When an inconspicuous voice declares that her son has become corrupted by sin, the devout faith of Isaac’s mother is put to the test when she is warned that he needs to be saved. Removing his clothes, toys and belongings as evil influences, Isaac is locked away in his room… but that isn’t enough for the malevolent voice whom she believes to be God. In order to prove her love and devotion to the bellowing voice she must sacrifice Isaac, who, petrified at his mother’s sudden violent turn, escapes through a trap door to the basement.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth will forever be remembered as the game that Nintendo had once denied, an internal debate at the company having raged over its “questionable religious content.” But, years later, it becomes the game’s eventual release now represents Nintendo’s relaxed stance toward which content it welcomes on their Nintendo eShop.
It has been a long road to The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth’s eventual release on New Nintendo 3DS, but it is easy to recognise where Nintendo’s initial concern lay. Cast into the hellish nightmare that the basement hides, Isaac wanders naked and is left to defend himself with the tears that unrelentingly stream down his face. Faced with monsters that range from deceased babies that cry blood-ridden tears, slithering maggots and brains, the horrors that Isaac must conquer results in an unsettling world to explore.
Reworked from the game’s original Flash version, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth’s warped sense of reality is meticulously crafted by Nicalis and creator Edmund McMillen. Successive patches have ironed out troubling issues that plagued the game’s Nintendo eShop launch, and we have now reached a point where The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth delivers a robust experience on a handheld that matches counterparts on other platforms.
As a top-down action-orientated shooter, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth presents initial similarities to trawling through dungeons in classic The Legend of Zelda adventures. However, being procedurally generated means that no two runs will be the same. You only have one chance to make it through The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth’s increasingly tricky depths, an early demise in the blood-soaked halls sending you back to the title screen where you must start your scurry for survival over again.
It can seem punishing, but we wouldn’t have it in any other way. Players are steadily rewarded with bombs, cards and pills that will strengthen Isaac’s resolve, although it can be seen as a gamble as some pills risk weakening you. There’s enough variance to allow each of your attempts to feel distinctly different from one another, and it never feels as if you’ve been cheated out of your progress.
Controls are simple to grasp with players shuffling Isaac around with either the Circle or Control Pad while using the A, B, X and Y Buttons to fling salty tears in whichever direction required. L and R Buttons deploy bombs, cards and pills, while the additional ZL and ZR Buttons on the New Nintendo 3DS allow for methods to use items and dispose of anything unwanted that you have collected.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth’s pixel perfect visuals are somewhat chilling in their blood-soaked design, but the aesthetic and accompanying soundscape suit the horrifying surroundings in which Isaac finds himself.
It may have inadvertently taken longer than expected, but The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth makes a welcome arrival on the Nintendo eShop. Those that can withstand the somewhat grim setting will find a particularly rewarding experience that will ensnare you for hours on end.
Version Tested: New Nintendo 3DS
Review copy provided by Nicalis