It’s time to dive back into the basement once more, but don’t expect it to be nearly as friendly.
With the recent release of “The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth”, gamers once again find themselves casting poor Isaac down into the depths below in order to avoid a fate most cruel at the hands of his own mother. Although a game may indeed be a reboot of Edmund McMullen’s wildly popular crude, rouge-like dungeon-crawler “The Binding of Isaac”, don’t expect the same game; the twisted catacombs beneath Isaac’s house have become more dangerous and exciting than ever.
The basic mechanics and story of The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth remain largely the same. First, however, allow me to explain something in order to make the game’s story a bit more clear. The beginning story and certain other parts of The Binding of Isaac and Rebirth are but parodies of the Biblical narrative of the same name, “The Binding of Isaac”, in which a man named Abraham is told by God to offer his son Isaac to him at an altar. Abraham obeys, however an angel is sent last moment stating that Abraham does not need to go through with the sacrifice as it is now known that Abraham fears God. Isaac is then released and a nearby ram found tangled in some nearby bushes is sacrificed instead by Abraham.
In the game, it is explained that Isaac and his religious mother live a simple and happy life together. One day, God reaches out to Isaac’s mother and explains that Isaac is being tainted by evil and must be saved. Obeying God, Isaac’s mother quickly takes away every single one of Isaac’s possessions away from him. God once again contacts Isaac’s mother however, stating that Isaac must be sacrificed. She quickly goes into the kitchen and grabs a knife, and heads toward Isaac’s room. Isaac had been watching everything through a crack in his door however, and uses the cellar door in his room to escape before his mother can complete her task at hand.
The gameplay takes place in the form of an arcade-like dungeon-crawler, with dungeon layouts which seem to have taken quite a bit of inspiration from the original “Legend of Zelda” games. The player controls Isaac as he goes from room to room with an overall objective of finding the boss room. While in search of the boss however, players will find many monster ridden rooms which require all enemies to be defeated in order to progress. There are also many unique rooms such as treasure rooms, shops, arcades, sacrificial rooms, and more. While the concept is relatively easy, the game itself most certainly isn’t. Unlike many games, every enemy in Rebirth is a very real threat, meaning that skill and planning are required in order to survive. Every floor is also randomly generated, meaning that there is no sure-fire way of getting everywhere, and everything, you want in a single run. Regardless of prior experience, be prepared.
Despite the high difficulty of the game, Rebirth never seems to be too discouraging. While the game is rougelike, meaning that death is permanent, there are plenty of permanent unlocks and upgrades available via unlocking achievements. While some are more difficult than others, all are very much accessible and it’s quite easy to unlock certain things without even trying to. It’s also quite satisfying learning how enemies, items, and rooms work in order to improve one’s game.
Graphically speaking, Rebirth is quite different from its predecessor. While Isaac’s graphics were flashed-based, Rebirth went through a complete re-design into a high-quality pixelated style. Though indeed two different styles, Rebirth is obviously much more polished.
Like the graphics, the music of Rebirth is drastically different as well. Rather than polishing the original soundtrack, the game decided to hire completely new composers and sports a brand-new musical re-design. It’s honestly hard to say which I prefer as they are both very good and very different from one another. Regardless, it’s done very well and fits the game like a glove.
Though not for everyone, Rebirth is certainly worthy of being looked into by any and all interested. From its engaging and challenging gameplay, to its graphics and sound, and even to its strange combination of cute-and-macrabe, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is as much a masterpiece of gaming as its predecessor.
Final Verdict: 5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed), Playstation 4 ; Publisher: Nicalis, Inc; Developer: Nicalis, Inc, Edmund McMillen ; Players: 1; Released:November 4, 2014; Genre: Roguelike; MSRP: $14.99