The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Albert Lichi 29.03.2017

Review for The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ on Nintendo Switch

Edmund McMillen found some success with his uncompromising indie platformer Super Meat Boy, thanks to his distinctive Flash graphics style and his panache for dead baby comedy. It was a humble little game that was more or less just N, the popular freeware sidescroller, but with added depth and complexity, thanks to various playable characters and hidden levels. McMillen would eventually go on to create The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+, and after a quasi-Flash prototype, various additions, tweaks, ports and DLCs, the game had undergone a mutation and is now ready to be set loose on Nintendo's console/portable hybrid with added features. The unorthodox fusions of twin-stick shooting, roguelike and The Legend of Zelda as designed by the Orson Welles of dead baby humour has made its way to Switch, and Cubed3 is ready to operate on The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+.

To anyone uninitiated with Edmund McMillen's baby, The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ will make a very surreal first impression, thanks to its animated introduction that lays out the general story of Isaac and his mother. McMillen birthed the concept of The Binding of Isaac from a fairly personal place in his life about members of his family becoming born again Christians, as well as making the story a parallel to the ye olde story of Isaac as read in the Holy Bible.

Screenshot for The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ on Nintendo Switch

It can be easy to misconstrue most of this as teenage edginess for edginess' sake, but The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ surprisingly front loads the more critical aspects of faith and much later reveals itself to be much more of a shade of grey. McMillen shockingly showed a great deal of maturity with the approach to the themes presented in the game in spite of the crude tapestry made up of faeces and dead babies. This weirdly personal and deranged video game is all held together via the addicting and intense gameplay, which is constantly building upon itself.

The controls are very simple and adhere to the basic twin-stick shooter formula, but with some quirks: Isaac can only aim his projectile tears in four ways, and has the ability to use items and bombs. The game controls very fluidly, and because of the four-way aiming, this is a good fit for using a single Joy-Con's four face buttons.

Screenshot for The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ on Nintendo Switch

Afterbirth+ on Switch is unique among the console ports, since it is also the only console version to have couch co-op gameplay using two Joy-Con. This is undeniably one of the greatest assets and most defining features of the console, and it was a stroke of genius for Afterbirth+ to fully utilise Nintendo's hardware gimmick to its fullest with a controller that is a natural fit. The controls were always very simple and had a low barrier, but being able to plunge the poopy depths of hell with a friend on the go? Brilliant. It does come with a few caveats, however, like player two having to be a much weaker small baby instead of being able to choose from the various unlockable characters. The co-op likely had to be implemented this way as a means to keep the game balanced, but it is still a wonderful feature to have.

In the grand scheme of twin-stick action games, the mechanics are solid, but nothing amazing. What makes Afterbirth+'s gameplay so interesting is the implementation of roguelike and RPG mechanics. The various ways the player-characters can grow during a run is pretty outstanding. Thanks to Edmund McMillen's programming, all the equipment, tarot cards, pick-ups and items all work together. The results can lead to ridiculous action on screen, and through the art and design, the things seen become indescribable.

Screenshot for The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ on Nintendo Switch

While it does run at 60 frames per second, the later portions with the most chaos can lead to a few dips here and there - particularly in this game's version of horde mode, "Greed Mode," where a small area can be filled with dozens of enemies and even bosses. It all becomes very hard to put down because of how Afterbirth+ is constantly inviting a return by having tempting challenges and unlocking new bonuses and features for dozens, if not hundreds of hours. It is like a filthy and disgusting all-you-can-eat buffet at an open 24 hours Denny's, where McMillen is the maître d' and will randomly put Taco Bell food in the buffet.

Anyone who couldn't get past the Newgrounds-y graphics in Super Meat Boy are likely to have the same feelings towards The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+. McMillen plays to his strengths and does what he can with his restrictions, yet it all manages to mesh pretty well enough. This is one of the few games out there where it really does feel like walking into the mind of its creator, and on those grounds the presentation feels so unique it would be difficult to imagine them any other way. Thankfully, all character designs are strong enough and read perfectly during all action. It has a cheap and crude charm about it where the struggles that McMillen endured during development can be felt. It may not be a looker, but it gets the job done.

Screenshot for The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ is the most updated console version and features two-player co-op. With both Joy-Con, there is a lot of game here to play with someone friendly. With over 10 endings and a seemingly endless amount of unlockable content/features, expect to get far beyond 100 hours logged in. For its price, The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ pretty much has it all and more thanks to the Switch hardware. For some it may become a grind, and others may never be able to get past Edmund McMillen's wonderful sense of humour. Those who get beyond those quibbles will have one of the most addictive and creative indie games in their pockets and on their TV.

Developer

Nicalis

Publisher

Nicalis

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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