Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: Binding of Isaac: Repentance

Demo(lition) woman

It’s Steam Next Fest! What is that? I had no clue when Ian told me about it. I thought it was yet another Steam Sale, which, to be fair, it is, but it’s also a conference/festival/etc. Summer seems to be the time for this shit to happen, which is fine. In this case, that means many demos! I’m a casual gamer at heart and with casual games, demos are expected. Casual games are probably easier to make in general so it’s no biggie to have a demo, but it’s really nice to be able to play the first hour or the first chapter before buying. And that’s with a $7 game! With hardcore games being upwards of $70, it makes sense to want to check it out before buying.

In fact, that’s one reason Game Pass (Xbox and PC) is such a good thing. You can play the games for free and then buy them if you really like them. It’s pretty great that most of the stuff coming up on Xbox is going to be on Game Pass from day one. Which includes PC. I’m here for that and my Game Pass library is growing to the point where I have a pile of shame over there as well.

First, I’m still playing Cozy Grove by Spry Fox every day. It’s my comfort game and it’s my way of starting the day–well, continuing the day. I don’t do it when I first get up–that would be my taiji routine after feeding Shadow, but I usually do it within a few hours after that. Nowadays, it takes about an hour because I have so many resources to gather plus helping my spirit friends and, most importantly, Fashion Grove! I had to help one of my friends leave this mortal coil–look. This is difficult to explain, but they’re spirit bears who are caught in limbo. When they need help, they’re translucent as is the area around them. Nothing grows in the translucent areas and the animals are frozen. After I help them, they wave their paws in the air and become colored again–as is the area around them. Animals spring back to life and you can harvest fruits and flowers again.

Anyway, once you fill all five of their hearts, they are ready to move on. That happened with one of the characters and I was caught off-guard. I was trying to back out of it because I wasn’t ready and managed to flub it up so I didn’t get her final story scene. That bothered me and still does, but I can picture it in my mind (also, not going to play the game all over again just to get there because that  would be two more actual live-time months). I actually said I wasn’t ready for her to go. Afterwards, she turned golden and she’s still there, but I can’t talk to her. Or rather, she can’t talk to me. She still sends me on fetch quests now and again, and I can still buy/sell from/to her when she does, but other than that, she’s just there.

Today, I had a task to do for another spirit bear and he said it was one last craft. I adore him and did not want him to go so even though I had the material he needed, I refused to give them to him until I had done absolutely everything else for the day. Then, I gave him what he needed and it wasn’t actually the thing that pushed him to being released. I was relieved that he was still going to be around.

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It was the best of games; it was the worst of games

Let’s talk Binding of Isaac: Repentance by Edmund McMillen. Why? Because. I read a review of it on Steam that has stuck in my mind. The review said (and I paraphrase) that this is the best version and the worst version of the game at the same time. To them, if you’ve never played the game before, it’s the best time to get stuck in. If you’ve played before, then this iteration will be frustrating. I agree with this. Well, maybe not it’s the best iteration, but if you’re new to the game, you’ll probably appreciate it more than if you’ve poured hundreds (*cough* thousands *cough) of hours into it.

I will say if you’re new to the game (or even if you’re not), play on normal for the love of all that is good and holy. Hard is backbreakingly hard. In Rebirth, Hard was harder than normal, but not terrible. Or maybe it just seemed that way after playing it so much. Anyway, Hard Mode is no fun at all, but you have to do it if you want to get all the achievements. As I’ve explained before, if you get an achievement on Normal  Mode, that’s fine and dandy; you still have to do it in Hard Mode. If you get the achievement in Hard Mode, then you get both (as well as all the unlocks for both). So for OG Isaac people, it makes sense to default to Hard Mode. I got one of the new bosses with Bethany, thinking to myself that it wasn’t as bad this time. I must be OP! No, I had accidentally changed it to Normal Mode. Honestly. It’s so much easier. There’s part of me that is half-tempted to do Normal Mode for all the new achievements that would get me because I can go ten to twenty (or more) runs without winning. In the old days, I won more than I lost. Granted, I mostly played with Azazel, Eden, and Isaac with a few Samsons thrown in for fun, but still.

Indicative of the unevenness of the new expansion: The two new characters, Bethany and Jacob & Esau. Bethany is a terrific character and so much fun. I even beat Greedier Mode with her, which is quite possibly my least-favorite mode in the whole game. I would play with her all day every day and have fun doing it. Now let’s turn our attention to, sigh, Jacob & Esau. I’ve written before how much I loathe this character/s, but it bears repeating. I hate them. So much. And so does everyone on the internet. Normally, you can find someone who will stan for any given character, item, etc. There is no one who will say that Jacob & Esau is a good character. The most anyone will do is say that if you have this item and this item and this circumstance and, and, and, well, then, it’s almost bearable.

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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.

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WWDTAOL: The thin line between hard and unfair (video games edition, part four)

me standing by campfire leveling up my tent.
I’m an empress leveling up my tent!

Here we go! Part four of WWDTAOL: vidya gaemz! Here’s part three. First, some more talk about Cozy Grove and BoI: Repentance. These are the two games that I play every day and they could not be more different. Cozy Grove is like slipping on a pair of fuzzy slippers, sitting on an overstuffed couch under a fluffy duvet and sipping a cup of raspberry tea. I mentioned before that once I could wrap my head around the fact that the game was very much about taking it in little chunks and not mainlining it as I would most games, my frustration just melted away. There’s something charming about a game that isn’t trying to be massive, grim, and gritty. It knows what it wants to be and is more than happy to do exactly that. Not everything needs to be open world and hundreds of hours. Though, this game can be hundreds of hours, it’s not open world and it’s not meant to be played for hours on end.

In the beginning, I spent a few hours a day just wandering around and fishing endlessly. Now, it’s about an hour, but that’s because I have so many resources to gather. Many many flower/fruit bushes/plants and fruit trees. By the way, I have one niggling complaint about the game, a very small one. The interactive function can be wonky. I have probably thirty plants close to each other, plus decor, plus deer and birds. Clicking on the one that needs to be harvest can be hit or miss. The reason they’re so close to each other is because they ‘like’ being next to x, y, or z, and the radius isn’t that big. Nor is space that plentiful. I can deal with that, but what really frustrates me is that sometimes, it’s impossible to interact with certain items. I can’t even get the prompt. It was really noticeable when it happened to the campfire and it’s doubly frustrating when I had just been able to interact with it a second before.

The only thing I find that makes it better is to exit to the menu and restarting. If that doesn’t work, then completely shutting down the game and starting it up again sometimes help. I don’t understand why it suddenly stops working, but it’s frustrating as fuck. It’s a little irritation in the grand scheme of things and it’s an indie developer so I’m apt to be more forgiving.

Now. Let’s talk about BoI: Repentance. It’s funny because I call the former iteration BoI: Rebirth, but this one Repentance. Shorter, I guess, and I just assume everyone knows what I’m talking about. Anyway, there is so much there.  I think it’s the best iteration of the game since Rebirth, but it’s also…not the worst, but so fucking hard. Is it too hard? I don’t know. I think I’m less likely to want to quantify ‘too hard’ in general and just say that I’m reaching the ceiling for myself. I took Apollyon out for a spin because I hadn’t played them in aaaaaages. I don’t hate them–I just don’t find much interesting about them. They’re the one I always forget even exists. I managed to unlock Tainted Apollyon, however, and that’s an interesting character–more interesting than Apollyon.

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WWDTAOL: The thin line between hard and unfair (video games edition, part three)

I think I need to uninstall Repentance because I can’t stop playing. This is part three of hard/unfair games and you can read part two here. I have now unlocked 9 of the 17 Tainted Characters and here’s something funny. I was trying to remember all the characters when I wasn’t playing it and always came up one short. I looked up the characters’ names and came across Apollyon. Oh, right. They’re a thing. I never remember them even though I’ve done their whole Post-it Note. They are just so boring. It made me wonder if maybe they were my least-favorite character, but, no, that’s still The Keeper. Well, maybe *spoilers will abound* Jacob and Esau (one character, technically, but two moveable bunches of pixels) will end up being my least favorite, but I haven’t taken them out for more than a short spin.

Of the Tainted Characters, I’ve unlocked Tainted Isaac, Tainted Maggie, Tainted Cain, Tainted Judas, Tainted Samson, Tainted Lost, Tainted Forgotten, Tainted Azazel, and Tainted Eden. Having to do more of The Keeper is going to make me very sad. I’ve taken each of the tainted characters out for a spin and they range from fun to confusing as fuck. Tainted Forgotten is tons of fun as you play as the secondary character, (flying blue baby), while tossing a dead The Forgotten around. Tainted Cain is confusing as fuck because every item you get is tossed in the Bag of Crafting and….profit? Supposedly, if you follow the recipes, something is supposed to come out of it, but I don’t know what. Oh, wait. I’ve been doing it wrong? Simply trying to pick up the items breaks them down into consumables. I have to swipe with the Bag of Crafting to put them in the bag. Same with pickups on the floor. Anyway, too much for me, though I will try it out again.

ETA: Ok. You cannot swipe items at all. They have to be broken down, I guess. This is just weird.

ETA II: I am completely on board now that the first time I did it properly, I crafted The Book of the Dead, one of my favorite items. Granted, it got nerfed in Repentance, but it’s still amazing. I thought it would be harder to craft something, but it’s not. I didn’t even look up the recipes–I just threw stuff in my Bag of Crafting. Will have to play with it more, I guess.

In general, though, I’m not sure I want to learn seventeen new characters and do all the achievements again.

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WWDTAOL: The thin line between hard and unfair (video game edition, part two)

In my last post, I wrote about difficult games. I was going to write about the thin line, but then got caught up in actually writing about the games. I have a confession to make. One of the reasons I quit playing Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is because I was playing too much of it. At this point, a full run can take an hour or more. Then, I do the rerun (victory lap), which can take another half hour. There is very much a ‘just one more run’ feel to it–but a run isn’t fifteen minutes. At least you can save now–that’s a relief.

Anyway, I resisted Repentance until I didn’t and now I can’t stop playing. Partly because it has so much new content, but also because it still has that ‘just one more run’ feeling to it. I read the Steam reviews when it came out and while most people were positive, there was a vocal minority of dedicated Isaac fans who declared the game had jumped the shark. Personally, I thought it started declining with Afterbirth and hit the nadir with Afterbirth+, so I was inclined to believe those minority voices. They qualified their credentials (True Platinumed the game) before saying they thought Repentance was too hard.

If you had asked me a few hours after I started playing Repentance what I thought of it, I would have been firmly in the minority voice’s camp. it felt hard just for the sake of being hard and the new character wasn’t any fun. Then, I got a good run with Bethany and managed to beat ??? (the boss of The Chest) and was able to tick off three achievements. And, yeah, I was still playing on hard so yay for me. Suddenly, I saw the appeal of Bethany and took her on a victory lap. Now. We’re going to get into really spoilery territory so fair warning. All the stuff until now is not completely new because the alternate path is basically Antibirth (mod) made official. This, however, is a secret path, much like Hush or the Void with Delirium as the boss. Or MegaStan.

I will fully admit that I had to look up this shit because there was no way I would have found this on my own. I don’t know if someone data-mined or actually figured this out, but that’s not me. I am forever grateful for those who are more diligent than I am. Anyway. I’m bringing it up now because I decided to take OP Bethany on this alternate path. I had fought the boss(es) of this area with Azazel with sick damage and The Wafer (half-damage taken) and still could not beat the final boss. So, yeah. I wanted to take Bethany up there because even though it wouldn’t count for the achievements, at least it let me see the boss again.

By the way. I just have to mention something I’m pissed about. I made it up to this boss and unlocked the Red Key. What should I do with it? I wasn’t sure. I didn’t want to completely spoil it for myself, but I wanted to know so I skimmed the wiki on it. Apparently, you’re supposed to use it in the hallway between Mom’s bedroom and the living room.  Oh. I should back up and explain that. Ok. The new secret path goes like this. On the 2nd floor of The Depths (or the equivalent), there is a door with a ‘glass’ panel in front of it. You can only unlock it after beating Mother, the final boss of the alternate route, which I did with Azazel and unlocked the second new character–Jacob and Esau. Yes, two characters in one and fuck that character. They may be my least-favorite character in the whole game, including The Keeper.

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WWDTAOL: The thin line between hard and unfair (video game edition, part one)

In today’s edition of WWDTAOL, I want to focus on hard video games. Why? Because, well, look at the games I play. FromSoft games, to be specific. But also NL hours into Binding of Isaac in all of its iterations. That’s why it’s endlessly amusing to me that I also like games such as Cozy Grove (Spry Fox) because it’s the exact opposite of demanding and curse-inducing. I’m really digging Cozy Grove now that I’ve completely accepted it for what it is–a bite-sized chunk game in which putting an hour into a day is the way to play. I love doing my little chores  and making the rounds, talking to my friends and trying on the new clothes. I have a real problem with hoarding all the items and it’s only been recently that I’ve been able to make myself sell clothing that I know I will never wear. I can buy new slots, but it’s 30,000 old coins for ten spaces. That’s chump change these days, but I’m still cheap.

Anyway! Tough games. Let’s talk Binding of Isaac by Edmund McMillen. Normally, I would call the game Binding of Isaac: Rebirth because that’s the best edition of the game in my opinion. I’ve played them since Wrath of the Lamb–well, I actually played the first version, but hated it–and, man, has the game changed so much. I’ve 1001%ed the game and I played it every day as my relaxer. If I played as Zaz or Eden, I could reliable win most games. With Isaac, Samson, Judas, or Laz, as long as I got decent damage upgrades, I win more often than I lost. I knew the items like I knew the back of my hand and I could play on automatic. Then, at some point, I got burned out on the game and uninstalled it. I’ve done that before and then gone back to it, but this time, it stuck. It helped that while I really dug Rebirth, I was less than enamored of Afterbirth and Afterbirth+. I did play the mod, Antibirth, for a bit, but I didn’t get too into it.

Then there was the announcement of Repentance. I think it was before the pandemic. I noted it and moved on. In the last few months, it was announced as coming out for realsies. From what I knew about it, it was Edmund taking Antibirth and incorporating it into the game. By the time the official announcement happened, I was over the game. So over it. I messaged Ian and told him that I was NOT going to get the game, nuh uh, no way. I was so over it and I didn’t like the way it sucked me in for way too much time. He gently reminded me that I didn’t have to get the expansion, which was true. I wasn’t going to do it and the day of the release came and went without me buying it. Then, I started watching Northernlion play Repentance because, I don’t know why. I just couldn’t let go of the game. Watching NL play it made me want to try it.

Long story somewhat shorter: I bought it. I was just going to try it out–yeah, right. Who am I kidding? I know how I am with this game. That’s one of the reasons I quit playing it. Anyway, It’s fucking hard. It’s brutally hard. Now, I probably should have started out with Isaac just to ease myself into it. However, I wanted to unlock the new characters as quickly as possible. There were two new characters in the game and I know one of them was in Antibirth. Let me just say that spoilers will abound. That’s just the way it is. Anyway, Bethany was the one with the explicit requirements–beat the game with Lazarus without losing a life (he comes with an extra).

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