Game-related ramblings.

Tag: The Binding of Isaac

On Learning

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I haven’t played Paradox Interactive’s grand spacefaring strategy game Stellaris, but I have enjoyed reading about it. It’s great at generating stories, like the one recently chronicled over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun. They’ve written a lot about the game, in fact. Writer John Walker, intrigued by comrade Adam Smith’s enthusiastic assessment of the game, decided to try it, despite his general dislike of and inexperience with strategy games. He wrote about his frustrations with its user interface and general obfuscation, concluding that “Stellaris, it turns out, doesn’t want new people. It wants people that already understand how to play Stellaris.”

After reading his account, however, I had a different conclusion: “Ah, so it’s like Dwarf Fortress, then?”

Roguelike-like: The Binding of Isaac

I’d heard quite a lot about The Binding of Isaac, but hadn’t had a chance to try it until recently. It’s a sort of mash-up of the dungeons from The Legend of Zelda with the independent moving and shooting controls of Robotron or Smash TV, spiced up with a lot of roguelike elements including procedurally generated levels and permadeath. And it’s made by Edmund McMillen, one half of Team Meat, the developers responsible for the rather excellent (and super-hard) platformer Super Meat Boy. So far, it sounds great to me.

The Binding of Isaac is also inspired by the biblical story of the same name, in which God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. And this isn’t a vague inspiration; the opening animation of the game explicitly shows Issac’s mother (referred to as “Mom”) receiving commands from God to first imprison and then kill her son Isaac. Terrified, Isaac finds a trapdoor to the basement and flees through it, landing in a bizarre dungeon populated by monstrously deformed enemies that one presumes to be Isaac’s former siblings. It’s all quite gruesome, in fact. Isaac begins by attacking enemies with his tears, but they can be upgraded to… other bodily fluids, and the enemies present a sort of grotesque menagerie of biological horrors.

Many players will be turned off by the, shall we say, “unorthodox” religious references, or the disgusting imagery, or both. I admit that the latter diminished my interest somewhat. But it turns out that The Binding of Isaac is a surprisingly deep and polished game, and while its themes may be offensive to some, they’re not just there for shock value.

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