Game news The Binding of Isaac turns 10!
It’s been 10 years since Binding of Isaac landed on our PCs. The now cult rogue-lite has come a long way since its release and flourished to be a staple of the genre. This very personal project of the prolific Edmund McMillen will have marked a whole generation of players, it is therefore logical that we pay tribute to him in a few lines.
If Binding of Isaac had drawn so much attention in 2011, it is in particular because he was one of the first representatives of his genre. Rogue Legacy was still a long way off as the Dead Cells and other Hades weren’t even in the conception phase. The mechanics of the rogue-lite had not yet reached the general public. The players then discovered a game furiously reminiscent of Zelda 2D which has fun mixing innumerable objects, enemies and rooms to offer a constantly renewed experience. Isaac’s formula is formidably effective, but what has attracted and intrigued a good number of players is his morbid and singular universe. Drawing on elements of his childhood, McMillen tells the story of Isaac, a little boy whose mother spends her days watching religious programs. Convinced to hear the voice of God ordering her to sacrifice her son, Mum chases him through the house. Isaac escapes through a hidden trap door in his room and tries to survive various monsters who want to harm him. Left to himself, the young boy can only count on his tears to defend himself.
The imagery of The Binding of Isaac is particularly anxiety-provoking. Drawing as much from extreme religious themes as from a nightmarish version of Freud’s work, this rogue-lite never ceases to surprise and disturb. Every new enemy and every new object seems to be a witness to the abuse suffered by Isaac. Between the biblical demons, the evil versions of little Isaac and the giant pooches, a psychoanalyst would have a lot to do to clarify everything that is happening in this cellar. Without ever making us let go of the joystick, TBOI manages to tackle heavy subjects and question the player. Over time, fans have managed to draw a dark and believable story based on the lore of the game. Its multiple endings and hundreds of objects give real depth to Isaac’s scenario, which suggests itself more than it is told. The result is a title that is just as disturbing as it is fun to play.
An exemplary gameplay base
Because in addition to being a daring marriage between a wacky concept and a singular universe, Isaac is gameplay of crazy precision. It takes players many hours to familiarize themselves with the trajectory of Isaac’s Tears or to learn each enemy’s behavior. Few games have the adage “Information is power” that applies so well. And that takes work, because every item picked up, from the pill to the goat’s head, affects Isaac’s stats and abilities. Knowing the pattern of an enemy or the result of the combination between two objects makes it possible to anticipate all the results and to always go further. This knowledge is essential, because the wrong combination can literally kill a game. In addition, the frankly raised difficulty of the title punishes the slightest approximation. Without realizing it, the player stores up a gargantuan amount of information and becomes an expert in survival.
Over time, Isaac welcomed many expansions and kept pushing the variable counter up to create a complete and complex experience. Rebirth allowed McMillen’s baby to quit an engine that restricted the experience and steadily slowed down fights. This second youth has done a lot of good to the game which has welcomed other content additions until Repentance. This ultimate expansion, which rebalances the additions made by the community, offers an ultimate challenge and gigantic content to fans. In 10 years, Isaac has continued to grow and the singular indie game has evolved into a major game, a must for anyone interested in the genre.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years already, but it is. Over this decade, Isaac popularized a whole genre and marked players with his universe of deep darkness. Intelligent, precise and offering gargantuan content, McMillen’s masterpiece has made a name for itself in video game history. Its impact is no longer to be proven since we find traces of the game mechanics that he popularized even in PlayStation exclusives like Returnal. Either way, we will continue to talk for a long time about the most iconic baby in video games.