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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Binding of Isaac Rebirth, Review: Between Heven and Hell.

Defenseless at the knife wielding hands of his delusional mother; Isaac retreats into the basement to fight though a nightmarish horde of the unholy. He's armed only with his own tears and a lifetime of mementos detailing a harrowing story of hope, loss, and deep emotional abuse. Yep. Isaac shoots tears. Also his dead sibling's fetuses are power ups. So this is not for everyone, but would you believe it's not anywhere near as sacrilegious or cynical as it sounds? Well ok... it's a little sacrilegious.

The Binding of Isaac was never a game I'd say I loved, but one I didn't seem to stop playing all throughout 2011. You could play it for 20 minutes or 4 hours at a time and reaching the end bosses were honest to god achievements. Because this game is harder than you've heard. Like a more unpredictable Dark Souls. Reaching an end takes as much skill as it does luck, but it's somehow not as frustrating as it sounds.

A lot of the things that try to kill you smile in this game. Does that make you uncomfortable?

I beat the original every which way and still bought Rebirth. That's how good it was. While Rebirth is technically the same game, it's faster, it's bigger, more accessible, and it's every bit as good as before. This is a damn good remake, that oddly needed nearly twelve people where the original took 3. But nothing more. It does not reinvent the wheel, merely providing hundreds of different kinds of the same wheel. The result is a little scatter shot, and I'm not talking about the actual scatter shot.

Some of the new comers are great! Fire tears seem like an early game breaker, but they can make enemies spontaneously combust, forcing you to keep a healthy distance at all times. Others are a confounding mess that can ruin a flawless run. Like gravity tears. F**k them. I wanted to shoot straight, not have them form concentric circles around me like a dingus. All in all, the good outweighs the bad, because new power ups and new bosses are never a bad thing for these kinds of procedurally generated deals. Also the final  boss (or is it?!) before the game branches off into either the heaven or hell ending has been reworked and is much more satisfying.

Hey gravity tears? F**k you.

The only thing that actually bothered me was the soundtrack. The original was wonderful. Haunting, beautiful, and badass. The new one is... fine. Sometimes approaching Danny Baranowsky theme building and then chickening out into ambient pointlessness. After so many promising steps forward, that was a massive stumble backwards. Also the new pixelated ascetic allows for better performance and bigger rooms, but the loss of the hand drawn look bums me out more than I expected.

Though, this is a great game for veterans and new comers alike. That tight rope act is not lost on me. Sure, the game has a "normal" mode, but it's really the easy mode. Even a slightly easier version of one of the hardest games ever made is going to rough you up a smidge. Though I still cannot say whether this is the "definitive" version. Technically it is the deepest, but the absence of the original soundtrack robs so much of the atmosphere. But I've harped on that enough, this is a steal at twice the price. If you've craved something radically different, something that can make you feel physically ill then tease a little chuckle out of you, this is your game.  

And a here's a piano remix of Baranowsky's work just in case you think I'm messing around, here.

I am NOT messing around. Not here. Not ever.

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