INSOMNIA

The Binding of Isaac (2011, PC)

By LeonRes / November 30, 2014


Don't believe the hype. This game sucks. It's like some really emo person reskinned the first Zelda game, but set entirely in a dungeon (so he wouldn't have to reskin much). But where Zelda was charming, this game is art, and you can tell because there's shit and piss and child abuse in it.

   You are tasked with navigating (often with no map) floors full of enemies to find a few items and the boss to get to the next floor. Bosses are constructed on around 12 concepts, using reskinned designs to pad out to the 40+ advertised. There is no description for any of the items you can find, and several of them have similar or identical effects, while many of them will get you killed the first time around, since you won't know that they de-buff you. Rooms are always the same size, with no real visual variety. I understand that these limitations are largely due to the game being based on Flash, but WHO decided Flash was the way to go? Using Flash caused performance issues, achievement bugs, limited updates, and didn't provide many benefits. A mod is necessary just to allow resizeable windows and the option to backup save data, so thank the community for actually making this game functional. Speaking of save data, it's slightly important to back it up since clearing Flash cookies will wipe your progress. Cloud sync seems inconsistent, and problems are known to occur by using CCleaner. Flash should be reserved for free online games, not this.
   The game doesn't feel right on a keyboard and it feels strange on a controller. There are no options to bind keys, so if you don't like to use the arrow keys, you're shit out of luck. There is no controller support, so you'll have to download a third-party, controller-to-keyboard application. They could've spent just 10 minutes to add bindable keys or added controller support, but nope. No doubt all this stuff conflicted with the artists' creative vision.
   The visuals are straight from the hands of a disturbed teenager. The "art style" looks like my toilet after I eat chili. Don't get me wrong, I have a sense of humor, but there's not much humor in this, just poop. Its "style" is filth: a bunch of nasty stuff with kids and anti-religious hate masked as "dark humor". This game should be the picture in the dictionary next to the word grotesque. It bothers me to see it in my library lol. Seriously, the "art style" is absolutely horrible: piles of crap, buckets of lard, shit puddles, torn out eyes etc. etc., and all of this in the concept of a naked baby running around a basement and beyond to kill his mother in the end, NO THANK YOU! It's hideous.
   Beyond the bad Zelda imitation, the mechanics are an attempt at a bullet-hell roguelike hamstrung by Flash and digital controls, no twin-stick action here. The attack that the player is given is bland and boring. Some of the fights become long and drawn out because of it. If running around in circles while using the same one attack over and over again is your thing, this game has — in the words of many a budding videogame reviewer — "awesome geaplay".
   Animations and physics are rudimentary and awkward. Most of the tactics are just brute-force trials, hoping the random items are decent. You are expected to beat the game at least 20 times to see most of the content, but not much variety is added. It gets tiresome fast, when the only real challenge comes from the ultimate 2 copy-pasted bosses. Those bosses require at least 16 completions to unlock, and they are only difficult because they break so many of the rules you are taught about the game. Enemies shoot projectiles in arcs, and you need to watch the shadows to know if you will be hit. These bosses fill the rooms with projectiles, and have blue shadows instead of black. The floor being blue, along with the projectiles, makes the task of avoiding them artificially challenging. Just make the damage invisible at that point.
   Luckily, I had limited deaths in normal play, and didn't really struggle with the game. The Candle item just breaks the game, and most runs have a few decent items. Most damage is avoidable, and Spirit Hearts make the game a breeze. However, getting most of these items and progress means playing slots, grinding through many rooms, and spending a lot of time seeing the same horrible mechanics, visuals and bosses. I mean, the super not-quite-final bosses that just constantly spawn small enemies, those are SO interesting to grind down slowly as half the time they are invulnerable.
   It's pretty cool that games that are made in Flash and flat-out tell players to use third-party software for a pretty basic feature are allowed to be sold on Steam. I like the fact that Edmund McMillen is so incompetent at making games that he had to have someone remake it in an actual engine for a "definitive remake" (for which I have to pay money again! Long live the "indie" spirit!)
   Leave your Flash games on Newgrounds where they belong please, Edmund. Digital game retailers should be reserved for real games.

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