By Josh Speer / January 18th, 2017
|Title||The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+|
|Developer||Nicalis, Inc., Edmund McMillen|
|Release Date||January 3, 2017|
|Genre||Action, Roguelike, Twinstick Shooter|
|Age Rating||M for Mature – Violence, Blood, Crude Humor, Use of Drugs|
Everyone has their own Desert Island game. That one game that they would take with them if stranded on a remote location, knowing that it would provide sufficient variety to keep them from losing their marbles. For me, that game is easily The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+. I’ve been excited about this DLC since it was announced a couple years ago, and it has proven to truly be the definitive version of the Binding of Isaac experience. The question then is just how good is Afterbirth+, and did it satisfy my lofty expectations?
It’s important to note that I went from playing Rebirth to Afterbirth+ for the purpose of this review, which means I had to take some time to familiarize myself with the many new features. Before that, I had reached the point where I had almost accomplished everything in Rebirth, and the game was becoming somewhat monotonous, but Afterbirth+ quickly fixed that. For one thing, there are a bunch of new enemies, such as the utterly terrifying living statue called Stoney. There are also new areas like the Dank Depths, Flooded Caves, Blue Womb and The Void. These new areas are a distinct challenge and each have their own set of foes to face. Afterbirth+ also has new items, bosses, pets, challenges, achievements, characters and just basically more of everything.
While the base game still plays pretty much as expected, they have thrown in little tweaks to keep things fresh. For instance, occasionally when you are in an item room you will find a machine that lets you spend coins to shuffle which item you get. Floors now also come interspersed with tiny and huge L-shaped sections that contribute to some fun battles against the hordes of enemies. You’ll also come across enemy spawning portals, which can quickly become a nuisance if you don’t take them out STAT. They have also tweaked the soundtrack in the game, with somewhat mixed results. Areas like the Necropolis still sound delightfully ominous, but the alteration to the standard boss track irked me somewhat. I can’t quite put my finger on why, suffice to say it seemed to be a little too Metal for my particular tastes. That said, Afterbirth+ didn’t change things too drastically, probably realizing that if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Thankfully, that applies to the graphics as well, which are just as twisted and comical as ever.
I made it my goal in my 30-hour playthrough to try and experience some of the new areas the game had to offer. I was able to unlock an area called the Blue Womb, which acted somewhat like a streamlined version of the The Chest. Using the Gold Chests therein, I armed myself accordingly and took on Hush, the boss of the Womb. At first, the boss fight played a little like fighting ??? or Isaac, just with more projectiles. But then I pissed him off enough that he revealed his true form, a giant, hideous head stuck in the floor, and things got real. I rather enjoyed the challenge provide by the Blue Womb, but that was nothing compared to my time spent in Greed Mode.
Granted, Greed Mode was available in Afterbirth, but I felt I needed to acquaint myself with that before tackling Greedier Mode. Turns out that was a wise decision, since Greed Mode is tremendously difficult and rewarding. Each floor you get one freebie item and then press the central button to summon progressive waves of foes. If you defeat them without breaking sequence, you’ll get more and more coins which you can spend to get additional items. If you chicken out, you’ll get fewer coins and, thus, have less of a chance to beat the big boss of Greed Mode, named Ultra Greed. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Ultra Greed was more of a challenge for me than Mega Satan (which I also beat). It took me many many attempts to get the right mix of items to have a chance to defeat the avaricious behemoth, and even then it was a close thing. I may have beaten Hush without taking one hit, but I barely had a single heart left when I managed to take Ultra Greed down. Suffice to say, I’ll be waiting before I muster the courage to tackle Ultra Greedier.
Another nice addition to Afterbirth+ are the Mods. These are player-created items and bosses that you can decide to enable or disable. For the purposes of this review, I specifically chose not to use Mods, since I wanted to focus on the game as created by Edmund McMillen, but I am certain the Mods will unlock hundreds of hours more of challenge and fun. I look forward to eventually trying my hand at making some creations of my own.
Simply put, The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ is the best possible version of the game. In my time, I unlocked 26% of the 339 achievements, and I can easily see myself playing off and on for a long while to come. Afterbirth+ has managed to perfectly distill that insane Binding experience into a well-designed, challenging roguelike. With tons of new features and new incentives to keep playing, I think the game is well worth the bundle price of $35.97 (which gets you Rebirth, Afterbirth and Afterbirth+). It more than satisfied my lofty expectations, and allowed me to see the game with fresh eyes again. While I can’t see another DLC in The Binding of Isaac’s future, I think Afterbirth+ will help it go out on a very high note. At least until they release it for the Nintendo Switch, and force me to get that sexy physical edition…
Review copy provided by publisher
Edmund McMillenmadnessNicalisPCRoguelikeSteamThe Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth Plus