When I loaded up the Binding of Isaac again, after a few months of weaning myself off from its fiendishly addictive gameplay, I held a disposition that contained a mix of excitement, fear, and a little inkling of confidence. I dove in, thinking that with over 70 hours sunk into the game, pre rebirth included, that I would be able to breeze through whatever it had to throw at me. I mean, I was no platinum god, but I was no stranger to the womb either.
My experience in matricide aside, I thought I would give the DLC’s new ‘Greed’ mode a spin, and it proceeded to strip away my last coat of innocence like only a roguelike knows how. Yet despite the crushing difficulty that is still very present in Isaac, the amount of content that this new add-on delivers is incredible. Greed mode adds new depth to the game and condenses all the usual fun into short bursts of risk/reward mayhem, with a timer set in the middle of the room, spawning relentless waves of enemies into a punishing, claustrophobic environment.
It’s great if you’re looking for a less time-consuming battle to the womb than the main game has to offer, and it pumps some more adrenaline into the games already lightning fast gameplay. Further than Greed mode, the main game has also been expanded with a new floor and boss, plus alternate environments for the already existing floors. The Burning Basement, for example, sets most enemies alight and will throw off the most hardened of veterans, who may think they have the early levels completely figured out.
Afterbirth also boasts a whole host of spooky new enemies and bosses, most being intuitive redesigns of previous favourites, or developments of existing enemies into a more sinister challenge. Most importantly, the new additions like Little Horn, which constantly evades the player and Rag Man, who barrages you with homing shots, feel like they have been designed to put players in fresh, precarious situations to keep you on your toes. Edmund McMillen’s distinct, grotesque art style continues to cut no corners and keep the game as atmospheric as it always has been.
Perhaps the bulkiest addition to Afterbirth would be the sheer amount of items and trinkets that have been crammed in. A select few include the Isaac equivalent of a Poke ball, which turns the delinquents you find in the depths into your bodyguards, the ‘Mine Crafter’, a moveable tongue-in cheek explosive barrel, and my personal favourite, a tractor beam that maps to your tears. Along with the new items you also get a few handy transformations to make the lesser items a touch more useful in the long run. One lets Isaac embrace his inner Lovecraft, becoming a substitute of Cthulhu, whilst another turns him into an anthropomorphic pile of poop. That pretty much sums up this game, to be honest.
The Afterbirth package also includes a ‘Daily Challenge’ system complete with leader boards, 10 new challenge runs, 1 new playable character and 4 player local co-op, with the soundtrack getting an appreciated expansion too. The 8 pound price tag may polarize Isaac newcomers, but if you’ve ran the gauntlet and you’re looking for your next fix, you couldn’t grumble at what Afterbirth has to offer.