The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth (2016) — Edmund McMillen

The Binding of Isaac — a short review

The Binding of Isaac was initially released in 2011, and is an indie roguelike inspired by the Biblical story of the Binding of Isaac. The game itself has religious inspiration, but isn’t out to promote religious belief.

The player runs around as Isaac (or his other religious counterparts as they’re unlocked) and picks up items which affect his attacks. The game itself has no real end, instead offering 18 endings for the player to find.

Most interesting of the characters presented is Mum (or Mom), who has some part behind all of this.

We see at the start of game, just before the title screen, a clip of Isaac and his mother (pictured above). By watching this, we see that Isaac’s mother is heavily Christian and is transformed when she hears what she believes to be ‘the voice of God’ from above, sending Isaac into a land of the damned (and let me tell you, this is a cursed place).

While heavily influenced by religion (almost to the point of insanity), she is not shown as a weak character by any stretch of the imagination. She is a large force in Isaac’s new world, and is even a little bit scary for new players (I wasn’t scared when I started this game… okay, I was)!

Mum is portrayed with an amazing amount of strength and is able to crush Isaac’s dreamlike world with her over-sized hands and feet as the game progresses. We see this in various stages of the game, but particularly at the first major boss battle, where she is the main antagonist.

Interestingly, we never actually see Mum’s full body (except in the opening clip), only her hands and feet, and occasionally other parts of her when an item of hers is used. In this state, she forms a sense of mystery and even benevolence that makes her such a strong character for this game.

Mum has one of the strongest personalities out of all the characters involved in The Binding of Isaac, and she is presented very well as an antagonist of which video gaming has not seen the like before.

The other female characters (Eve, Lilith, Maggie) do not interact with Mum in quite the way Isaac does (as he is the main character), but still present their own unique skills and traits. Not as much is known about them as is known about Isaac, but they might just be representations of Isaac himself… I suppose you’ll have to play to find out!

The art style and story are very complex and not to be missed, which is why Good Game Girls recommends this to anyone who wants to learn more about it.

Characters: 8/10

Story: 9/10

Art: 9/10

Strong females: Yes

Does it pass the Bechdel test? No

  • No women that talk to each other
  • The female playable characters are representations of Isaac himself, which may not comply with Bechdel requirement 1 (the fiction must have a minimum of two women in it)

Overall: 8/10