The Binding of Isaac Rebirth is a rouge-lite twin stick shooter set in Isaac’s cellar. After hearing the “voice of god” telling her to sacrifice her child she promptly agrees and grabs a nearby kitchen knife. To Isaac’s luck he has seen the whole thing from the door’s keyhole and while searching for a place to hide, finds the cellar. This is where we start the game, armed with nothing but your tears to stave off the unholy creatures inhabiting the place you assumed safe. Why your tears damage the creatures is a mystery but luckily for Isaac he will never stop crying, meaning you have infinite projectile ammo.
You will travel across a labyrinth of interconnected rooms, until you find a boss room that allows you to progress deeper into the cellar. What makes this game addicting is that the rooms, items and situations will be randomized each play-through so it keeps the game exciting as well as unpredictable. Scattered thorough the areas are keys, bombs and money. Keys allow you to unlock doors and treasure chests which may contain something very good or something that may spell your doom. Bombs are both a great form to attack clusters of creatures and an essential tool to reaching areas out of your reach or discovering secret rooms. Finally, we have money we can use to buy items from dead babies or simply try our luck with the inexplicable slot machines found throughout.
These three items all make a unique ecosystem where each may be necessary to the other such as having all the money in the world but no key to unlock the shop. There are some minor passive items to be found that boost your speed or randomly summons Isaac’s mom to stomp on the battlefield. The most important of items will be locked behind golden doors that contain stuff that can allow you to fly, changes your tears substantially such as changing them to lasers or giving you an ally to help you on your journey to name a few. On top of this Isaac has basic stats such as health, range, luck, damage and a few others that can be increased by items. The search of the loot is a great deal of fun and with so much to be randomized it can quickly become an addiction to keep playing and seeing what insane item combos will happen next time you play.
Even the gameplay can change on a whim for better or worse depending on the situation. You usually can only shoot up or down, left or right but some items will allow you to aim your tears giving you the ability to shoot diagonally or making your tears giant but shortens their range by a ton. One has to adapt to a different way of handling situations constantly and with the game’s lack of clear descriptions for nearly anything keeps you alert at all times. This same randomness can lead to annoying situations such as dishing out so little damage that it feels like an eternity to take down a boss or a play-through with little resources. There is a steady flow of unlocks such as items, whole new areas or additional characters to play as that keep you motivated throughout.
Most characters play mostly the same but have different stats or starting items while a few such as Azazel do change how you play. Every character has their own requirements for unlocking like going through a few floors without picking up hearts (health) and another just by having a ton of money. Each have their own quirks and upsides though Isaac will never become obsolete. The creatures you will find throughout this disturbing trek through your cellar range from living poop to Satan himself. There are a ton of different foes you will have to face and most are really disturbing. Hanged babies, fetuses and monstrous lumps of flesh are all common sight here so definitely not a title for the squeamish. Bosses will be your biggest threats and each one is very different from the other, requiring different strategies to taking it down with as few injuries as possible.
That is easier said than done. Everything from the environments to weakest of creatures want you dead. Some room combinations and enemy placement can be quite the hassle to deal with without taking damage and on top of that they may have traps. Once you step in a room the doors will close and lock behind you until either you or they all perish unless you want/need to waste a bomb to blow the door open and escape. If you are lucky the boss room will be on the path you are heading or you will have to once again enter that room which now has the door fully repaired. It is a tough and punishing game that without a doubt though strikes a perfect mix of cruelty and reward to keep you coming back.
If you want even more challenge you can turn the difficulty up to hard upon starting a game or you can take one of various Challenges that handicap you in a certain way. There are several endings to unlock depending on who was the final boss that appeared for you. Doing certain things can trigger a chance of facing different bosses and like nearly everything else in this title, it will not be explained on what you need to do. Once you lose all hearts it is game over (unless you have certain items) and you will have the choice to instantly restart for another round or quit. Health can normally only be recovered by collecting hearts that may or may not spawn much that play-through so getting hit even infrequently can slowly lead to your downfall.
Rebirth is a remake of the original Binding of Isaac so for those wondering what is new to this updated version and if it is worth it, I can quite easily say it definitely is. New foes/items, different artstyle, controller support, 60fps, larger rooms and a new soundtrack will get you hooked once again. There is an option to smooth out the new artstyle to make it look more like it’s previous Flash style though this feature is not available in the Playstation Vita version. The soundtrack can be hit or miss depending on your tastes. While the original had cheerful and catchy tunes to contrast the dark theme, Rebirth has a dark and grim soundtrack to amplify how disturbing it is.
There is little story to speak of and the endings are very short & cryptic causing many to interpret different versions of what they might mean. Many claim there is actual meaning to them and there is an overall story but it really isn’t the type of game that needs a well told narrative to enjoy. What I can tell you is that it is extremely weird and disturbing. How the developers came up with the insanity found in this game I will never know. Just trying to explain the setting and point of the game to other people will likely have them staying far, far away from you. Yet with its weirdness is born a unique experience that can and will likely addict those who take on the grand task of killing Isaac’s mom. If you ever wanted a game that you can gladly play for the rest of your life, look no further.