In my opinion, if you’re making a game and you want to tell a story, or have some sort of higher message, you need to make it work in tandem with what it is you do in the game. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is a mix of The Legend of Zelda, shoot-em-ups and rogue-likes that explores the positive and negative effects that religion can have on a child’s upbringing, along with parental abuse, sexual identity, disease and crying on enemies to kill them. And, believe me when I say, the mechanics and the theming blend seamlessly.
There’s an item in the game called Wooden Spoon. Upon picking it up, you’re told you’ve received an increase to your Speed stat. Your body is then showered in cuts and bruises. In a second and a half, you’ve had your gameplay altered and been delivered a heartbreaking story. No cutscene. No dialogue. Just an increased variable and an altered graphic.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is brutally difficult, but, like designer Edmund McMillen’s previous title, Super Meat Boy, it’s been developed with that in mind. Where the former decreased the amount of time between ‘Game Over’ and ‘Try Again’ to almost zero, here he implements various rogue-like mechanics (specifically, permanent death and randomised dungeon layout/item drops) to make a game where success does and doesn’t matter. Death isn’t looked upon as failure, but as a chance to try out a new combination of items and see how far they get you.
Also, why the remake and not the original? There’s just way more content. And a game with a foundation this strong can never have enough. Yes, you may have a run that’s horrifically unbalanced, but that’s all part of the fun. If it’s not balanced in your favour, just see how far you can get this time. Who knows? You might find a new item that adds a new puzzle piece to the story, and if not, you’re only a few mistakes away from trying again.