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Rogue-lites: The Binding of Isaac

Elie Gould explores the basements and monsters of The Binding of Isaac. Looking at what part of this cult classic stood out to her.

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Image Credit: Screenshot, The Binding of Isaac.

The Binding of Isaac was not only the first rogue-lite I played all the way back in 2011 but one of the first games I purchased on Steam altogether.

In the game, you play as a young boy named Isaac who has been forced into the maze-like basement as you run away from your mother. A mother, who is trying to sacrifice you to what she believes to be the voice of God. If the story sounds strangely familiar, then you have a good eye! It’s loosely based upon the biblical story of Abraham sacrificing his only son to God, which can be found in the book of Genesis.

As you crawl through the many levels and rooms of the basement, you confront loads of different grotesque enemies. There are flies, zombies, and fleshy creatures behind more or less every door. After battles, some restore your health, give you power-ups or bombs that can be used to find more items or fight in boss battles. However, this is not the case for every fight. Although frustrating at first, I did enjoy this mechanic; you had to weigh up every door before you knew what you were getting yourself into. Was this prospective fight really worth risking health that could be useful in the final boss battle for that level? For me, this elevated The Binding of Isaac, from your everyday spam hit video game to one that actually made you think about your actions.

Grotesque enemies are one thing, but throughout the game, with the help of various depressing items, you can alter the look of Isaac. You can deform him with injections for power-ups or by using something like his mother’s lipstick on him. Some of this is helpful for your progression through the game, but most of it is just funny, which does help to make you more attached to Isaac.

Much like the alternative style of dress in the game, Isaac also has a unique, funny, and pretty pathetic style of fighting. Isaac is not particularly strong and so has a crummy defence; after all, he is only a child. To account for this lack of defence, you as the player must learn to move quickly and avoid attacks well. I found myself confronting bosses and many of the other enemies in the game at arm’s length, with a lot of hiding and retreating. At times this could be irritating, especially as I am a player who prefers to hit my enemies in games head-on. However, once you get used to this sort of style, it’s pretty entertaining, if not only for the way it keeps you on your toes.

Another great aspect of the fighting style in the game is Isaac’s attack. The way to defeat enemies is to fire tears at them. Again this is a pretty redundant feature, but it still stood out to me and made me laugh when I first realised the detail.

Overall, the controls are simple, and the aim is straightforward. I would say it’s a classic, and very affordable at £3.99 on Steam. It’s a great way to get into gaming and an even better way to waste a couple of hours and avoid doing some work!

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