Old addictions die hard. You’d think that by now I would be done with The Binding of Isaac in all forms, but instead I feel myself drawn deeper and deeper into the newer release, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. Since releasing about two months ago, I’ve barely even touched other games.
Four years ago I was massively drawn into the original version of Binding of Isaac. A simple flash game with one of the most effective gameplay loops I’ve seen in a game. I didn’t have the game on Steam and was given the flash executable by a friend, so I have no idea how many hours I sank into it at the time. Later on, just as I’d stopped playing it as much, I ended up winning a Steam version of the game in a giveaway, causing me to start over and sink even more hours into it. This time losing about five hours in my second playthrough of the vanilla version of the game. About two years later, as I was building up again and just got my hands on a PC without an internet connection, Binding of Isaac once again became my go-to game for a quick distraction, although this time also had the Wrath of Lamb DLC, so I could continue playing well past the original game’s end. Sadly that setup, as well as my current laptop, are really old weak systems with slow CPUs, so an intensive flash game can get laggy to a point of being unbearable at times.
In comes Rebirth with its non-flash build. All of a sudden the addiction sinks in deep again. You wouldn’t expect a move from flash to another platform would impact the game as much as it does, but right from the start it’s obvious how much the switch has improved the game. Controller support, lack of slowdown, constant 60fps for more responsive controls, movement no longer feels slippery, tear effects stack better… And that’s just the improvements on the base level. Everything was built from the ground up in Rebirth and to someone who sank too many hours into the original game, it shows.
Where in the old version of The Binding of Isaac a lot of the more special tear effects like Brimstone or Mom’s Knife wouldn’t stack with others, they now actually change up depending on the other effects you have active. Homing effects make Brimstone bend to reach more enemies, and effects that split your tears like 20/20 make Mom’s Knife even more severely overpowered. The more dynamic way that tear effects combine now greatly changes up how a lot of the game works, as old overpowered builds now start to feel normal and weak compared to some of the newer possible combinations. A detached Brimstone with a homing effect that stays on the screen at all times isn’t a rare occurrence now.
As much as I’d love to keep raving about how fantastic Rebirth is, I really don’t want to spoil too much about items or the game’s progression for the few people who, like me, would rather be kept in the dark as much as possible and figure everything out for themselves as they play the game. There’s just so many items and so many unlocks in this game that it’s downright absurd. As of writing, I’m 61 hours into The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, with 116/178 secrets found. A few people on my Steam list already posted their Platinum God screenshots, and I’m lagging behind them with just a mere Golden God.
My only real problem with Rebirth is the new soundtrack. While not bad, it’s really nowhere near the quality of the original. The original soundtrack was dynamic, having songs that felt well layered and shifting between varying moods depending on the rooms you were in. The new soundtrack keeps on one singular vibe the entire time, offering no real variation. It’s especially sad when you consider the new music is ambient, as that normally shouldn’t wear out as fast under heavy repetition, but somehow that doesn’t seem to be the case with Rebirth’s soundtrack. With a game as endlessly replayable as The Binding of Isaac, the music is one of the first things that is likely to tire you out. Thankfully, people have found a way to mod the original soundtrack back in. It’s a testament to Danny B’s work that his old soundtrack still holds up to this day and outstays the welcome of the new release with ease. Again, there is nothing really wrong with the new soundtrack, it just doesn’t quite reach that same level as the original one. I’m sure there are people out there eager to strawman my views as that of “Ew! Change!”, but I honestly played the game for a good 40 hours with the old soundtrack before I started turning it off because it was starting to wear on me.
As bad as my addiction is now, it sounds like it’s still far from over. A blog post from the official site broke the news that a DLC pack is in being planned with the intention of doubling content yet again. Hopefully this next pack won’t make it harder to gain certain items or outright break entire aspects of the game quite like Wrath of Lamb did when that came out. It’s hard enough to create Super Meat Boy and Super Bandaid Girl without resorting to cheap tactics as is.
At this rate I’m starting to fear that I’ll never get over my Binding of Isaac addiction at.