A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What 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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
THE BINDING OF ISAAC: REBIRTH is a remake of a hit indie dungeon crawler for PCs. It follows the story of Isaac, a young boy who plays in his living room while his mother watches religious programming on TV. But life takes a dark turn when the mom begins to hear the voice of God telling her to take away Isaac's toys and lock him in his room. Eventually God tells her to kill Isaac, who escapes through a trapdoor into the house's labyrinthine basement. But moving from one creepy room to the next -- the dungeon's configuration is randomly generated with each new play-through -- Isaac encounters a horrific menagerie that ranges from spiders and sharp-toothed slugs to conjoined twins and a grinning (but deadly) pile of poop. Isaac flings his tears at his enemies to destroy them, and, as he descends further, he collects his mom's shoes and lipstick, evil-looking playing cards, and a beating heart, which affect his status and abilities. He even makes deals with the devil, trading some of his life for deformed siblings to help him defeat the creatures attacking him.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about social commentary in games like The Binding of Isaac. Are they simply mindless entertainment, or do you think they deliver messages?
Discuss the impact of violence in games. The Binding of Isaac is an extremely violent game with plenty of blood and gore, but it has rudimentary, pixelated visuals. What's more disturbing, the depiction of gory violence or the meaning of and reasons behind it?
- Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Windows
- Price: $14.99
- Pricing structure: Paid (Free for PlayStation Plus subscribers)
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Release date: November 4, 2014
- Genre: Role-Playing
- Topics: Adventures, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: M for Violence, Blood, Crude Humor, Use of Drugs
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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