I’ve recently been trying my hand at playing The Binding of Isaac, with spectacularly bad results. Well, that’s not exactly true. Once I started using a controller instead of the keyboard, I started doing marginally better. I haven’t made it to Mom yet, but I’ve made it to the fourth dungeon (I’m playing on the original version, not the Wrath of the Lamb expansion). You have to move using WASD & shoot using the arrow keys. Between the controls, obstacles & dodging enemies, I find myself lacking the necessary coordination & dexterity. Using a controller makes things slightly easier.
Despite having been aware of this game for a long time & watching several videos of people playing it, I’ve shied away from playing the game myself for two reasons: One, Isaac as a reputation for being a hard game, being from the creator of the equally challenging Super Meatboy; Two, some of the religious context rubs me the wrong way.
I feel sorry for anyone who think they know the actually story of The Binding of Isaac (at least the version in the Bible) from this game. It’s not quite as exciting nor as distressing as the game makes it out to be. But like most games, rather than the developer trying to make some religious statement, I think this is more of a case of them taking inspiration from religious mythos & running with it. Taking it seriously would be like taking Asura’s Wrath or El Shaddai as religious fact.
But I can say that the game’s reputation as being difficult is well-earned. It’s hard to say if beating the game is really a matter of the player’s skill when a lot of it seems to be based on luck. The levels & items therein are all randomly, procedurally-generated. From my experience, your success will be related in large part of the combination of items the game gives you. Sometimes the game is really kind, but most often it’s not. I have to give the developers a lot of credit; Isaac has some of the most interesting/disturbing enemies & power-ups I’ve ever seen. I particularly like that the items change Isaac’s appearance. But it’s completely random what you’ll get, & not all items are useful. For example, in my very first run the first item I got was Number One, which gives you maximum firing rate (Isaac “fires” tears, by the way) but minimizes your range. So I was a really fast shot but had to be right up against an enemy to hit them. Needless to say, I died. I think the best item I’ve gotten so far was The Mark from making a deal in the Devil Room.
If I ever beat the game (or get enough experience with it from failing) I’ll give the game a proper review.