The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth was released to critical acclaim on November 4th 2014. It’s a remake of the flash-game The Binding of Isaac, which had developed a cult following and spawned infinite playthroughs on YouTube. The premise is reminiscent of the biblical story of the same name. It’s a dungeon-crawler roguelike game which has you playing as a baby named Isaac.
It expanded upon the original flash game massively, with a fresh pixelated layer of paint and the addition of new characters, new items, new bosses and levels, it felt as new as it did familiar. It retains this newness today, as there’s always new items to discover, new item combinations and a third expansion pack is on the way! There are over 20 endings to unlock, and different end-game goals for every character.
Rebirth plants a wild first impression on new players – the game opens with the only guidance being some controls painted on the floor, and you are a naked, crying child who shoots tears at enemies. There’s no real hand-holding here, as you’re thrust into the basement and descend deeper and deeper until you wind up in your mother’s womb, or even Hell.
The gameplay can be harsh at first; once you learn the ropes and get used to the enemies and learn that some items do absolutely nothing for you, then you’ll be good to go. The more you progress through your runs, the more depraved, abused and faeces-ridden your Isaac becomes, as most items you pick up affect Isaac’s appearance. This ranges from horrific (a coat hanger through his head or proptosis) to the downright bizarre (becoming a giant fly or his dead cat, Guppy). This aesthetic variation makes every run different; no two Isaacs are ever the same. The same goes for item synergies, as many items you pick up can combine for different effects.
The soundtrack is fantastically composed by Ridiculon, involving an upbeat and creepy mix of chiptune, orchestral percussion, guitar and even a choir.
A fantastic sense of progression comes from the in-game achievements, which act as mini milestones that make you want to persevere and unlock more secrets. As you unlock a new item for beating every new boss, or destroying so many poops or rocks etc. The difficulty feels reasonable as you progress and encounter new enemies and bosses that stress your reflexes in an unrelenting bullet hell environment.
5 years later and it still hasn’t aged a day – it’s only seen it release to more platforms like the Nintendo Switch and mobile. I’ll still pick this game up and pour many hours into it and experience the same sense of joy and discovery it’s had since its initial release.
Watch the trailer for the Binding of Isaac: Rebirth below: