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Game Info:

The Binding of Isaac (PC)
Developed By: Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl
Release Date: September 28th, 2011
Available on: PC, Mac, Linux
Genre: Action RPG
Mode: Single Player
MSRP: $5

The Binding of Isaac tells the story of Isaac, a warped reimagining of the Biblical story of Isaac, son of Abraham.  In this game, Isaac lived a happy life with his mother who watched a lot of the Christian broadcast network on TV.  Isaac’s life took a turn for the worse when the Lord told his mom to remove sinful stuff from his life.  She obeyed and took all of his toys away from him.  Unfortunately, that was not good enough; the Lord then wanted her to kill her son to prove her faith.  After hearing this, Isaac jumped into the basement fleeing for his life.  

The basement isn’t much safer with various monsters wanting to do Isaac in as well.  The monsters, bosses, items and level design are all randomly generated so you’ll never have the same game experience twice.  Unfortunately, the randomness isn’t perfect since I have experienced duplicate boss battles and have missed out on locating hidden rooms because I didn’t find any bombs.  

Those who are familiar with the original Zelda will recognize many of the game play mechanics.  The dungeon style, bomb usage, and heart life system all brought back fond memories of my 8 bit NES.  The Binding of Isaac on the other hand, disgusted me with its gross humor and blatant anti-Christian themes.

Highlights:

Strong Points: Random map generation provides a unique game experience every time.
Weak Points: 
Sometimes there are duplicate boss battles.
Moral Warnings: Demonic themes and gruesome violence.

This game reaches South Park lows with dung riddled levels and blatant satanic power-ups including inverted crosses, Ouija boards, book of Belial, book of Shadows, pentagrams, and a 666 marking on the forehead.   Other power-ups to raise eyebrows include a wire coat hanger through the head, your mom’s maxi pad, dead brothers, and cat heads.  When you complete a level there’s a short random movie that’s played that often involves poop.  Your character either receives a present that is a box with poop in it or your character is being crapped on by two other kids.    

The atrocities don’t end there.  The first play through of the game involves you completing the basement and cavern levels only to fight your mom in the end.  Once you defeat her, the next play through will have an additional two womb levels where you get to kill your mom from the inside.  To do that, you must destroy her heart.  The last area, Sheol, is randomly available after you kill her heart.  In Sheol, you can do battle with Satan himself.

Before you do battle with Satan, make sure your character is well powered up since he takes on many forms before dying.   The weapons and power-ups vary and boost your attributes including speed, damage and health.  You initially start the game with the ability to shoot tears at your enemies.  As you collect power-ups, the tears can change to chocolate milk, urine, poop, lasers, or blood.  If you have a dead brother following you, they will help attack as well.  

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 76%
Gameplay - 15/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls 4/5

Morality Score - 35%
Violence - 0/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 0/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 2.5/10

The monsters are unique and creatively designed.  Some of the enemies break into smaller enemies that you have to destroy as well.  Other enemies are vulnerable at certain times or at a specific angle.  For example, there’s a monster with its brain exposed.  You have to hit the side with the brain to do damage.  When in doubt, use bombs they’re pretty powerful.  

The sound effects and bomb explosions were good. Many of the enemies have their unique noises and while I found most of them fitting, the screaming ones were annoying.  Isaac is quiet but you will hear his mother yelling "Isaac!" when you're killing her.  Surprisingly, there isn't any foul language in the game.  The music is well done and definitely adds to the tension and the gloomy atmosphere.  You can buy the soundtrack by itself or get the game with the sound track bundled in for $1.00 more.  If you like the game, it's definitely worth picking up.

It’s a shame that all of this creativity is misguided and pokes fun of the Bible and Christianity.  Most, but not all, of the bosses are themed after the seven deadly sins (lust, gluttony, pride, envy, wrath, sloth, greed).  As you play through the game, you can unlock other (biblical) characters including Cain and Judas.  The whole premise of Isaac taking revenge is nothing like the Bible’s version of God foreshadowing His son’s sacrifice for asking Abraham to sacrifice his son to God.  Isaac was spared in the Bible version.  I won’t spoil this game’s ending for you if you still decide to play it after reading this review.     

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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