Reviews April 7, 2017

The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+

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Reviewed By: Ricardo Benitez
System: Nintendo Switch
Genre: Action/Dungeon Crawler
Rated: M
Players: 1-2
Cost: $39.99
Release Date: 03/17/2017
Publisher: Nicalis
Developer: Edmund McMillen/Nicalis

When it was announced that the Binding of Isaac DLC, Afterbirth, wasn't going to be released on the Vita, I was devastated. I understood. The CPU just couldn’t handle all of the extra content – Tyrone Rodrigues of Nicalis explained how the game didn’t run at the performance level that he was happy with. So I trucked on, continuing to play until I got tired. Thing is, I never got tired of it. The roguelike elements kept the game fresh and exciting. The random items and map generation made it a different experience every time. But, I still wished for the DLC to be released in a portable setting. Enter, the Nintendo Switch!

I've personally logged over 1000 hours on my PSVita version of Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. I still had a few more achievements to finish up prior to reading the news that Afterbirth+ would be releasing on my newly pre-ordered Nintendo Switch. I was elated. Binding of Isaac quickly turned to my go-to portable time waster. I absolutely loved the replayability and setting. It was so different than other games out there at the time of its release in 2014. So it’s understandable that Afterbirth+ became my most anticipated game, even more so than Zelda. However, at a price tag of $40, is it worth the money for additional items and modes? I mean, I did already own the Rebirth…

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The short answer is yes. Also, I purchased the physical copy, which included a Legend of Zelda NES style instruction booklet, a couple pages of stickers and a reversible case cover. These are only to be included with the initial first batch of Isaac. Any subsequent purchases will be game only, as far as I know. This doesn’t change my view on the game itself of course. It just made my decision to rebuy it that much sweeter. Carry on!

The Binding of Isaac, for those that don’t know, is a randomly generated dungeon crawler that uses a twin stick mechanism. Think Legend of Zelda meets Smash TV. Using a top-down viewpoint, you’ll explore rooms, beat baddies, and collect items as they appear; all culminating to a floor boss showdown before going to the next level. Each level map gets progressively larger and enemies get tougher. Items collected throughout your journey stack, which can dramatically change your gameplay (good or bad depending on how you play). Because it’s a roguelike title, permadeath is a thing. Meaning, if you die, you’ll have to start over in a fresh dungeon. Players can unlock different characters to play as, each with different starting attributes. There are options to progress as you gain more experience and time in the basement. You can choose different paths with optional bosses, all dependent on how you play.

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As far as the plot…well, the content of Isaac will offend some due to strong religious themes that’s somewhat sacrilegious in tone. Isaac's mother hears the voice of God telling her to murder her son. As you progress through towards the ending, it does make the story clear that this is not the case. The constant bombardment of demons, feces, angels, and blood does make the actual visual and audio content of the game offensive to some. If you can look past this you'll find a very enjoyable game with unique and addicting gameplay.

In Afterbirth+, 20 endings exist (raised from Rebirth's 13 endings), along with Greed Mode, daily runs, three new unlockable characters, four new dungeons, two new final bosses, 240 new items, and local co-op. This is a huge upgrade from the vanilla game or even Rebirth. Gameplay has been tightened, with more stacking available between items. The game runs at a buttery 60 frames/second on the Switch, however it does take a slight hit when the player has multiple stacked items and the screen is full of enemies. I've encountered it twice, specifically with a charge shot while the retrovision pill was enabled in the later Utero level – you’ll understand once you’ve gotten there. Hopefully this is something that can be patched later on.

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Is Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ worth the hefty price tag? It depends. For me, absolutely yes! For others I know, they won't even give it a look given that it’s been released multiple times now. If you like unique games with different experiences every time you play and aren’t easily offended by religious undertones, definitely give it a chance. You won't regret it. And now, if you'll excuse me, it's time to push through and see if I can get to where I left off from the Vita version.

Gameplay: 9
Extremely responsive and a smooth 60fps makes this an almost flawless experience. Certain item combinations cause slowdown in specific circumstances.

Graphics: 9
The game looks the same as it did three years ago. Functional, but nothing new.

Sound: 10
Music and sound are driving elements that encourage you to punch through to the next level.

Replay Value: 10
Every experience is different. If I could give this category an 11, I would!

Final Score:

9.5