I couldn’t even tell you how much time I spent on Binding of Isaac – Rebirth on Vita a few years ago. The game doesn’t keep track of time played for you, but it must have been quite a lot, as I’ve apparently already logged almost 50 hours on Afterbirth+ and still haven’t done everything I’d done in Rebirth yet.
It’s pretty rare that a game hooks me this badly, and I kept returning to Rebirth over and over again until I did almost everything there was to do in the game. I was pretty disheartened to learn that the next expansions, Afterbirth and Afterbirth+ were not going to be making it to Vita. What was I to do? Get them on PC or PS4 and start all over? Supposedly it might have been possible for me to transfer my Vita save over to the PS4 version and then upgrade, though I’d have to buy a separate PS4 version of the game and all the expansions again, all for something that might not actually work, and on a platform that I didn’t really want to play it on that much anyway (I much prefer playing games like this on a portable for some reason).
So when we got a Switch I started considering just saying fuck it, getting Afterbirth+, and just starting all over again, but man, I so did not want to lose all that progress. After playing The End is Nigh, I just couldn’t take it anymore though. There was just too much in that game that reminded me of Binding of Isaac, so I did it, I leapt head first right back in. Once I started again it was almost immediately that I stopped caring about the lost progress and just became utterly consumed by the game again. There’s just something about the semi-original Legend of Zelda-theme, and the nigh-horror theme, and the grotesque yet cartoony imagery, and the amazingly simple, yet deep and incredibly violent gameplay…oh, I just love it.
There’s just so much to do, even though technically you’re just replaying the same set of levels over and over again. Most games like this feature randomization, but the pool of content is usually still small enough that you start seeing a lot of repeats before long. The content pool here is ridiculously large though, making each run a whole new experience. Just about every run will have you fighting through a new layout of each level, with a huge variety of enemies and bosses to cycle through, and so many power-ups, items, and sub-items that it somehow doesn’t feel repetitive very often. Afterbirth+ has added even more of everything too, so even the content I’d already played before back on Rebirth has been a bit different already.
The power-up/item pool is probably the best part, with there being so many crazy combinations that turn you into a different mutated monstrosity with very different powers almost every run. It’s almost like playing a completely different character every time you play. You might become a conehead that shoots nails out of your eyes, or a crosseyed winged devil with swarms of bugs and pets, or a giant drooling mutant that shoots eyeballs and shits money whenever you get hit, and so on and so on and so on. You unlock some new abomination almost every time too.
On the other hand, there’s also the luck and gambling components of the game. Sometimes you’ll find just the right upgrades to make yourself into a godly being that can blast through everything in your path with little to no effort, but other times luck frowns upon you and gives you a weak-ass guy that just won’t be able to make it all the way.
You kind of have to make a little of your own luck to improve your chances. This involves learning which items to avoid, taking risks on popping pills, when to waste money or other resources on beggars and gambling machines, and how to be efficient in your use of precious limited supplies. A simple example being: Be super stingy early on. Don’t waste keys on shops in early levels if you only have a few coins and won’t be able to afford anything anyway, don’t use bombs unless you’re sure you’re going to get an item out of it, and don’t sacrifice any health in sacrifice rooms unless you know there’s some lying around to replace it with.
Like I said, I’m almost 50 hours into this version and still haven’t done everything there is to do in Rebirth, much less gotten to and conquered the later new areas yet. There’s sooooo much to go still. New areas with new enemies and bosses to discover and conquer, new secrets, new characters, new challenges, and more. That’s not even all either.
There’s also Hard Mode, which is just what it sounds like, but also adds more new unlocks. There’s Greed Mode, which is some kind of survival mode that also has more unlocks. There are also Daily Challenges too. This could all take quite a long time. There will probably even come a point when I need to stop and take a break to play some other things on portable mode, just so I don’t get too burnt out on it. Who knows!
Anyway, current progress is as follows:
- Mother beaten, which unlocks The Womb levels.
- Mom’s Heart beaten the 11 times it takes to unlock It Lives, which unlocks access to the fork that leads to either Sheol or The Cathedral.
- Satan at the end of Sheol and Isaac at the end of The Cathedral each beaten 5 times to unlock The Polaroid and The Negative items, which allow access to the next areas, The Chest and The Dark Room.
- All challenges unlocked and challenges 1-20 completed.
- All standard characters unlocked (but not the few secret ones yet).
To do next:
- Beat The Lamb of The Dark Room and ??? of The Chest however many times it takes to unlock the new, later levels, and then get started on those.
- Beat challenges 21-35
- Kill Mega Satan
- Try Greed Mode
- So very much more…I’ll worry about all that when I get to it!