The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth ($14.99) by Nicalis, Inc. is the long-awaited mobile port of the cult-classic roguelike top-down 2-D action RPG shooter. If you love a good roguelike that has an incredibly dark theme to it, then The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is a must-have, especially if you have never played the game before. It’s also a great buy for those who have played it previously on Steam (PC, Mac, and Linux), PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, or Xbox One and just want to have another mobile port with them at all times.
Over the past several years, procedurally-generated roguelikes have risen in popularity quite a bit, and I’ve discovered how incredibly awesome the genre is. There’s nothing like the action or strategy that these roguelike games pack, and when you die and start a new game, it’s never going to be the same thing twice. While not everyone may be a fan of this, I find the idea of a brand new experience rather exhilarating, and it’s always a challenge. And even though The Binding of Isaac was originally released in late 2014, I never actually played it until now because I’ve been waiting for an iOS version after first hearing about it a long time ago. After going through a long approval process (originally submitted in February 2016 and rejected due to “violence towards children”), The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is finally on iOS almost a year later, and it was well worth the wait.
Visually speaking, The Binding of Isaac is rather beautiful, despite all of the dark and morbid things that are in the game. Even if you’ve played the game before on another platform, you may notice that the iOS version features all-new hand-drawn pixel art visuals and effects that make everything pop out just a bit more for your Retina screens. This is due to the fact that the game is now on a new engine, so everything is more polished than before. The game has mostly dark and gloomy colors since everything takes place in the basement of Isaac’s mom’s house, but the bright colors of Isaac, his tears, and his foes contrast nicely against the murkiness of the various rooms. Animations are buttery smooth and fluid, and the game even has a brand new soundtrack and audio by Matthias Bossi and Jon Evans. So even if you’re a veteran Isaac player, then there’s enough new stuff in this iOS port to entice you if you’re a big fan of the game. On top of everything, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth can be played in both portrait and landscape mode on iOS, though the latter requires Rotation Lock to be off.
Since The Binding of Isaac is a roguelike game, each run you do will be procedurally generated. This means that no game will ever be the same thing unless you try to continue after you die. Each run will last infinitely until you run out of hearts, and when you die, you’ll have to start over from the beginning if you choose to continue (this is where Rebirth comes in). There are also 20 Challenge Runs that you can take on, which is like the regular game but with a predetermined condition that affects the full run, such as being in the darkness the entire time. The main goal in The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is to survive the basement long enough to eventually defeat his mom, who has been corrupted by faith.
If the goal of defeating your own mom sounds weird, it’s because the story of The Binding of Isaac goes like this: Isaac once lived happily with his mom, until she watched too many religious programs on television. She then believes she received a message telling her that Isaac was corrupted and she had to save him, which was done by taking away his toys and clothes, and then eventually locking him in his room. Eventually, she hears the instruction to kill Isaac as a test of her devotion to faith, which leads Isaac escaping his room and into the basement that he must eventually escape from, and then that’s where the events of the game take place.
Controls in the iOS version of The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth are simple and intuitive, though it does take a bit of getting used to. In the bottom left corner area, you’ll have a virtual joystick for moving Isaac around each room. The bottom right sector has a button that lets you toggle Isaac’s basic tear attack, where he shoots tears from his eyes at enemies. You can aim the tears left, right, up, and down by pushing the virtual stick in the direction you want to attack in. As you make your way through the basement, sometimes you’ll find bombs, which can be activated with a tap of the bomb button that can be found in the space between the two virtual joysticks.
I would like to have the option to adjust the sensitivity of the controls though, because I feel it’s not responsive enough at times, so hopefully that’s optimized in the future. There is full support for MFi controllers though, which would make the game much easier to play if you have one. Another bonus of having a MFi controller around is the fact that you can do two-player local co-op this way, and there are over 100 different characters that can be used for the co-op mode.
In addition to always offering a new experience with each new run you do, there is a lot of other content in Rebirth that just adds to the replay value. Once you meet certain conditions in the game, you can unlock up to 10 new characters to play as, and each one has their own unique traits that can help you in the dangerous basement. There are also over 100 enemies to discover and overcome, over 50 challenging boss fights, and plenty of power-up items (over 450 right now, including 160 brand new ones) that can give you more hearts, do more damage, and more. There are runes that you can use to upgrade your characters, and the shops can be upgraded as well.
As someone who has not played The Binding of Isaac before (but watched others play it), I am loving being able to have this on-the-go anywhere. The revised graphics of this port are sharp and crisp with smooth animations, and the soundtrack is captivating. The controls do take a bit of getting used to compared to other dual-stick shooters, but it just takes a bit of practice. Hopefully it will be possible to adjust the sensitivity of them in the future. And while the price of the game is a bit high compared to most games, given the fact that there is an almost infinite amount of replay value (over 500 hours according to the developers), you are definitely getting your money’s worth here.
I highly recommend picking up The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth if you have never played the game before or just can’t get enough Isaac in your life, since this port contains a ton of new stuff. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is available on the App Store as a universal download for your iPhone and iPad for $14.99. There are no in-app purchases and it will be coming to the Apple TV “very soon.”