Sunday, May 13, 2012
Video Game Assessment: The Binding of Isaac (2011)
I start out with the controversy when I'm talking about this game because the religious or anti-religious content in this game is... well, it's barely there at all. The story is simple, barely touched upon at all. Yes, this game seems to make fun of hardcore evangelical Christianity, but why shouldn't that be allowed? It should and has to be allowed. It's a freedom of expression and speech. If a person is comfortable with their beliefs than why should this be blasphemous or dangerous or insidious or whatever else? It's a fun little game with a bunch of incredibly well done items that seem to critique the ideas of Christianity in some very silly ways. If it's taken seriously, then maybe some hardcore Christians should take a long, hard look at themselves, and if it's simply a parody of these beliefs, then why is it inflaming so many people?
I guess the fact that other "mainstream" systems that aren't Steam aren't accepting The Binding of Isaac into their game libraries peeves me off a little. It's unfair to this incredibly clever game. So should people be upset about this game? No. It's a game, people, a fun, enjoyable experience with some religious overtones. It has a not dissimilar feel to the novel Carrie by Stephen King. Why is that novel or the movie not screamed at and about? It's like people are afraid that children and other people who play this game may start to doubt beliefs... Hmmm. if a video game has the ability to steer people away from beliefs then I guess those beliefs are pretty shoddy, wouldn't you say? I kid to a point, but seriously, this game is ridiculous and strange and has no real bearing on anybody who is a normally religious person. It isn't subversive or angry about religion. It simply states a story, in my opinion, through the eyes of an extremely disturbed and abused child. His mother is "religious" and hear the voice of "God" telling her to kill her son, Isaac. That sounds like a suspiciously similar story to the actual binding of Isaac by Abraham in the Bible itself, a story that is pretty odd on its front too, trying to show that trust in God is more important than earthly anythings. Now, I'm not going to scream at the Bible or anything. It's a story. I doubt very many people hear the voice of God telling them to kill their children, and I think it's something that wouldn't happen today. A child is incredibly important, and as a parent, even if God tells you to kill that child, it is your responsibility to not do that. That would be really stupid on both God's part and the part of the parent. So, showing this religious mother attempting to kill her neglected, abused, and naked son is reprehensible and insane, and maybe a good way to show how the Bible can at times be absolutely ridiculous and unrealistic, which isn't a bad thing.
Anyway, the game itself is endless fun. Unlocking different items is always fun and different combinations of different items work differently and give each and every game a different feel. It's a game that I compare to the original Legend of Zelda, and it plays fairly similarly to that and has clear homages to it as well in terms of the item rooms and some of the bosses and enemies. You can play as six different characters in the game; all of them play differently and each (except the joke character) has a religious name like Isaac himself does: Magdalene, Judas, Cain, and Eve. Another character, Samson, is slated for the expansion The Wrath of the Lamb, which comes out at the end of the month.
The main enemy of the game seems to be Isaac's mom herself, but really, in the end, it seems to be Satan. In find that both comical and interesting. The game is incredibly fun.It's enjoyable to play at any time,but does have its own frustrations and difficulties. I've run into a few bugs, usually not terrible ones, but bugs nonetheless. Most of them have been character models disappearing or color palettes changing around at odd times. The game can be incredibly difficult at times and is often very luck based, which can be problematic for the harder to play characters like Eve and ???. If the right materials and items are not dropped, those characters will often fail to defeat the game. There are eleven different endings and the game ramps up the difficulty after you finish the game a certain amount of times. It's only available on Steam, which due to my owning an incredibly crappy computer, meant that to play it I had to install Steam. I did and the game works well, but I really would have rather not installed Steam if given the choice. I wish the game could have been on other platforms. It's rather sad that it isn't.
Anyway, this is an extremely enjoyable, almost addictive game, and should be played by everybody. I spent $4.99 on the game and it was worth every penny for the hours of gameplay and enjoyment I received from it. I also hope that I offend at least one person with this review and what I see herein. Or at least anger some people because of the assumed censorship going on. Man, I would love to have actually offended someone. That would make my day. This game isn't worth people getting up in arms about it. It's a fun experience that does not really need anybody outraged against it. Seriously, anybody outraged needs to reassess their lives and what actually really matters in those lives.
Anyhow, I recommend this game to anybody with a decent computer. It's fun, addictive, challenging, and altogether a really well put together game. It's made by Edmund McMillen, co-creator of Super Meat Boy, and it shows, with this game having a very similar art style and even some of the same characters from Super Meat Boy. Oh, I should probably mention that this game is considered in the Roguelike genre, despite the fact that I've never played Rogue.