Sometimes all it takes is an unusual concept to make me
interested in playing a particular video game. When I first heard that you
shoot enemies with your tears in The
Binding of Issac, I was instantly curious. It is funny to me though, as
once I actually started playing The
Binding of Issac, it was not the game’s theme that kept me around but its
very solid design.
Loosely following the biblical tale, you play as a little
boy named Issac whose insane mother watches too much evangelical Christian
television and thinks that God commands her to kill Issac in God’s name. The
game starts as an escape fantasy for Issac as he “finds” a trapdoor in his
bedroom floor and then progresses through different levels fighting gruesome
parts of his psyche.
Binding of Issac’s developer, Edmund McMillen, specifically
modeled the game’s play after the classic Legend
of Zelda and that influence definitely shows as you move room to room
attacking monsters and finding keys and bombs. As I mentioned before, Issac’s
main weapon is his tears which he emits in a steady stream to kill his enemies.
The upgrades to his tears, so to speak, are a lot of fun and so are the various
other special weapons you can get. The “laser” tears are among my favorites.
What I like especially about The Binding of Issac is that it rarely misses the mark on pure game
mechanics and its extra little details are more than just window dressing. The
game’s controls are very smooth and perfect for its style of play where precision
dodging is needed to avoid enemy attacks. Also, each special item Issac picks
up is drawn onto the character model itself resulting in a quite spooky and
unique-looking character each time you play.
You will indeed play The
Binding of Issac quite a few times since it is set up in a rogue-like style
where you cannot save and if you die, you start completely over. Considering
that the items and levels in the game are randomized, this can make play-throughs
quite varied—in some sessions you will get a great combination of weapons and
in others the items you find are rather ineffectual.
From what I understand from interviews with the developer,
The Binding of Issac was a bit of a
side project for him but even so, the game was clearly made with a lot of
love—a creepy, skeletons-in-the-closet kind of love. The game is full of
smart and thoughtful design and if you were ever a fan of Zelda’s game play it is well worth picking up.