The already infinitely playable, twin-stick cry ’em up has recently had an addition of disgustingly good content. Yes, the term DLC may bring on a case of shivers down the spine to some, but this little expansion from the insanely inventive minds of Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl just adds to the game that can never be finished… The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth installs a whole poop-load of content into the dreary depths of Isaac’s cellar.
First up is a multitude of shiny trinkets, items and pick-ups that combine with the original list of hundreds to add some extra flavour to the mix. The inclusion of the usual stat-boosts and shot styles are accompanied by some rather inventive goodies. From a new targeting method called Marked, that has automatic, continuous fire, only allowing you to direct the tears by means of a reticle positioned on the ground, to God’s Flesh, a mushroom that gives you the ability to shrink baddies and stomp them into a blood-splatter on the grimy basement floor.
Along with the power-ups, come more familiars that float around, protecting Isaac and murdering evil poop in a range of new and exotic ways. ‘Lil Gurdy is a miniature version of Gurdy Jr. and charges around the room, wiping out enemies. Key Bum will steal any keys that drop as loot and occasionally throw out a chest for you in return. There are also a couple of demon friends that are linked to new unlockable character, Lilith, one who is especially important in her attacking skills.
It took me a while to break the new mode and liberate Lilith from the clutches of the new Greed Mode, which I’ll talk about shortly. Lilith is blindfolded and therefore unable to shoot tears and relies on her incubus familiar to do the shooting for her. He follows her around closely and after a couple of rooms, you start getting used to jinking her around a bit to get the perfect aim. Instead of shot items affecting Lilith herself, the incubus gains the powers instead. It takes a slight bit of practice, but you’ll be soaking bouncing jobbies, Mulligans and Bonys to death as easily as you can with any of the other characters in the game… Maybe not as much as Azazel though.
Speaking of the winged demon, He’s an integral part of freeing Lilith from Ultra Greed, the new boss of Greed Mode. This survival/arena hybrid drops you in a large area with a button in the middle of the room. Off to the north is a shop, with a whole store of power-ups. To the east lies a new silver door which gives the player a free trinket or item to help with the coming battle and above that is a locked room, that if you manage to find/afford a key will give you access to an extra shiny. There’s also a Curse room in case you’re struggling so badly that you might feel the need to gamble away a heart in case you find something useful.
When you’re ready, stand on the button and the first in a wave of eight will appear. If you kill them within the time limit, the next lot of monsters will arrive right away. If there’s any stragglers left when the countdown finishes, the next wave just adds to the group and makes it much harder to deal with the horde of beasties. Simple yes?
It seems that way, until you get a bad run and it seems like you’re killing an enemy every five seconds. If in doubt of managing an extra wave on top of the lot you’re already having trouble with, you can always stand on the switch again to stop them spawning. There is a downside to this though. Each wave will give you a number of coins to spend in the oh-so-needed shop, and if you halt the waves mid game, the amount of coins you gain is reset to the minimum amount. When you complete each round in one go, the coins multiply, giving you a hefty sum to spend on HP upgrades and extra hearts to deal with later encounters. Most of the time, it’s just better to slog through and pile up the money for future encounters. Just be careful not to accidentally tread on the button when you don’t want to, it steals half a heart for using it and it’s easily trod on if you’re not playing attention, leading to some frustration when you really need some cash for the that game changer you spotted in the shop before the fight.
Once you defeat all the waves, you’ll be invited to hit the switch again to compete in a fight with a couple of mini-bosses so you can finally descend into the next level. Easy enough if you’re a pro at boss battles and you’ve got the right set-up. After this you can go south to the trapdoor room and start all over again in a different dungeon… Or, you can try and bag some extra devil/angel room goodies by standing on the button again and taking on a level specific boss. Greed Mode is a huge gamble but it’s just as addictive as the base game and you’ll probably find yourself wondering if there’s a chance to grab The Head of Krampus after a simple cry-off with Monstro.
If you manage to beat all floors, your final mission will be to beat Ultra Greed, a titan of a boss with a health bar that puts even Mega Satan to shame. He shoots at you, tries to stamp on you, spawns masses of monsters to mess with you while he uses his coin abilities to heal himself, open arena doors that pour forth frothing Gapers to make things tougher and bomb the shit out of your tearful little arse while you pick away slowly at his health. He also cowers from time to time, negating some of the damage you do until you clear the room of extra mobs. I had trouble with an almost fully powered Issac, complete with Mom’s Knife and a troupe of familiars, including Lil’ Brimstone.
Beating him unlocks extra in-game pick-ups for the character you beat him with and also Lilith, if you dominate him with Azazel. It’s just another way to add more to a game that can be played over and over without thought to the world around you.
Finally, a new floor has been added. The Blue Womb is a small floor that houses another new boss, Hush. Having only has one glimpse of his final form, I can’t really say much about him, other than he is a massively overpowered blue bastard and I couldn’t best him in the week I’ve been playing Afterbirth. Just another enjoyable challenge to add to the list of hundreds you face when playing the game.
Along with all the new content with a few extra baddies to kill with Fat Bats who slowly follow you around, ulcers (or arseholes as I call them) that appear in the ground, spitting forth dart flys and other variations of established mosters from the original game, some floor changes such as the Burning Basement, Flooded Caves and Scarred Womb and ten extra challenges, not to mention new L-shaped rooms and narrow corridors and trap rooms that will have you avoiding spikes and tear spitting statues, there’s plenty to add to your obsessive one-more-go mentality if you’re a true Issac fan. That’s not including the ten new bosses…
So, how good is The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth? Let’s put it this way; I have Fallout 4 and have only played twelve hours since release… I just can’t tear myself away from the sullen, obsessive beauty of Isaac’s dank underground labyrinths any more than I could when Rebirth was released. Afterbirth is anti-DLC, it actually adds worthwhile content to a game already brimming with playability.
This review was based on a copy of The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth for PC, supplied by the reviewer.