The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth (PSV) - ReviewVGChartz Staff , posted on 25 November 2014 / 4,770 Views
The Binding of Isaac was a sleeper hit for many. Developed by Ed McMillan (the creator of Super Meat Boy) and programmer Florian Himsl, it quickly amassed a cult following for its insanely difficult, randomly generated dungeons that provided a constant challenge for new and returning players alike. I was one such fan - I spent countless hours playing the original and so was excited at the prospect of Rebirth, which promised to both fix some of the bugs that appeared in the original and provide a fresh, new experience.
For those who haven't played the original Binding of Isaac, the game challenges you to navigate randomly generated dungeons, firing tears at enemies, defeating bosses, and eventually making your way down to the final floor where you take on Mom. It adopts a twin-stick styled control scheme, with Isaac's movement being controlled with the left stick and the direction of his tears with the right. Rebirth plays the exact same way, but takes a number of aspects from the original game and improves them dramatically.
Storywise nothing has really changed since the original. Isaac’s mom, having become a radical Christian and thinking she’s being spoken to by God, decides to kill her only son in order to prove her love for him. Isaac, in his scared state, manages to find a trapdoor under the rug in his room. He jumps down into it and thus begins the game. Whilst more endings have been added in Rebirth, the overall narrative is identical.
So the narrative is unchanged, but the same certainly can’t be said for the rest of the game. The graphics in particular have received a substantial overhaul, and the new assets that have been used breathe new life into the experience. The Binding of Isaac's roots as a flash game were always evident in the hand-drawn art style of the original (McMillan drew everything by hand and animated it in the game). This had drawbacks, both in terms of the vector drawings he had to make (smooth circles for creatures heads, for example), and because of the inherent limitations of Flash when it comes to memory management.
Rebirth changes all of this by adopting a pixelated style. It’s likely to be a little jarring at first if you played the original title, but it allows the game to run at 60FPS on every platform, provides more accurate collision detection, and enables more enemies, bombs, items and even tears to appear on screen at any one time. It’s a dramatic improvement that really changes the feel of the game for seasoned players, whilst also making The Binding of Isaac slightly more approachable for new ones.
The items in Rebirth are highly varied, with many of the old ones from both the vanilla The Binding of Isaac and the Wrath of the Lamb expansion making a return, alongside fantastic new ones. The best example of this is the little planet item, which makes Isaac's tears circle him rather than being fired in a straight line. Items can now also be combined, meaning abilities can stack on top of each other. For example, I found an item which allows you to remotely control your tears around the whole room, which when combined with laser tears basically made me invincible.
For all its greatness in terms of style and humour, it’s the addictive randomness of the gameplay that you’re really here for. The Binding of Isaac's procedurally generated dungeons are both exciting and infuriating; you never know what to expect, but you'll also die multiple times to nigh on impossible enemy encounters. Rebirth keeps this tradition alive and well, but also adds another layer to the experience by introducing 'seeds'. Players are able to make a note of the current 'seed' of the dungeon they’re on, and can then come back to it again if they want to have another crack at it. You can also share these seeds with friends.
At its core, Rebirth is still the same game you knew and loved (or perhaps loathed) back in 2011 when The Binding of Isaac first released; a crazily addictive, hard-to-master and unforgiving roguelike that loves to push you to your limits. Rebirth takes that core game and makes enough improvements to create a remake that is both familiar and refreshing at the same time. New items, enemies, music tracks, and stages all combine to ensure that Rebirth offers enough additional content to demand the attention of anyone that enjoyed The Binding of Isaac the first time around.
This review is based on a digital copy of The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth for the PSV
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