Steaming: Binding of Isaac

2015, Feb 17    

My steam library is comparatively small, but it still contains a fairly substantial pile of shame. The only way out is through. In alphabetical order.

As far as I’m aware, it is impossible to not own Binding of Isaac, so writing about it feels a little redundant, but it was next on my pile of shame, and it was the next game I played, so here we go.

Binding of Isaac is a rogue-like that plays a little like Smash TV, designed by Edmund McMillen, one of the guys behind Super Meat Boy. The story goes that Isaac’s mum receives a message from god demanding the life of her son, so Isaac legs it into the basement which is full of monsters. He battles through until he defeats mom herself. It is quite quick to play through, but being a rogue-like (one of the first in the latest spree of them, I think?) you die and restart a lot.

I am terrible at this kind of game. I like them, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time on them, but I just can’t get good. While many of my friends whizzed through Binding of Isaac shortly after release, I plodded along for a long, long time, until it rose to the top of my pile and I forced myself to achieve something. Given the nature of the game it is a little hard to define “complete” - while I could have attempted to 100% the game, I decided that defeating Mom’s Foot, the initial end-of-game boss, would do. Strictly, killing the foot only opens up another section of the game, and I could continue to unlock more, but this will do as far as clearing my pile goes. I have more important games to get to. BoI isn’t really the kind of game that you ever completely stop playing, so I expect I’ll pick it up again and get further in future.

Binding of Isaac is, initially, divided into 6 floors - 3 chapters with 2 floors each. When I first started playing, I thought that the first two floors were hard, and I wouldn’t get through them every game. I fought on, determined to clear this pile of shame that weighs over me, heavy with the knowledge that I was only on my second game of the list, and then only on B - Braid, Dark Souls, down to XCOM all waiting in the wings. I switched from keyboard to gamepad, using JoyToKey, and eventually found that getting down to level 5 was a reasonably easy task. That level 5, though. When you get down to the depths, things change up a little - everything hits you harder and a few enemies can’t be attacked from the front, so movement becomes even more important.

Then, one day, after a few warm-up runs, I had the perfect game. I got the right items in the right order: good orbitals, powerful shots, a whole ton of health, and, wonderfully, Spirit of the Night, granting the ability to fly. From there, it was on. I swooped through the depths and found myself at the last floor. Could I make it to Mom’s Foot? Of course I could. For the first time I stepped into Mom’s room - full health, all the powerups I could dream of, but knowing, deep down, that you never, ever kill a boss on your first go. I didn’t even know what moves she had, what patterns she ran though. Deep breath. I make it through a few rounds of stamping, I kill some adds, I’m doing damage, and then I take a few hits. My health isn’t looking great but her health bar is looking low, so I get a bit sloppy trying to increase my damage output. I take a few more hits and I have maybe 2 hearts left, but she falls. I have, in a sense, completed Binding of Isaac. Onto the next game.