The Binding of Isaac Rebirth Review!
One of my favorite games in 2011 was Binding of Isaac. This top down isometric rogue like dungeon crawler was my first real introduction to rogue-like games, and I can safely say that despite the fact the game constantly kicked my ass, and still does to this day, I always go back to it to take another stab at it. When Rebirth was first announced I kept my eye on it, but it somehow snuck past me and only recently was I reminded that it was out. The first question that came to my mind was seeing as I owned the original game with the DLC, which could be bought for under $10, is paying $15 for a remake worth the price of admission.
That answer is yes. Emphatically yes.
(It’s just… so.. happy!)
For those unaware, Binding of Isaac puts you in the role of Isaac, who’s mother recently started hearing the word of God. First, she took everything he owned away, clothing included. Then, she locked him in his room, and finally, God has asked her to kill Isaac to prove her love for the lord. In fear for his life, Isaac jumps into the basement trying to flee from mother, but who knows what dark secrets lurk below? Armed with nothing but your tears and whatever objects you can find in the basement, You only have one goal, survive until the end of each floor, killing some grotesque creatures along the way, until the final battle with mom. But once you beat it, the game continues with even more bosses and even more floors than before on later play through’s.
That’s Isaac’s greatest strength in general. When you first start playing the game, it seems fairly straight forward, but the more you play and do, the more things you unlock. New characters, bosses, more floors, more items, it all gets added the more you play. It’s insane how much is packed away in this game, and that was back in the limited Flash based game. Now, thanks to it stepping away from that medium, a huge amount of additions both in unlockables and technical fixes have been put in. That might be the bigger misnomer here, Rebirth is not just a remake, nor is it a port, it’s a completely overhauled redesign of the game from the ground up. Not only are you getting a new engine which runs smoother overall, you’re getting everything from the original and it’s DLC Wrath of lamb, you also get so much more content because the limitations of flash are no longer there. You can restart progress at a later time if you have to quit. Textures can either have a 16 bit appearance or a smoother look. Shadows and attack effects look much better. Not only are there new monsters added, but there are new versions of older monsters. There is a challenge mode, a harder difficulty with its own set of rare items otherwise not obtainable otherwise for veterans of the original. Two player co-op is possible (although limited to couch local multiplayer only), rooms are not only randomly generated like before, there are new types of rooms, including ones of different sizes that make fighting easier or harder, again thanks to that random nature the genre is known for. Balancing issues have been addressed, and I can safely say from my time playing it that it feels much better, making it more about skill and not necessarily about what items you have, which can be a problem in the original version. The most interesting addition though is known as Seed codes, which when used set up specific room/ boss/ item layouts, and is also a way to input special versions of challenge runs, which could be fun for die hard players, or even encourage some competition between friends as they race through a predetermined seed variation. There is so much here that it makes it worth your while, even as a previous owner of the original.
Not everything is better though, if I’m being honest. There is a luck factor in the game, and while skill does trump items, there is no denying that certain item combinations will tear through the game, so if a friend breezes through the game easy when you have trouble, that’s just how it goes sometimes. This is also a strange point to bring up, but there is just so many items to unlock and no real way to know what does what (especially with the more vague power ups) that you may need a wiki to keep track of it all. And I’m torn about the visual design choices. I think the opening intro movie, for example, looks terrible in its 16 bit form, and turning the smooth filter on does not change it. I actually don’t like the 16 bit aesthetic in general, I find the flash version to be better looking, but the filter does fix a lot of my problems with it, and the game play additions and fixes more than make up for it. I just find the 16 bit design was a throwback to the developers wanting to make this a 3ds game, when Nintendo was never going to let that happen. On a big screen it looks a little weird is my point. It’s also worth mentioning that the controls on the Vita version are bad. They are mapped by default to use the touch screen for things like pills and tarot cards, which is not easy to do in the thick of things. Thankfully, all versions of the game allow you to rebind any key you want, making it less of a problem.
(The HUD is a little different, but it still works fine)
The bottom line is that I was on the fence for the game. I needed a way to play it without paying for it first. I had intended to just bite the bullet, but salvation came, in the form of Play station plus. Oddly, the game, despite only being released the day of Nov. 4th, is free for ps+ subscribers on PS4 and Vita. That’s a great thing for the all the non-PC gamers who missed out in 2011.You can sync your save files between Vita and PS4 versions, which is a great feature Nintendo needs to take greater advantage of. I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough new here that would entice veterans to return, but thankfully I was woefully mistaken. Rebirth is a fantastic title, and is defiantly worth the price tag of $15 that comes with it. It’s even better when it’s free though. I highly recommend this game, even if you have the original. It is the definitive version to own. If nothing else, it’s a great way to kill time on the go, or at home while waiting for the next big game to drop. I know until Warlords of Draenor drops at least, I get to devote a lot of time to Rebirth, and I hope you do the same.