Hands-On Preview: The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth

Found out what we thought of the upcoming twin-stick roguelike!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 05/16/2016 10:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

Cinco de Mayo found me at Black Hammer Brewing in San Francisco to attend a Nicalis preview event for a slew of the publisher’s upcoming games. There were a handful of titles that would have the average Nintendo enthusiast in fits of giggles, but sadly, as of this writing, haven’t been confirmed for either Wii U, 3DS, or NX. We’ll touch on those games soon, but for now we’re going to focus on the lone confirmed piece of software from Nicalis that fans will be playing soon, which is The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth.

The original Binding of Isaac took a long time to actually even reach a Nintendo console to begin with, going through a number of hurdles in order to be green lit by the company. Part of that can be attributed to Isaac’s subject matter; the game dabbles in religion, dealing with subject matter that strays into sacrifice and abortion, potentially satanic imagery, and more. There are also poo monsters. In all seriousness, the game is dark, irreverent, and over the top in a way that might offend quite a few people, which is exactly what the game has done since it was launched.

That all said, the fact that The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth ever even hit a Nintendo console is incredibly shocking, but is also a testament to the company’s new willingness to embrace indie developers and push the envelope a bit in terms of presenting adult content in its software offerings. Rebirth hit Wii U and 3DS back in July, delighting fans of intense, roguelike shooting games. Thankfully, Nicalis has seen fit to bring that title’s sequel/DLC expansion The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth to Wii U, and was showcasing the game at its Cinco de Mayo event.

Afterbirth brings with it 120 new items, new enemies and bosses, a new game mode, a new character, and new variations of each floor. The beloved twin-stick shooting and randomly generated levels return, but the whole package is bigger and better than ever. I enjoyed the first game quite a bit, but this new spin is refreshing and innovative. The elements that have been introduced to Afterbirth, like the Glass Cannon, which offers huge fire power at a high cost to your health, felt awesome to use and offered a different layer of challenge for series veterans. Other items, like the Scalpel, change things up even more; it can open portals to different rooms, which makes exploration much different as a result.

While the game won’t feel radically different to those who played the original, the new items and weapons have made a huge impact. Finding different combos to play with, either using just new items or a mix of new and old, is very fun. It’s a testament to developers Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl that the freshly integrated gear doesn’t feel like its been haphazardly shoehorned in. Even the transformation effects and bosses that have been added in work well; for an expansion, Afterbirth really feels like its own entity, and will easily be worth the price of admission once it launched.

Sadly, the game will be hitting Wii U after it has hit Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but late is much better than never– especially considering it won’t be nearly as late as the original! But the fact that Nicalis is even deigning to bring Afterbirth to a Nintendo console is a boon to the company and fans alike. We’ll keep you posted once Afterbirth gets closer to dropping, but in the meantime be sure to give Rebirth a download for either (or both) Wii U and 3DS!

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