The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

It's been a long time since I looked at Binding of Isaac, and why should I bother, since a couple thousand people have already put in their opinion on the recent remake of the original flash game? Seeing as though I finally killed mom's heart ten times, it's time for me to say something. It's time for the good and the bad.

The good
It is the same game, but with a proper game engine. That's the major plus--the whole reason to remake the game in the first place. No more flash. No more lag. No more sprite slowdown. Really, what's up with that? Computers have multi-gigahertz, multi-core processors now! There is no reason a little flash game should lag ANY system!

The new game engine is silky smooth, with no lag, bigger rooms, more enemies on screen at once, more stuff happening. Technically, it's a huge improvement.

The bad
I don't care for the new pixel art look. I much prefer the hand-drawn look of the original. I don't mind the new look of the game, and I understand the creator was not satisfied with the art style of the original Binding of Isaac because he thought it was too rushed and careless, but I liked the original. I thought it gave the game a look and feel of its own. So what if Isaac's head was not symmetrical? It didn't need to be. The art in Rebirth looks a little too perfect, and the pixel art style takes away from the mood. It's a minor gripe though, because there is a hand-drawn filter that makes it look a little more like the original. The illusion is enough to keep me happy.

The good
The new items are great. They interact with one another better, they stack better, they balance out very well. One of the dangers of doubling the number of collectibles is that the game will become unbalanced, but after 30 hours I think the game is very well-balanced. The items are designed to interact this time, and some collectibles do not make the game easier or harder, but different, which is a welcome change.

The bad
Mom's heart is now ridiculously difficult--the projectiles are so numerous and so close together it's damn near impossible to dodge them!

Original Binding of Isaac:


What the hell?! The original version of Mom's heart/It Lives was tough, but not ridiculous. Rebirth makes it so you can't move half an inch without being hit there are so many projectiles everywhere!

Rebirth was made for expert players of the flash version, and as a result the game doesn't build up like it used to. Before, you had to beat Mom ten times before the Womb opened up. Now you unlock the womb after beating Mom just once. Because of the flash game was released in installments, there was time for players to conquer the game, and then a few months later an update would add some new features. Now there's no gradual progression--the game throws all this stuff at you at once now, and I think the pacing is too fast, the difficulty too steep too soon.

The good
The new enemies add much needed variety to the game. The new graphics engine also allows each area to have more personality. The Womb, for example, has this red filter covering the screen, and now it feels like you're... inside!

The bad
The music in Rebirth is not nearly as memorable as the music in the flash version. It's not bad music, but it's not as iconic.

Danny Baranowsky's soundtrack was good for about 60 hours of gameplay before I muted it and started playing my own music. Ridiculon's soundtrack got old after just ten hours or so. Apart from the Basement theme, there aren't any memorable tunes in it. I still hum Danny's songs because all of them are memorable and instantly identifiable as Binding of Isaac.

Of course, Rebirth NEEDED new music, so I'm not suggesting he should have used Baranowsky's music in Rebirth, but the new soundtrack simply couldn't live up to the special bond the original and I forged.

The good
More stuff in the store! More chances for Angel Rooms! More good stuff in the Angel Room! More good stuff in the Devil Room! Things just feel more balanced this time, and now there are hidden bonus rooms under random blocks! The game may be harder, but it also gives you way more chances to find special items.

The bad
Rebirth still feels like a slot machine. There is a great deal of skill involved, and the alluring aspect of the game is trying to make a bad setup work. My biggest complaint about the flash game was how it felt like a slot machine--that no matter how good you are, you mostly just keep playing until a randomly-generated setup comes along that happens to allow you to win.

Now that Mom's Heart throws a barrage of projectiles at you, you almost have to get lucky with projectile protection or powerful tears or some other lucky find that allows you to survive that. Not that skill alone can't get you through it, but come on. That's ridiculous.

I had hoped Rebirth would make the game feel less like luck of the draw and rely more heavily on skill of the player. I'm disappointed the game is still mostly random. It's both Isaac's greatest strength and weakness.

The good
Native controller support! Finally, The Binding of Isaac supports gamepads! And now you can save your game! A play-through isn't a commitment anymore. You can do marathon mom-killing sessions, or be casual about it. And now you can play other people's playthrough with seeds!

The bad
I already unlocked all ten endings in the original, and none of my accomplishments transfer to Rebirth! Yeah, all 100+ hours spread out over 3 years to reach the end of the Chest at long last, and now none of that matters because I have to start all over in Rebirth.

Isaac needed a remake, no arguing that. It needed a proper game engine, but after all that effort I put into beating the original, I resent that my only reward is starting over. It'll take me another three years to unlock all the endings in Rebirth.

I'd say aside from a few gripes on progression and the ridiculously unfair fight in the Womb, it's improvement all around. It makes me wish this was the game I had played first. I spent so much time in the original flash version that doing it all over again in the new game does not excite me.

I like the nonlinear story, the parody of all things Christian--the characters and themes are what make this game so memorable! All Edmund McMillen had to do was remake the flash game with a real graphics engine. Naturally he couldn't do just that. I like almost all the changes, but I wish he hadn't decided to ramp up the difficulty, change the pacing at which the different levels unlock, and raise the difficulty the game throws at you from the start. I know he did it because he had to anticipate all the hardcore players of the original would buy this, but I still don't think it was called for. Perhaps I'm just not hardcore enough.

I don't regret buying Rebirth, and it is one of those games you can pick up and play in small doses just to kill a few minutes. The memorable characters and religious themes make this such a fun experience. The original occupied me for over a hundred hours, and that's impressive for a $5 flash game. Perhaps I'll get as much mileage out of Rebirth. Or maybe I'm totally burned out. We'll see.


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