Revisiting Your Nightmares in The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
"Take now thy son...and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains..." So, this is the kind of thing that we were confronted with when we first experienced The Binding of Isaac in 2011. It's pretty grim to say the last and according to the Old Testament, this is what the Supreme Being once asked of poor Abraham.
Child sacrifice is hardly the sort of thing you'd imagine being made into a video game, or any kind of narrative art form really, but Edmund McMillen of Team Meat and Florian Himsl have done it, and the result is a game that has a lot in common with the God of the Old Testament – it's totally random, highly creative and brutally unforgiving.
But of course, those of you that have experienced the game before will know this already, therefore this review will be more tailored towards what you can expect in the Rebirth version of The Binding of Isaac. For those of you that weren't too keen on buying this strange title, you're in luck tomorrow. Those of you signed up to Playstation Plus will be gifted this disturbing game as part of the November package according to IGN.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the new features in The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth!
New Features in The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
At its heart, The Binding of Isaac is about a boy and his mom. When we meet them, they're living a normal life until mom, an enthusiastic Christian, starts hearing God's voice in her head. The Voice commands her to "save her son from sin" but before she can do the unthinkable, Isaac escapes through a hatch in the floor of their home and enters a series of monster-filled caves on par with the seventh circle of Hell. Of course, escape isn't really the answer.
You must battle through hoards upon hoards of enemies, with varying difficulty and overcome the overpowering faith of your mother. With that aside, let's take a look at some new features.
On the technical side, Rebirth features a new non-Flash-based engine and the same designs as the original, but with brand new 16-bit pixel graphics. The game also includes additional content in the size of the Wrath of the Lamb expansion, including things that had to be cut from the original game due to the limitations of Flash.
The game is a remake of the original, which remains true to its origins, but includes a host of new features that are sure to have fans of the game returning for more. Rather than adding a few minor touches here and there, the developers have gone all out and introduced over 150 new items, 3 new playable characters, a new final chapter, more than 16 new bosses, local co-op and more!
To begin with, the art style of the game has had a makeover. The game has a retro art style due to Edmund's disdain for the original BoI's. He felt it was rushed and wanted pixel art graphics from the very start, which weren't possible with Flash. The result is excellent. The inclusion of moving environmental pieces and better resolution options make this title appear far superior in comparison to the original.
The original title was also a difficult affair, as was Super Meat Boy before it. Both games drove me over the edge and their level of frustration had me walking away from the screen on a number of occasions. The ability to save or return to a game session was not possible before, now however, this has been graciously introduced into the game, which has lessened its torturous elements (but they are far from gone). However, there is a "hard mode" for more experienced players, giving away a few new rewards that are unattainable in other difficulties. So if you're a big fan of the original's crushing difficulty, just head straight to hard mode, you insane human being.
Also, for those devoted fans, rewards for completing bosses, floors or runs under certain times have been included to promote "speed runs", and the rewards usually come in the form of new items so it's well worth retrying levels for these alone. The variety of items in the game is extraordinary, demonstrating the amazing imagination behind the creators, most of which are quite hilariously disturbing, ranging from unicorn horns and severed heads, to cubes of meat and your mother's underwear.
The new game allows you to have 6 familiars, which was naturally impossible with the original and is a welcome improvement. Also, The Polaroid Trinket is no longer needed to go to The Chest, and has been changed into a passive item. Naturally, to those that haven't played the game this makes no sense. But it is something that resulted in less frustration on my part, and my controller remained intact during the experience (barely).
Edmund has stated that his original design for the game was quite far from how he envisioned it. He wanted it to be a more bullet-hell style game, rather than unfair version we received before, with difficult rooms and "ham-fisted" bosses that depended on the player's items rather than their skill. All of this has been corrected and has thus brought the game far closer to the creator's vision. It also opens it up to a far wider audience, which will hopefully bring people back to try this title again who shied away in 2011.
A massive amount of glitches have been fixed in this game. The old version was filled with bugs that I myself had difficulties with during several play throughs, none of which I encountered this time round, including the Kamikaze and "Brimsnapping" glitch.
The initial difficulty of the game and it's glitches made it an experience I was very unsure about. Due to its problems, I was disinclined to praise the game in the way one would Super Meat Boy. The same sense of humour is present and the loveable throwbacks to video game history are always a pleasure. But due to its imperfections I found myself disliking a number of its jokes and fights as I looked at them through these flaws. They simply infuriated me, as it wasn't due to the fact I wasn't good at the game, but rather things like I hadn't picked up a good enough item before fighting a boss.
Though the range of items, smaller enemies and bosses were exceptional and the overall art design was great considering it was using Flash. Now, I feel this revamped version brings you closer to the developer's vision, thus demonstrating that the game is actually much better than I had originally thought.
All in all, the experience is much tighter and far more enjoyable if the style of grotesque humour is to your liking. Think Super Meat Boy but with maxi-pads as defence items. Yeah. All in all, if you're a fan of the developers previous work, a jaded gamer looking for something original, or a fan of the initial game, this is for you. And hey, it's free on PS Plus, so why not?!