Binding of Isaac

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The Binding of Isaac Collection on Steam

MSRP: $6.60 (base game only – $4.99)

Platforms: Win, Mac, Linux

Release date: 9/23/11

Steam rating: 96% positive

I think the fact that I chose to (attempt to) play The Binding of Isaac as my penultimate game for this blog says something about me.  Mostly, that I haven’t learned my lesson about top-down shooters, especially ones described as difficult by aficionados of the genre. There are certainly easier ones out there – Larva Mortus comes immediately to mind as one I felt at least semi-competent at – but it’s really hard to give a cohesive opinion on a game, or even a game-style, when you only get to play the very first level a whole lot of times.

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The premise of the game is … odd, to say the least.  Young Isaac has jumped through a trap door in his room to escape his mother, a religious zealot, who believes she must kill her son because God said so. This might sound more than a little familiar to anyone with more than a passing knowledge of the Bible, and one might argue that the game reached the level of success it did despite the story, although controversy in gaming is hardly a rare occurrence.

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After my first several dismal failures, I decided to dig up my controller and see if I had an easier time using that.  After all, the game couldn’t really INTEND for me to only be able to shoot in the four cardinal directions while the enemies could throw projectiles any way they goddamned pleased, could it?  Fact is, it could and does, and there is no native controller support – something that has been added to the remaster The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. Sensing this wasn’t getting any easier for me, no matter how much energy I threw at it, I decided to admit defeat and close out the game. I didn’t even feel guilty when the exit text asked me if I was sure I wanted him to die. He wasn’t doing any better with me at the controls.

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There’s no question in my mind that this is a great game for veterans of the keyboard-controlled top-down shooter. There’s oodles of challenge and tons of replay value, and the music is absolutely fantastic.  But I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who still has their twin-stick training wheels on, or who is only comfortable with a controller for this type of game. If I ever get to the point where those newbie friendly top-down shooters start to feel too damn easy, I might come back to it, but I don’t see that happening for me anytime soon.

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