This week I was meant to be reviewing The Borderlands Pre-Sequel, however, I’m still in the “dancing for nickels” stage of my career development and with an extremely rare Saturday night off coming up, decided to save my funds in order that they may be converted into a hangover on Sunday.
Therefore, this week I’m turning to whatever is on offer as the Playstation Plus freebie this month, which turned out to be The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth; which is cool, because I enjoy nightmares.
Rebirth is a rogue-like, top-down, twin-stick shooter with an odd fascination for poop, in which the titular Isaac is forced to navigate a constantly changing maze, utilizing his own tears as weapons against the twisted, malformed foes of the basement and holy shit is this game dark. There’s these mysterious rooms with the mummified corpses of children that alternate between seemingly peaceful and in horrible agony with no god-damned explanation and there’s this one enemy that’s a bloated child who’s constantly crying and when he dies releases the swarm of flies that have been possessing his body and…hang on, I need a drink…
…right; cards on the table I haven’t made it to any of the endings yet, partly because I can only take so much abject misery in one day and partly because the game is difficult as butts. One of the problems with rogue-like’s is that you live and die by the power-ups you get; on one play through you can hit the jackpot and be shooting fireball tears with regenerating health by the second level and the next you can be three tiers down with nothing but half a heart and a consumable that makes you shit dynamite.
Quibbles aside; Rebirth is an extremely addictive and fun game, within certain definitions of “fun”. The gameplay can be extremely frustrating and can turn on a dime from feeling like you’re calm, collected and in control to having your controller embedded in the monitor because you didn’t see those spikes and you were, like, so close to finally confronting the boss. However, it’s the story and atmosphere that keep drawing you back to the game; you’re invested in Isaac’s story and you want to know what the hell is going on with that basement and why are the stores manned by dead children?
The cutesy art style of Rebirth really brings out the twisted horror of the game; you get the impression that it almost is a child’s imagination that you’re seeing. Trying to maintain its innocence but all the while being constantly bombarded by the nefarious machinations of his mother and the evil of the basement has become inexorably twisted; which is why some of the enemies are cheerful, smiling mounds of poop, wizzing around having the time of their lives and others are visceral manifestations of gluttony, pulling apart their own bodies to attack you.
So I really can recommend picking up Rebirth; it’s fun, deep and full of moments that, although shocking, draw you in deeper to the story and generate an atmosphere of dreadful curiosity. Just; maybe don’t play it around kids.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is available this month for free from Playstation Plus, and is available on the PS4, PS Vita and Steam.