When I heard that half of the team that created Super Meat Boy was making “some sort of rogue-like” I was sufficiently interested to follow the game’s progress on the developer’s blog. When it came out and I saw the game it had me scratching my head. People’s description’s didn’t help either, “it’s a dual stick shooter in random generated Legend of Zelda dungeons with an item-based leveling system” Uh, okay… What does that even mean?
The creator’s explanation didn’t make a lot of sense either:
Isaac is a roguelike shooter based on the dungeon structure of Zelda (nes). At its core it controls like Smash TV / Robotron in a randomly generated semi RPG world filled with powerups items and special abilities. There is not a traditional leveling system in Isaac, instead we used an item system. Every level will have a treasure room, shop, boss and other secret/special rooms that might contain unique items. Special items come in 4 sets, Usable items, Special Weapon upgrades, Passive upgrades and stat boosters. 90% of items in the game stack, so as you progress your character will change into a monstrous powerhouse not only in stats and abilities but also in appearance… Aside from these core items, Isaac uses its pickup items as resources in what i call micro puzzles. the core resources in the game are Coins, Bombs, Keys, Hearts, cards and pills each of these pickups can be used in different ways to acquire special items, gain access to shops and hidden areas, kill enemies and also affect gameplay in many other ways.
So I downloaded it and have been playing it the last hour or so. And, that is exactly what the game is! So, if you had as much trouble parsing just what you do in this game from the text above I’m not going to be able to help you. Sorry! I can tell you that the game is fun and strangely addictive. Why strange? I don’t like rogue-likes. They take bad game design, turn around, and market said bad game design as the central aspects of the genre. Nothing is explained to the player, visually, aurally, or narratively. Every encounter with an object can lead to a player’s death without any indication from the game. Items, if they don’t kill you when you pick them up, are just as opaque as the rest of the game requiring you to use them in order to determine their use. Some people enjoy rogue-likes, I get it; but, some people enjoy enemas. I’m just saying. Binding of Isaac isn’t as bad as ADOM but it isn’t clear what is ever going on either (unless you’re taking notes, I suppose… But, I’m playing a video game not doing homework!)
My other complaint has to do with the graphic design. I was tired of browns, red, and pinks after DOOM II I don’t know why people are still designing games with such limited palettes. And for whatever reason Edmund McMillen’s character designs just aren’t doing it for me in this game. I haven’t got past the Caves II though so maybe the art shows a little more variety later on. I’m hoping that is the case.
Full review next week(?)