Since its release in November, I’ve been playing Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. A lot. To the point that I haven’t been playing much else.
It started off innocently enough. It was free on PS Plus and my SO is a fan of the original, so I decided to download it and give it a try. Then it disrupted my entire gaming agenda. I quit The Evil Within and haven’t picked it back up since. I assign Isaac partial blame for causing me to not finish a Pokemon game for the first time in my life. It’s also made the thoroughly tedious Dragon Age: Inquisition seem all the less appealing. I just haven’t been able to put it down.
My friends have been teasing me, asking when I’m going to move on to something else, badgering me to download this or that game (and I do have a long and growing list of games untried or unfinished that have taken a backseat to Isaac’s draw). My aforementioned SO is taking a break from it and is therefore no longer a motivating source of friendly competition. Still, I’ve been logging hours every day trying to accomplish this or that task, returning to the game with a devotion and diligence that has virtually made it into a job.
At some point, I got it into my head that I could finish the game. Finish as in 100% complete it—unlock every item and secret, beat every level with every character, get every trophy.
That type of completion is something that I usually don’t even try to pursue in games. It usually strikes me as impossible, necessitating a devotion of time, an expertise, a perfection of skill that is utterly beyond my capability or drive or time. And frankly, I usually just don’t care enough to bother. But something about Isaac seemed to suggest that this would be a doable goal. I would have to work at it. I would have to play a lot. But it was something I could actually do—or so I thought.
Earlier this week, after months of struggling, I managed to get the achievement for beating all twenty of the game’s challenges. I had been toggling between the “main game” and the challenges, but I can safely say that accomplishing this took me a long, difficult time. In particular, the Darkness Falls challenge took weeks of frustration and failed attempts. I had thought that this was some kind of herculean accomplishment and that I was on the downhill slope towards my goal. I was very wrong.
For most of the time that I’d been playing, I’d basically banned myself from looking up how to unlock the game’s secrets. I was okay with looking up details concerning individual items that I had already received (to check what effects they had and so on) but not how to actually unlock anything. But after getting my coveted challenges trophy, I did some research to see what I had left. What I discovered was that I really had no idea how hard the game could be.
It turns out that the final character can only be unlocked with a difficult sequence of events that I think is as much about luck as it is about skill. To then unlock all of the items associated with this character, you basically have to finish the game on hard mode with a set of perfect runs—that is, without getting injured a single time.
I can’t do this. I know I can’t do this.
I am curious to discover whether I can unlock this character, but I’ve already resigned myself to the likely reality that I will not be 100% completing this game. And I might try to unlock that final character and finish up a few other little outstanding tasks before I try to move on. But I won’t be getting the game’s “Platinum God” achievement any time soon. Or, y’know, ever.
It’s deflating to acknowledge that. And at this point, I don’t know how much my motivation and persistence will hold. Still, Isaac has become such a regular feature of my daily life that I’m not sure it will be easy for me to let go of it, no matter how demoralized I currently feel.
I do imagine that my play time will probably taper off now that I’ve gotten the trophy for finishing the challenges and have beat both Isaac and Satan with all the characters except that last one (I still need to finish Chest, Dark Chest, and Boss Rushes with all of them, though). But now that I’ve recognized that 100% is out of my reach, things just won’t be the same. I’ll probably cave in to my guilt (there are other games to play, things to write, things to read that I haven’t been doing because of Isaac) and try to let it go. That being said, though, I don’t think Isaac and I are totally finished yet.
(Eventually, I would like to actually write on the game more extensively and more theoretically. I’ve played it way too much not to.)