Binding of Isaac – Rebirth is remake/remaster of the previously released regular Binding of Isaac from years earlier, with updated graphics and a ton of extra content added in. Seems like when you hear people talk about all these roguelike games these days, they always mention this one. The theme and visual design always seemed really interesting to me, but the idea of permadeath and replaying a game over and over again really put me off. I even bought the original version on Steam once for a dollar or so a while back and tried it out and it just beat my ass. For some reason trying the newer version on Vita seemed appealing to me though. I had a feeling I would like the look and feel of this game better on a nice portable…and oh boy was I right.
This is a story of a boy, Isaac, whose mother starts hearing the voice of god, who tells her that she must cleanse, punish, and eventually kill her son. Isaac runs away and ends up trapped in the basement, which somehow transforms into this insane adventure through some kind of underworld full of grotesque mutant…things. Whether this is all real or just a product of Isaac’s active imagination, or maybe even the same psychosis that his mother has, beginning to appear in him, I don’t know and the game doesn’t seem to care to explain any further.
The game looks and feels very similar to the original Legend of Zelda in a lot of ways, but the combat is that of a fast paced dual stick shooter instead. Your main, and often only, weapon is the tears shooting out of your eyes. Enemies are everywhere and they are vicious and bizarre. Big nasty bosses await at the end of every level, and sometimes before then too. Items have mysterious effects that might end up doing more harm to you than good, and health is precious and rare. This all sounds awfully punishing, and it is, but what really makes it all work for me is the randomization and huge amount of variety. Though it took me about 5 tries to get to and beat Mother (at least her first form…), it never felt repetitive, because it was almost a completely different experience each time. One time I found a weird cyborg eye that turned my tears into lasers. Once I found a terrible little mini-planet power-up that went in my head and made me shoot tears around me in an orbit, which was impossible to aim with and got me killed pretty quickly. Another time I got lucky on my item finds and by the end I was sporting devil wings, a goat head, little familiars helping me out, and high powered flaming tears. This last time I got lucky again and got what I felt was really powered up, I got through the main game, through the womb “after-game”, and got lucky and got the entrance to the Sheol area where you can fight Satan, one of the secret post-end bosses, put everything I had into beating him, and just when I thought I had won his second, giant form appeared and killed me, but even after all that, I wasn’t even mad. It was too fun to be mad.
Each time you start the game the level layout completely changes. The map is entirely different, enemies change, bosses change, items and power-ups change, and damn there is a lot of each of them. On top of this, the more you progress in the game, the more enemies, items, and even new characters, unlock to shake things up even more. You can also open up entirely new areas with new bosses and endings, IF YER HARD ENOUGH! Your character always ends up looking very different each time too, as many of the power-ups tend to mutate you in various weird ways.
I’ve beaten it 3 or 4 times so far (with each successful run only taking around one hour), died I don’t know how many times in between, and each time had a pile of new surprises for me, and according to the stats I’m not even close to unlocking everything. It’s pretty impressive and I think I finally understand now. The hype about this game is very true and I guess I might have to start checking out even more games like this. At least someday when I can tear myself away from this one on my portable time. These generic screenshots can’t really do it justice, but I can’t really take proper video clips of a Vita game, so I suggest you go look at some videos or just go ahead and try it out for yourself.