The Binding of Isaac
Roguelike, The Legend of Zelda, a dual stick shooter, and the twisted mind of Edmund McMillen, part of the team behind Super Meat Boy. Put them all together and you've got The Binding of Isaac, a game that is as unhinged as it is entertaining, as good-looking as it is, well, disgusting. Even still, it's the kind of game you'll play through again and again, just to collect every item and explore every corner of the game's randomly-generated world.
Isaac lives alone with his mom, and they have a very happy life together. One day she hears the voice of god, telling her that Isaac is living in sin and she needs to fix that right away. So, she takes away all of his toys and locks him in his room. That's not enough, however, and to prove her devotion, she had to perform one final task: kill Isaac. But Isaac is a clever little boy and he escapes into the basement before she can catch him. Take that, mom!
As it turns out, the basement isn't a very friendly place, and Isaac now has to deal with all sorts of nauseating abominations. He has a few weapons and power-ups to help him through it all, though. Move around with the [WASD] keys and fire tears (Isaac's weapon of choice) in any direction with the [arrow] keys. You can drop bombs with [E] and use a secondary item (when you obtain one) with the [spacebar]. There are plenty of things to pick up and lots of secrets to find in this deeply-layered basement, and you'll need every trick you've got to survive.
The Binding of Isaac is built around randomly-generated basement levels, items, enemies—everything, really, is created anew each time you play. It's designed this way to make multiple playthroughs not only possible, but entertaining, as you'll be doing quite a few of them. The main goal is to climb deeper into the basement, fighting dozens of enemies and 20 or so boss characters, but the real goal is to collect every item in the game. And there are over 100 of them to find. The catch is each time you die, you lose your power-ups and start over from the beginning. Frustrating? It can be. But it's all a part of the experience!
Analysis: The Binding of Isaac may look similar to the original The Legend of Zelda, but it certainly doesn't look or play that way. It's more of a collect-a-thon arcade game than anything, even though it shares elements with role playing and adventure games. Fast reflexes and a thick skin resistant to failure are the tools you'll need to scratch the surface of this world. Oh, and a high tolerance for all things disgusting.
The high number of unlockable/findable items in The Binding of Isaac makes it kind of irresistible. You could just call it a day after you die, but then again, there are so many neato things to find, why not just one more round? After all, you found chocolate milk and mom's high heels last time, who knows what you could locate in this adventure? The threat of death and losing your power-ups is great, but it's so worth the risk!
There are no real design flaws or trip-ups in The Binding of Isaac. The game plays incredibly smooth with the familiar Super Meat Boy-style artwork covering every object in the game. Barriers to entry include the emphasis on death and replaying levels to find loot and the game's high amount of adult content.
If you can stomach the occasional frustrating death and are ok with the disgusting, The Binding of Isaac is absolutely guaranteed to please. Edmund McMillan, Florian Himsl, and Danny B (the game's composer) have really outdone themselves!
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