It is done in a way that is reminiscent of Legend of Zelda two-dimensional dungeon crawling. Each room has its own dedicated screen and the screen moves as you move between rooms. The combat is a mixture of bullet-hell and top-down shooting mechanics. There are power ups, boss fights, and secret rooms. Everything that makes up the standard dungeon crawler.

The real treat though is that the randomized synergies between weapons and items are just in-depth enough to both keep old-time fans coming back, and amaze newcomers alike. There was one run through the game recently that I had floating, piercing, explosive tears (the bullets the characters use) that expanded while they were mid-air. This is just one run and I guarantee I will never have another like it.

These synergies keep you coming back over and over to see how you can combine items or break the game every time. The excitement that you may over the course of 45 minutes become so powerful you can kill anything with your sweep of bullets is so strong that the fight to get there is worth it. And that's basically what the game boils down to. The fight to become overpowered.

Due to random chance and the game generating seeds though that isn't always possible. It doesn't keep you from turning around and trying again to crawl your way ever closer to being "carried" through the game by the right combinations of items. This feeling is one of the reasons I kept coming back to Binding of Isaac. It's strangeand addictive, and even when you're losing, very very fun.

The rest of the game has the same theological feel of the first Binding of Isaac game, something I enjoyed immensely. The current remake is 3 times the price, and after playing it for some time, I have to say the added items, characters, and the improved efficiency make the price tag worth it. If you're a fan of rogue-likes then this game is a definite must-play. It even has a multiplayer element if you don't want to shell out the money to check it out.

You'll like Binding of Isaac Rebirth if: You enjoy bullet-hell style shooters and want an infinitely variable game that never shows the same iteration twice.

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