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This page includes some jargon that hasn't been added to the site's glossary yet. I'll be around to fix this later, but sorry for the inconvenience in the meantime.
Review: The Binding of Isaac
At a Glance
|ESRB Rating:||NR - Not Rated|
|My Rating:||Adults - 18+|
|Genre:||Roguelike / Twin Stick Shooter|
|Review Published On:||August 27th, 2016|
There isn't one. Instead, you're supposed to play through the game in one sitting, and it's short enough for this to work. Most of the fun comes from replaying the game though, so expect to play through it several times.
While the Binding of Isaac is a fun game, the way it treats Christianity is insulting at best, blasphemous at worst. In my opinion, it would be better for Christians to avoid this game, as this pushes things a little too far. See below for some additional comments about this.
This is a twin stick shooter, meaning that you'll be moving Isaac around with WASD while also aiming his attacks using the arrow keys. The main benefit of this is that you can dodge enemy attacks from any direction while you focus on attacking in another. Most of the rooms feature monsters of some sort, and a good number of them can shoot at you, so coordinating your movements and attacks is a much needed skill.
In order to advance to another room, the current room need to be free of monsters. There's a chance that you'll be rewarded with bombs, keys, coins, or some other powerup when you clear a room for the first time, so exploring can be rather useful.
Isaac's journey takes him through several floors. Each floor is a small maze, but you can be certain that every floor has a shop, a treasure room and at least one boss. Once you've beaten the level's boss, you're free to continue exploring the current floor or continue on deeper into the pit.
Unfortunately, what would otherwise be a quality game is buried under a lot of questionable content. There's a lot of blood, feces and gore for such a simple game, and if you take everything at face value, much of the game's story is a mockery of Christianity.
The end result is that I feel this game crosses too many lines for it to be found in a Christian home.
This idyllic scene change abruptly one day, when a voice from Heaven called down to his mother. It told her that her son had been corrupted by sin, and she must remedy this swiftly. Obeying without question, she took away Isaac's drawings, his toys, and even his clothing. Assuming all was well, she resumed her position on the couch.
The voice then called down again, affirming that Isaac was still corrupt, and must be removed from the evil influences of the world. Hurriedly, his mother locked poor Isaac away in his empty room, where he would presumably be safe from whatever evils could corrupt him.
As he watched from a crack in his door, the voice called down to his mother once again. This time it asked her to prove her devotion by offering Isaac's life as a sacrifice. Seeing his mother grab a large butcher's knife, he began to panic and scramble about his tiny room.
Finding a trap door, he escaped into the depths of the basement as his mother burst into the room.
Points of Interest
This even extends to the game's bosses, as they are chosen at random rather than being predetermined for a specific floor. Each boss is also quite unique in their appearance and behavior. Some are stationary, others chase Isaac around their lairs, and many fire projectiles of their own. This is a lot of variety for such a short game, and it's definitely welcomed.
Concerns and Issues
As for the monsters Isaac encounters, many of them are graphically injured children (or just parts of children). The bosses take this up a notch by frequently having deformities like cleft palettes or an undeveloped twin.
Some final thoughts
Christianity is a big religion. There's a lot of things to take in, and it's not always easy for someone to understand everything presented to them. In scripture, there are instructions to give immature believers portions of spiritual "milk", while mature believers have grown the teeth to chew the "meat". The reason for this instruction is that people need to have a basic understanding of their religious beliefs before they can build on them with the more complex details. For example, immature believers are often stuck in a rut of figuring out how they are to obey various commandments. This tends to lead to legalistic rule making, and can rob a person of their freedom in Christ.
Aside from the details of his macabre adventure, Isaac is in a surprisingly common position when it comes to children living in strict Christian households. Children aren't capable of the same levels of abstract thinking as adults, and much of what happens in their lives seems random or arbitrary. The younger a child is, the more their world is restricted to how things impact them directly and the fewer details they can string together.
To a child, God can become a monstrous bogeyman; a being that stalks you, waiting to punish you with eternal damnation should you break any of the arbitrary rules it comes up with. Even accidentally breaking a rule is grounds for divine punishment, so the child must constantly be on guard or risk being sent to Hell. This can turn a simple act like having your lunch into a minefield: eating anything made with pork is sin, but it's okay to eat almost any other kind of meat unless it's Friday, then you can only eat fish -- but not just any fish, since shellfish are sin too! Sadly, in an attempt to ensure their children behave, some parents hold the threat of God's judgment over their children like a Sword of Damocles, reinforcing their child's fears.
It should be obvious by now what the problem is: the Good News isn't getting through. These children have only part of the message, and lack the hope and freedom given with the rest of the Truth. People who get trapped in fear like this don't have a working understanding of either sin or forgiveness, resulting in an immature faith that has become corrupted. This is why the Bible repeatedly urges us to study it and find mature Christians to guide us along. Left by themselves, immature Christians can't tell the shepherds from the wolves, and in turn they become a danger to other members of the flock.
Isaac has had a lot of problems in his life, but it's clear that one of the biggest problems is that, for him, God has become a terrible monster to be feared.