The Binding of Isaac: Wrath of the Lamb Review

Last year a little game called The Binding of Isaac came out.  In this game the player takes on the part of Isaac, a little boy who’s mother has banished him to the basement because God told her so.  Through Isaac’s struggle he works his way out of the basement to eventually face his mother, after facing his mother he faces her womb, and then finally he faces the Devil himself!  Sound strange?  Well it is, and it is one of those popcorn games you will sink hundreds of hours into without even thinking.

Come 2012, and the expansion has been released: Wrath of the Lamb.  For the low price of three dollars you can add a metric fuck-ton of content to your game.  Wrath of the Lamb adds new levels, a new optional last level, new bosses, new enemies, a ton of new items, challenge modes, and a handful of new room types.  It’s quite amazing how much content they crammed into this expansion.

Firstly on the new levels.  Originally the sequence of levels went Basement 2x > The Caves 2x > The Depths 2x > The Womb 2x > Sheol 1x.  The expansion doesn’t add any additional level counts, but it randomly inserts a new type of level for each of the five chapters:

Basement – Cellar
Caves – Catacombs
Depths – Necropolis
Womb – Utero
Sheol – Cathedral

Each of these levels add a substantial amount of new enemies, especially a lot of spiders that have no real pattern and will annoy the crap out of you.  Then after you defeat “It Lives” you get the choice to either go into the light and face the Cathedral, or go below and face Sheol.

Another great part of this expansion is the new items because there are a ton.  They also do some horrifying things to Isaac’s body … if you thought Edmund wasn’t holding back in the original game, the man has lost his mind this time around.  I think the best one would have to be the toothpicks that Isaac opens up his eyelids sideways with.  More important than the aesthetic quality of the items is how they effect the gameplay.  You can make some pretty game breaking combinations this go around.  There are a ton of damage modifiers in the game now and they can stack pretty high.  Put that with something like rage and by the end of a boss fight you will be shooting red blood tears half the size of the room.  I would expect in the next few patches they will balance a few of these as they did brimstone when the Sheol patch came out.

A new item slot that the expansion adds is the trinket.  These add a passive bonus … and there are some interesting ones I have run into, like the Tick, that will disable me from picking up a different trinket however all bosses have like 15% less life.  Stacking that with huge damage tears made my first Cathedral run really easy as you can see here:

So how about those new bosses?  Well they are a strange bunch and welcome addition as well … with the sixty-some hours I put into the base game, it is nice to throw a new face or two into the boss arena.  None of them seem overly hard, however I do think early runs against the Widow can be tough, especially with low power tear characters like Eve and ???.  There is also a new skin of Scolex called Pin, which is kind of funny because in the end credits Scolex kind of bugs up flickering back and forth between his and Pin’s skin.

The new end boss is … wait for it … Isaac.  And since the latest patch he has been made a lot more challenging because now he spawns adds.  But originally he just kind of stood in the center of the screen and would re-actively fire back at you as you hit him.  In his third phase he spawns light beams in areas of the map making it a little harder to dodge him, and that presented the biggest challenge.  Defeating him will unlock new character specific items and hopefully achievements whenever they are activated on Steam.

To be fair you could complain about the lack of joystick control, but playing with a keyboard is the only way I have played.  if you really want to use a joystick, then get a copy of Joy2play installed and you should be just fine.

We are currently in a gaming industry that likes to bleed its consumers dry with low effort/high cost DLC schemes aimed ultimately to raise the price of the product past the norm of the original release.  The Binding of Isaac was a cheap game to begin with, costing less than $5 at launch.  The expansion which pretty much adds an entire game on top of it is $3.  I have dropped over one hundred hours into this game and feel like I should be giving them more money for the amount of fun it had brought me.  Everything about the game is great, it has so much character and at the same time it is completely strange and off the wall.

Also worth noting, Danny Baranowsky recorded new music for the new levels.  If you bought the game with the soundtrack these new tracks will be added as soon as they are put up on Steam.

The Binding of Isaac – Wrath of the Lamb is available on Steam for both Mac and PC.

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