Repetition must be one of the most difficult elements for game designers to handle. Every game has to have it to a certain extent, but too much or too little can become boring for entirely different reasons. Occasionally, though, developers manage to hit that sweet spot and the result is a game which is easy to learn and remains entertaining for a very long time. That’s exactly what 2011’s The Binding of Isaac offers; the simple, roguelike gameplay combines with an enormous library of equip-able items and a high degree of randomisation to produce a deceptively casual feel to a very addictive experience.
When his mother hears the voice of God telling her to sacrifice her son, toddler Isaac is forced to flee into the basement with only his tears and his wits to prote...
If you were to simply catch the odd glance at a few screens on The Binding of Isaac then you might think it's some kind of Legend of Zelda knock-off. The UI looks similar to that of the NES Legend of Zelda. The game plays out from a topdown perspective exploring dungeons. It even includes similar items like bombs and keys. Once you start playing though, you quickly realise that such similarities are superficial. This is a game that revels in being sadistic and dark and it's not afraid to let you know it.
The story is delivered in a mostly basic sense in that most of it is delivered in an initial animated narration and it does set the tone for how dark and weird it goes. The mother of our child protagonist Isaac (and by child I really mean child and not a rebellious teenager) hears the voice of God commanding her to free her son of sin, which culminates in her going to sacrifice Isaac. Before that can happen, Isaac escapes through a hatch in the floor and thus begins the game.