reviews\ Jul 6, 2012 at 9:31 am

The Binding of Isaac: Wrath of the Lamb DLC review


Designers Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl launched The Binding of Isaac on Steam last September to a widely positive reaction. The game delivered a satisfyingly tough rougelike experience that didn't require you to simply play through it and complete it. No, Isaac required you to get better at it — to get better at surviving — so that every time you play you might have a chance at getting a bit farther in the game. This gameplay design came courtesy of the perma-death factor, which ensured that once you lost all your health points, it was back to the start of the game for you. What kept Isaac so enthralling was its randomly generated Zelda-esque dungeons, varied bosses, multiple endings, assortment of power-ups, and array of collectible items.

But all of that just wasn't enough for Edmund McMillen. He went back to the drawing board and started whipping up a bunch of twisted additions for Isaac. What resulted was Wrath of the Lamb, the first expansion for the game that adds over 100 new items, over 20 new enemies, and over 15 new bosses. There are also new room types and more endings. And if that wasn't enough, there's also a challenge mode, more music from the awesome Danny B, and more random events. Honestly, that's not everything this expansion adds to Isaac. There's a lot more, but part of the fun is in discovering it all for yourself, so you won't get another peep from me.

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After I got through Isaac the first time (which took several plays), I didn't actually jump back into it very seriously for a few months. I definitely loaded the game up when I had some free time, but I never tried getting to the end again. Wrath of the Lamb changed that, and it made me want to immerse myself in the dreadful, dark, and disturbing world that McMillen created, so that's exactly what I did. I ponied up the small $3 price of admission and downloaded the expansion. Now I find myself returning to Isaac over and over again once more, just like I did when I first downloaded the game back in September.

The moment you see all of the changes and additions that Wrath of the Lamb implements into this already wonderful roguelike, you can't help but feel that it's like Christmas. Well, a totally messed up Christmas with a naked boy who kills disgusting enemies with his tears, but Christmas nonetheless. Every new item, enemy, and boss feels like a gift from Santa McMillen, and all of that content goes an incredibly long way to provide a perma-death experience that's even more fulfilling than it was when Isaac first launched. And the best part of it all is that the game already felt complete before, so all of this new content only maximizes what was already a full game and injects it with even more awesomeness.

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As someone who played Isaac at launch and now several months later with the Wrath of the Lamb content incorporated into it, I can attest to the fact that the game actually feels much bigger. There's so much there, and every play-through (or every attempt at survival) plays out differently from the last. For example, when I first played Isaac after downloading the DLC, I got some kick-ass power-up that turned the titular protagonist's tears into powerful explosive projectiles. I was mowing down enemies and leaving a trail of blood and guts behind with no remorse. Since that play-through (or attempt, because I didn't actually get to the end that time) I haven't seen that power-up again. I have, however, come across a lengthy list of new abilities that are equally enjoyable such as an eyeball that randomly moves around dungeon rooms damaging any enemies it touches.

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The new power-ups certainly add a great deal of variety to Isaac, and the brand new challenge mode does a great job of changing things up even more. This bonus consists of a series of preset abilities that enhance Isaac in specific ways. For example, one option gives you nine lives, so you can actually retry after Isaac dies, but you've only got two health points. Another challenge grants Isaac heavenly wings so he can fly over gaps and rocks, avoiding enemies with more ease. There's even a challenge where a meaty buddy (he's either made of meat or just missing skin) will follow you around, taking out enemies along with you.

Isaac was already a great experience, but Wrath of the Lamb enhances it and makes it an excellent experience. The game won't be for everyone due to its high level of challenge and lack of gamepad support (though there is always Joy2Key), but for gamers who want a remarkable roguelike/twin-stick shooter/dungeon crawler hybrid, the latest from one-half of Team Meat more than delivers the goods. And with Wrath of the Lamb adding so much to the stellar package, this is one gem that shouldn't be passed up. For just $3 (or $8 for the price of the main game and DLC combined), you're getting a lot of pleasantly sadistic goodness.

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David Sanchez David Sanchez is the most honest man on the internet. You can trust him because he speaks in the third person.
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