The original Binding of Isaac was one of my favorite games I played in recent memory. In it, you play as Isaac, a young boy whose mother hears the voice of God, who asks of Isaac’s mother a sacrifice, said sacrifice being her son, Isaac. Isaac, overhearing this, escapes to the basement via a trapdoor. You must take control of him as you gather items, kill enemies, and try to escape your mother. Despite the game’s endless replayability, the creators decided it wasn’t good enough, and so The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth was made.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth controls beautifully. You shoot tears at enemies, drop bombs, and use items you’ve picked up along the way to aid you. Judging on how the controls are different for both the Wii U and 3DS versions, I won’t go into too much detail, but the controls are fully customizable, meaning it will be very easy for you to find a control scheme you enjoy.
In Isaac’s adventure throughout the caves, it is absolutely necessary for you to pick up Items after defeating bosses, finding them in treasure rooms, or even in locked chests. Such items come in two forms: Useable and Passive. You can pick up as many passive items as the game allows you, but you can only carry one useable item at a time. Passive items can do just about anything: edit your stats, change what you fire from tears to giant lasers of blood, laser beams, and even bombs. Despite the fact that you may take as many passive items as you want, it may not be smart to take all items you find. Some items may actually prove to be a downgrade. Some items can greatly lower Isaac’s damage, range, speed, etc. As for useable items, these range from being able to reroll items into new ones from being able to give you a health upgrade. These items are the true backbone of Rebirth, and are what give the game such large replayability. However, the item system is a bit flawed to say the least. You are given no idea what these items do before picking them up, and some items, such as Soy Milk, can ruin your run, and to no fault to the player. I really wish there was an “Are you sure?” prompt before picking the items up, or at least after you’ve picked them up once.
Isaac isn’t the only one in the basement, however. Other characters can be unlocked as you play throughout the game. These characters include Lazarus, a weak character with two lives, with the second life being much more powerful, to Azazel, being able to shoot the previously mentioned blood laser, albeit with far worse range, and the ability to fly over gaps and rocks. With a total of 10 characters to choose from, each with their own unlocks and stats, they all bring forth a new feeling of gameplay with them. Despite this, some people may consider them to be pointless and are just Isaac with altered stats and abilities. Others may complain about how the balancing is downright broken, since Azazel is a clear better option over, say, Lazarus. While the balancing is a bit clunky, I never had a true problem with this. I found each character to be distinctly different and bring new gameplay, but that’s just me, and I can certainly see where the complaints are coming from in that department.
Isaac will have to go from 6 levels to 10 in his adventures, each with an established formula. The basement, caves, depths, and womb all have 2 floors. After beating the depths for the first time, the womb unlocks. After beating the womb a certain amount of times, you unlock a choice between the Sheol and the Cathedral. After unlocking 2 certain items, you gain access to the Dark Room and Chest respectively. Each character unlocks something new after completing the Sheol, Cathedral, Dark Room, Chest, and a boss rush. These can range from new trinkets, little items that provide bonuses and can be swapped for a new trinket at any time, to new items. This is a huge part of what gives Isaac so much replayability. I have clocked over 100 hours on the 3DS version of this game and still haven’t unlocked everything! And even after you’ve unlocked everything, you still want to play the game over and over again, because it is just so much fun.
Each floor has it’s own array of special rooms for you to explore. From the first basement floor to the second Depths floor, you are given a Treasure room with a free item inside. Shops spawn from the beginning to second womb floor, and are pretty self-explanatory; buy items and pickups with your hard-earned pennies. However, inside every shop is a donation machine. Donate pennies and earn shop upgrades, items, and trinkets. The more pennies in the donation machine, the more you can get out of a shop. Curse rooms can spawn in any floor. They will require you to lose a heart for you to come in and out. Curse rooms can feature several different things. These range from red chests, which in turn can give you items, coins, and enemy spiders to come attack you, or even help you. You can also find items in the “devil” pool of items, such as Guppy’s Paw or The Pact. Boss Rooms spawn on every floor, and you must fight a boss to gain access to the next floor. The bosses can be anything from an anthropomorphic piece of poop to Satan. At the end of almost all fights, you get an item that boosts your stats, and access to the next floor. Even more rooms will await you in your quest in Rebirth, such as Arcades, Libraries, and Mini Boss Rooms. The only problem with this is the Sacrifice room, which is pretty much pointless. The Sacrifice room is simple: step on the spike in the middle of the floor. In doing this, there is a small chance you will get a chest for your troubles. Outside of being a crucial point to helping you find out how to unlock a character (Not spoiling who it is, but you can find out who it is and how to unlock them with a quick google search), you would have no idea what this room’s purpose is without stepping on the spike. Not to mention you can waste your entire health in hopes of getting a chest, leaving this room to be nothing but pointless for most players.
The game’s soundtrack is phenomenal. There are several tracks i absolutely adore, such as Sodden Hollow, Genesis 22:10, almost every boss theme, Acceptance, Genesis 13:37, Hush, and so much more. Whilst writing this review, I even listened to the soundtrack. It ranges from epic, to modest, to absolutely terrifying. Much like the game in question. If you have it, I would recommend buying the soundtrack on steam or from the creator’s bandcamp.
Despite it’s many amazing features, Rebirth is not a perfect game. For one, Rebirth features 20 challenges for you to play through starting with certain items. In most of them, your goal is to use the items given to you and defeat Mom (the boss of the second depths floor). While some of these are quite fun, such as Slow Roll, most are tiring and far from fun, such as Head Trauma and The Purist. Not to mention the several bugs and glitches on the game’s 3DS launch. In fact, all versions of Rebirth have several exploits in them for you to get very, VERY overpowered. And on top of that, I can’t say I enjoyed every track in the game. When Blood Dries being a perfect example. Some characters also came off as pointless to me, such as Maggy and Eve. Maggy is just a tanky character. I have nothing against this archetype, but tanky characters baffle me, and I’m more of a gamer who likes the Glass Cannon archetype more, or in this game, Judas. Eve is, at her core, a pretty good character. She starts out with two hearts and the “Whore of Babylon” item. With that, you gain much higher attack and speed when you only have 1 or .5 hearts. As I said earlier, I like the Glass Cannon archetype, but Judas already takes that spot, with high attack and one heart. Eve has a losing edge, especially since Judas is stronger and Eve can lose her high attack and speed by accidentally picking up a heart. Other than that, the game is very fun, and it’s good overrides the bad.
Rebirth actually can be bought on every current gen console and handheld, raising the question: which one should you get? I have only personally played the PC, New 3DS, and Wii U versions, and the Wii U version features local multiplayer, higher resolution, and off-screen TV play. The New 3DS version features a map you can draw on and portability. The PC version features more options, mod support, and alternate controller support. Personally, I will recommend the New 3DS version, as portability really is perfect for Rebirth. Each “run” will last you around 20+ minutes, and is much more suitable for pick-up-and-play short buffers.
Above all, Rebirth’s best feature is it’s nearly endless replayability. With over 400 items at your disposal, 4 billion different seeds, and 10 characters for you to toy with, Rebirth won’t be leaving you bored anytime soon. Not to mention that you don’t necessarily need to just go through the game, start to finish. Maybe you want to speedrun through, or maybe attempt to abuse various exploits and get several items so you can kill bosses with ease. This leaves Rebirth to be an experience that has adapted a massive community with tons of ways to play the game. Not to mention there will be an expansion coming soon that adds more than 100 items, a new character, new floors, new bosses, new challenges, a new game mode, and so much more. For a $14.99 price tag, the game is more than worth your time. At the end of the day, I found Rebirth to be extremely enjoyable and very much worth the price tag.