The Ordeals of The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+

Released yesterday for the Nintendo Switch, here's the kind of brain-numbing difficulty you can expect from The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+.

Whenever DLC is released, players are given the chance to have a more interesting experience. For Edmund McMillen, The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ was not an exception. Released a few days into 2017, the conclusion to the story of a basement-crawling child was far from easy. The rage these challenges create is strong enough to power a steam train for several hundred miles.

First of all, there were five challenges added. Some of them were far easier than the others. There’s PONG!, a challenge paying tribute to one of the oldest games. High damage, bouncy tear, lots of fun. Then we have Backasswards. The catch? You start at Mega Satan and must reach the starting room at Basement I. After that is Ultra Hard, a fitting name for this challenge. Champion monsters are much easier to come across, no way to gain hearts, and you get every single curse. And I mean every curse. Next, there’s April’s Fool. If you’ve played one of the Daily Runs on April 1st, you’ll know that the items you see on a pedestal are not what they appear. This also applies to all pickups. And the worst part? Every boss is The Bloat. God help us all. And finally, Pokey Mans. You can charm enemies and spawn a random friendly monster with your Friendly Ball. And if it dies, the item charges back up so you can send another spawn of Satan to fight by your side.

The challenges aren’t just challenges, by the way. There’s extra ones that unlock new cards and rocks under special conditions, such as beating The Lamb in under a certain amount of time. If you have the patience to go through these extra tasks, I salute you. Oh, and now there’s two achievements that tie in to your participation in Daily Runs.

Next, we have the newest member of the Isaac crew: Apollyon, who starts with two hearts, has wings that are purely there for cosmetic reasons and starts with one of the most interesting items yet: Void. Use it on a normal item like Leo or Bob’s Brain and you absorb it, being rewarded with a stats up. Use it on a spacebar item, though? You absorb its properties. Now you can use Mega Blast, Book of Belial and Box of Friends all in one go. Originally, it was going to absorb pick-ups and reward you with blue flies, but that changed somewhere along the line.

If you thought Greed Mode was hard, now there’s a Hard Mode for Greed mode: Greedier Mode. Enemies can be champions now and there’s now 12 waves to fight through to get a Devil Deal. That’s it. You just fight Ultra Greed, see him turn to gold and win. Not. Once he turns to gold, you now have to fight Ultra Greedier. His doors shoot golden Brimstone, he spawns exploding coins like you’re seasoning your steak with too much pepper and every shot he makes is explosive. He’ll jump, leave exploding coins to rain upon you and land with a shockwave. So either learn how to get past his tricks or pray to Nicalis for Pyromania in your next run.

As always, new bosses were added. This time there weren’t many, but they really make things difficult. One of them is Sisters Vis, a cameo from one of Edmund’s previous games (and was originally planned to be added in Binding of Isaac: Rebirth). The other two regular bosses are more mature versions of Little Horn and Rag Man, and they are considerably frustrating. Rag Man’s grown-up version, Rag Mega, can become invincible and spawn rag spiders, and sends his psychic balls after you if you lower his health enough. But that’s nothing compared to Big Horn, a bomb-throwing butt-slapping ball-spewing child of evil who has a chance to spawn his child. If he was to fight The Bloat, it’d be uncertain who would win the award for Most Hated Boss 2017.

And finally, one last chapter was added. Beat Hush, and you can find your way to this new floor. It’s guaranteed to show up after you defeat Hush, but there’s also a small chance to find this special portal after defeating a boss that rewards a completion mark. Oh, and Mom too. Step inside and gaze in amazement as you see a familiar-looking floor. Welcome to The Void, where every room belongs to a different floor and there’s multiple boss rooms. You can fight any boss here, and it’ll drop an item. And I mean any boss, such as Satan or Isaac. In one room, however, lies the ultimate boss: Delirium, a giant melted skull with shaky yellow eyes. It’ll spawn ring upon ring of white tears, some explosive. It can teleport around, hurting you as you try to dodge everything it throws at you. What makes it so difficult, I hear you ask? It can become any boss you’ve encountered. That Boss Rush you did? Not a great plan, my friend. One minute Mom is stomping on you, the next The Fallen is flying at you until it becomes Monstro and spews at you. The lower its HP gets, the quicker and more frustrating it can become. Also, if you’ve downloaded any mods that add new bosses, it can become them too.

Delirium’s reception was interesting. People complain how it’s very gimmicky, the difficulty is unfair and the floor’s design was just unoriginal. At the end of the day, though, it’s just another thing to tick off your checklist as you push forward to reach completion. Perhaps we’ll be getting an ARG that makes things easier? Yeah, that’s not going to happen.

The DLC seemed underwhelming. Sure there was challenge, but not the kind you received with Afterbirth. One reason may have been because of The Binding of Isaac: Antibirth. It’s a mod for Rebirth, which adds a complete overhaul of items, enemies and floors into the mix. The new bosses added are equal parts frustrating and creative, the final boss requiring certain conditions to be met and hosting a torrential wave of craziness. The characters, as always, deliver something fresh to the players. But that’s something to discuss at a different point in time. It came out a few days prior to Afterbirth+ and the community fell in love with it. Whether or not it’ll become available as a mod for Afterbirth+ is uncertain, but for now go download it for free!

Afterbirth+ was quite successful in giving players more challenge, even though it was partially due to the difficulty of the newest bosses to enter the family. But it can get better; the bosses have since been modified so that they’re less of a nuisance. People across the globe have been given the tools to mod Afterbirth+ and include new wonderful creations, whether it be items, characters, bosses or having an animated cowboy’s laugh herald your failure instead of music. Afterbirth+: a bumpy road being smoothed over and improved by those with ideas, memories and memes.

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