Underneath my yellow skin

Binding of Isaac: Repentance–the good, the bad, and the downright ugly

Right. I’m obsessed with Repentance, even though I don’t want to be. Spoilers all throughout this post, obviously.  I was determined to unlock all the Tainted Characters and then hit upon something unintentionally–you can unlock them on Normal Mode. See, I play on Hard, which in Rebirth, was pretty comfortable. Needless to say, the difficulty got ramped up for Repentance and Hard was truly HARD. Oh, by the way, obviously, I can’t call it BoI:R because that’s the same as Rebirth which is why I’m calling it Repentance. Anyway, I was doing a Bethany run and it was feeling really good. I didn’t like her at first because you can’t have any Soul hearts so the chance of getting a Deal with the Devil is slim. Although, apparently, she has 100% chance to get a Deal with the Angel rather than Devil. Obviously, I don’t know the mechanics of the new characters as well as I do the old ones.

As I said, I didn’t get Bethany at first. Oh, her Soul hearts turn into charges for her Book of Virtue, which , when pressed, gives a small flame that protects and does a lot of damage. The Book of Virtue takes four cleared rooms  to fully charge and each Soul heart does one charge. I can’t remember what I got in that run, but by the time I reached the Depths, I was balling out of control. I went up the Home floors and unlocked Tainted Bethany. Then, I was prepared to get my ass wiped by Dogma and The Beast, but a strange thing happened. Dogma didn’t do the attacks I most hated and The Beast seemed, well, not easy, but manageable. It was only afterwards that I realized I had played on Normal and not Hard. Which meant I had to do it all again (except unlock Tainted Bethany) in order to get the proper achievement.

That annoyed me, NGL. Would I have done it on Hard? If I ended up with the same stats and items, possibly. But, that’s the rub. I wouldn’t have made it with the same amount of items, consumables, and stats, most likely. I know in Hard that consumables are drastically reduced. I’m not sure about items, but it definitely seems that they’re not as powerful on Hard. My first run in Repentance on Hard, I did not get one single damage up. That could happen in Rebirth, of course, but it was rare when I wouldn’t get a couple even if they were small. So, while I think I could have handled the tougher versions of Dogma and The Beast with this exact setup, As it is, however, I only have the Normal–oh wait.

Memory is such a funny thing. I did this on Lilith, not Bethany. Which means no Book of Virtue. I have won the good path (It Lives, Isaac, and The Chest) with Bethany, but not Home. The rest remains true, however. Oh, I think it’s because I beat Greedier Mode with Bethany, which I was dubious I would be able to do. That’s probably why I thought I did Home with her. Greedier Mode still fucking sucks. I have to do it with *sigh* Jacob & Esau* but if/when I do that, I’m never touching it again.

Once I realized that I could unlock the Tainted Characters on Normal (I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me. Probably because I never play Normal), I had a brief fight with myself about whether I was going to do Normal for The Keeper and Jacob & Esau. I say brief because there was no reason to do it on Hard except to flex. There was no additional achievement except if you beat The Beast (and Dogma, a boss in its own right before The Beast. Literally. You go right from the end of the Dogma fight into the fight with The Beast–and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I gotta say that I really like that twist because I’ve fought them individually so many times as mini-bosses in the vanilla game. To have them come at you one after another and in full living color–that’s the really cool part of this fight.

Anyway! I did The Keeper and Jacob & Esau on Normal, making it no big thing to unlock Tainted Keeper and Tainted Jacob. Ian asked me what happened after I unlocked the Tainted Characters, like was there some big achievement or something? Nope. You get to fill out their Post-it Notes. That’s it. And do I want to do it? I’m not sure. I’ve tried every Tainted Character and they range from lots of fun to hell to the fucking no. Weirdly, the female Tainted Characters are more interesting and fun overall than the male Tainted Characters. I say weirdly because only 4 of 17 characters are female. To be fair, only 7 of 17 are definitively male whereas the rest are genderfluid/nonbinary/genderless/unclear.

I just did a run with Tainted Lilith and her special thing is C-Section. Just by the name, you know it’s going to be dark. Seriously. In a game that is filled with troubling stuff, this is probably the most twisted. Tainted Lilith is pregnant and when you press the tears shooting keys, her stomach opens up as if it had been scalpeled and a fetus on an umbilical cord comes shooting out to ‘punch’ the enemy. If you hold down the tears buttons, the fetus will start shooting out tears. It’s by far my favorite Tainted Character thus far by a wide margin.

Unfortunately, however, more of the Tainted Characters fall into the meh or the no-fucking-way categories. I get that they’re tainted; it’s in their names. There are supposed to be tradeoffs with the characters, but many of them only seem like they have downsides. Let’s talk Jacob & Esau. The normal version sucks balls. Most characters have some fans in ‘the community’, but I could not find anyone who would stan for Jacob & Esau. There were some people who would say if you had this, that, and the other thing, J&E didn’t completely suck, but no one unabashedly said they were a good character. Many said they were the worst character by far. I agree. Worse than The Keeper? Now that they’ve tweaked The Keeper, I would say J&E are worse by a hair. If they were joined together, it would still be tedious, but doable. That’s what I try to do–keep them together.

As bad as they are, however, Tainted Jacob is ten times worse. Yes, it’s Tainted Jacob, not Tainted Jacob & Esau. Why? Because Dark Esau pursues Tainted Jacob throughout the entire game when you play as Tainted Jacob. Your active item is Anima Sola, which chains the closest enemy for five seconds. If Dark Esau is onscreen, he’s automatically lashed down. Anima Sola charges up automatically. If you use it again while an enemy is chained, it’ll release them. If it’s Dark Esau, he will head straight towards you, damaging any enemy in his path along the way. He has a flame trail that makes things even harder–as if he needed that.

The single worst unlock for me prior to Repentance was unlocking The Forgotten. There are many steps to it, but the one that makes it such a pain is that Mom pursues you throughout the whole game. The active item stops that for the one room, but then it’s right back to Mom constantly attacking you. It was so stressful and I nearly fucked up actually unlocking The Forgotten. Had I done so, I’m not sure I would have had the wherewithal to actually do it. The Forgotten is actually a fun character, but unlocking them made me almost cry.

The reason I bring it up is because Dark Esau is Mom in this situation. Yes, he damages enemies, too, but it’s too stressful. In addition, if he touches Tainted Jacob, Tainted Jacob dies and becomes The Lost–without Holy Mantle. If you kill Dark Esau, Tainted Jacob also turns into The Lost, also sans Holy Mantle. Which means one hit and you die. Tainted Lost is like this which means I’ll never play them, either. With Tainted Jacob, you have to finish the rest of the floor as The Lost before returning to Tainted Jacob at the beginning of the next floor. I only know this because I Googled it. I made it through three rooms as Tainted Jacob before dying.

Most of the Tainted Characters are strictly meh. That could be because I haven’t played much as them, but I’m not sure I want to put in the energy to learn 17 new characters. I need a new game. Crossing my fingers that we’ll get news soon on Elden Ring.





A note on the video: For as much furor as Lil Nas X caused with Montero (Call Me By Your Name), I think this is the stronger song and video. It’s simpler, which might be part of the reason I like it better, but also, it really hit me in the heart. Having grown up fundie and been deeply scarred by Christianity, I can totally relate.


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