Nintendo Switch Review: The Binding Of Isaac: Afterbirth+
Isaac lived a life of happiness – one of joy and childlike wonder. Things came crashing down around him, however, when his mother was visited by the disembodied voice of God. By his command, she stripped Isaac of his toys, clothes and freedom – but this was not enough. She broke into his room, knife in hand, intending to cut his podgy frame to ribbons. Isaac made a miraculous escape through a secret passage to the basement and descended into the dank depths below. This is The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+, and we’ve only just begun.
The plot of The Binding Of Isaac is a bizarre one that is open to many interpretations. You are a naked boy in a basement infested with your deformed, abandoned siblings. They take the form of bloated monstrosities, walking intestines, literal faeces and sentient vaginas – among other things. Your goal is to traverse ever darker, deeper parts of your basement, kill your mother, climb back into her womb, destroy her heart, go to hell and murder Satan. Or a goat. Or a bigger Satan. Or yourself. If you manage to do one, or all of these things you will be rewarded with one of sixteen cryptic endings. This game is not for the faint of heart.
Playing The Binding of Isaac is a fairly simple affair. The game is played from an isometric viewpoint and you simply run around various self-contained rooms killing enemies with your literal tears. As you progress you will find randomised loot that may or may not make you stronger, kill a throbbing amalgamation known as a boss and move on. Repeat this until you win, or you die. The upgrades you find can, and will, deform Isaac, causing his character model to morph into a hideous vestige of his former, childlike self. You can consume copious amounts of discarded narcotics that will cause a plethora of potentially debilitating effects. Forging a pact with Satan himself is not beyond the realm of possibility, should otherworldly power be required to overcome the game’s challenges. It’s a brutally difficult gauntlet of enemies, bosses, stage hazards and trauma that elevate this beyond your typical twin-stick shooter.
A game this disturbing requires an art style suitably grotesque, and The Binding of Isaac delivers in viscous droves. Everything from Isaac’s naked, bloated body, to the hordes of malformed atrocities hammer home that this game is trying to disturb you. Never frighten. Never scare. Simply making sure you never forget. Ever.
Even the sound design is a thing of unnatural, perverted beauty. Guttural instruments ring on every floor. The sound of wet flesh slapping the damp earth. The wails of your preposterously outlandish kin echoing throughout each dungeon. Everything is dripping. Everything is gross. Everything sounds abnormally aberrant – and I loved it.
As time went on the story, visuals, sounds and shock-factor eventually faded, leaving only gameplay. Luckily the game is brimming with content, fair challenge, engaging combat and enough procedural generation to keep each attempt fresh. I have sunk over 100 hours into The Binding of Isaac, and I can see myself playing for several hundred more. This is a highlight of the genre – providing you can stomach the game’s themes.
You can purchase The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ from the Nintendo e-shop for £35.99