A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Perseverance and dedication themes are overwhelmed by religious fervor, psychological torture, and "kill or be killed" imagery and concepts.
Positive Role Models
Isaac's a tough and resourceful kid doing his best to survive a horrible situation, but most of his thoughts show evidence of psychological scarring by family and schoolmates.
Ease of Play
Extremely challenging reflex-, strategy-, and skill-based play. You have one life to finish a run-through of Isaac's basement dungeon; most players will fail dozens of times.
Violence & Scariness
Isaac's projectile-like tears destroy worms, spiders, mutated humans, living piles of feces, and more. Blood gushes from wounds and coats the ground. Some enemies function after losing body parts. Body parts remain on the ground when severed.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Isaac's stick-figure penis is sometimes visible.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is a darkly funny but clearly adult-oriented downloadable game about a kid frantically exploring his basement as he attempts to escape his deranged, murderous mother. His flight through rooms teeming with bizarre creatures (ranging from deformed conjoined twins to sentient excrement) involves tons of bloody violence -- though, strangely, his primary weapon is his tears, which he flings at attackers. Blood gushes from fallen enemies and coats the ground. The narrative critiques religious fanaticism; Isaac's mom believes God is telling her to murder her offspring. Isaac is a brave and sympathetic hero, but as the game progresses, he increasingly shows signs of psychological and physical scarring, donning bizarre costumes and making deals with the devil. Despite the main character's young age, this game is targeted at older players capable of digesting its edgy and potentially controversial commentary.
Is It Any Good?
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is a smartly designed and wickedly fun game with a massive amount of unlockable content. Dungeon exploration -- highly reminiscent of classic Legend of Zelda games -- is deeply addictive, largely because of the lure of finding out whether traps or treasure lie beyond the next door. And the pixelated presentation, while rudimentary, is distinctive; the game has personality to spare. What's more, the interface, revamped from the original PC game, is designed to take advantage of dual thumbstick controllers, delivering much more precise movement and aiming. The action feels terrific.
And it's not only fun, it's smart. The narrative -- about a boy diving into his cellar to escape his crazed mom -- is weirdly emotional, despite its often crass (but also laugh-out-loud funny) humor. Isaac is a deeply sympathetic character; you'll be desperate for him to escape his torture. Whenever he doesn't -- and you see the death screen in which he wills his few pitiful possessions to his cat, Guppy -- you'll feel very sad for him. With retro action, hundreds of interesting treasures, and dozens of endings, this is one of the best adult-oriented indie games of 2014.
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