The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is an indie roguelike video game designed by Edmund McMillen and developed and published by Nicalis. Rebirth was released for Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita in November 2014, for Xbox One, New Nintendo 3DS and Wii U in July 2015, for iOS in January 2017 and for Nintendo Switch in March 2017. A PlayStation 5 version is scheduled to be released in 2021.

Rebirth is a remake of The Binding of Isaac, which was developed by McMillen and Florian Himsl and released in 2011 as an Adobe Flash application. This platform had limitations and led McMillen to work with Nicalis to produce Rebirth with a more advanced game engine, which in turn enabled the substantial addition of new content and gameplay features. Three expansions have been released. Afterbirth and Afterbirth+, in October 2015 and January 2017, respectively, with more game content and gameplay modes; Afterbirth+ also added support for user-created content. The third and final expansion, Repentance, was released in March 2021.

Similar to the original Binding of Isaac, the plot is based on the biblical story of the same name and was inspired by McMillen’s religious upbringing. The player controls the eponymous Isaac, a young boy whose mother, convinced that she is doing God’s work, strips him of everything and locks him in his room. When Isaac’s mother is about to sacrifice him, he escapes to the basement and fights through random, roguelike dungeons. The player defeats monsters, using Isaac’s tears as projectiles, and collects items which modify his attributes and abilities, potentially creating powerful combinations. Unlike the game’s predecessor, Rebirth has a multiplayer mode, allowing an additional player in Rebirth, later increased to three additional players in Afterbirth and Afterbirth+.

Rebirth released to critical acclaim. Reviewers praised its gameplay and improvements compared to the original Binding of Isaac, but criticized its graphic imagery. Afterbirth, Afterbirth+ and Repentance also had a generally-favorable reception, with reviewers criticizing their difficulty but praising their added content. Tools for modding Afterbirth+ were criticized by users. By July 2015, Rebirth and The Binding of Isaac had sold over five million copies combined. The game is widely regarded as one of the best roguelike games of all time.

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth (like the original) is a top-down 2D game where the player controls the character Isaac, alongside sixteen other unlockable characters, as he traverses his mother’s basement, fighting off monsters and collecting items. The gameplay is presented in a roguelike style; the dungeon levels are procedurally generated through a randomly generated seed into a number of self-contained rooms, including at least one boss battle. Like most roguelike games, it has permadeath; when the chosen character dies from too much damage, the game is over. Rebirth allows a play-through to be saved at any point. Map seeds can be shared, allowing for multiple people to try the same dungeon layout.

The game is controlled similarly to a multidirectional shooter. The player moves their character around the screen, shooting their tears in other directions; the tears are bullets which defeat enemies. The player-character’s health is tracked by a number of hearts. The character can find items which replenish hearts; other items give the character additional hearts, extending their health. Throughout the dungeons, the player will find bombs to damage foes and destroy obstacles; keys to open doors and treasure chests; and coins to buy items. Many items impact the character’s attributes (such as speed and the damage and range of their tears) and other gameplay effects, including a character who floats behind the player-character and aids in combat. Some items are passive; some are active and reusable (requiring the player to wait a number of rooms before they can reuse them), and others are single-use items which then disappear. The player can collect any number of passive items, whose effects build on previous ones (creating potentially powerful combinations). A player can only carry one reusable item or one single-use item, replacing it with another if found. Other rooms in the dungeons include special challenges and mini-boss fights.

In addition to expanding The Binding of Isaac’s number of items, monsters, and room types (including those spanning multiple screens), Rebirth provides integrated controller support and allows a second local player to join in with a drop-in-drop-out mechanic. The second player controls a follower of the first player-character with the same attributes and abilities of that character, costing the first player-character one heart. The second character cannot plant bombs or carry items.