The Agent’s Addendum to MatPat’s Binding of Isaac Theory

You have every right to be proud, Matt. But I found some things to bolster your argument.
Source: Tumblr

Yup, we’re back on this game again.

Recently, while checking up on some of my favorite entertainers online, I found that Matthew “MatPat” Patrick uploaded a new episode of his show Game Theory where he exposits his theory that not only did Isaac survive the events of The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, but that his life serves as an allegory for the life and hardships of the game’s creator Edmond McMillen.

It was such a well researched theory that even I have to admit that it blew my theory out of the water. However, thinking back on it, I started to notice some elements that help to further support MatPat’s claims that he either didn’t have time to cover or failed to notice.

So then, consider this a fan-made unofficial addendum to MatPat’s theory. In order to keep things shorter and encourage you to check out his brilliant work, I’m not going to retread much of his original video and instead encourage you to watch it for yourself. Also, in the spirit of theorist camaraderie and on the off chance that MatPat actually reads this, he is free to debate, agree, or otherwise comment on this article in the media of his choice and I encourage him and anyone else to share their thoughts with me.

First, lets discuss one of the central points of MatPat’s theory; that the events of the game are essentially the vision quest of a hyper-creative and heavily abused personality trying to come to terms with his imperfect, “sinful” nature. He does a lot to support this, but leaves out a major factor that helps confirm this; most of the enemies you face in the game are variations on Isaac’s character design.

The Trites and Widow are just Isaac’s head inverted with spider legs coming out of it. Gapers resemble Isaac with blood stained tears. Mulligans and their variants all depict Isaac in various stages of decomposition. Even The Seven Deadly Sins bare a striking resemblance and McMillen himself admits that It Lives is an in-utero Isaac. If MatPat is right about this being a quest for self-acceptance, it would make sense that Isaac would see himself, not just as a monster to be slain, but as EVERY monster to be slain.

The similarities also continue into the playable characters, but of particular note is “???”, AKA; Blue Baby. This leads into the connection between the character of Isaac and Edmond McMillen. While MatPat might be technically correct in assuming that Blue Baby is a physical manifestation of Isaac literally suffocating to death in his escapist fantasy (he’s found in the toy chest where a child could be said to play out their fantasies), the connection is much deeper.

Blue Baby has existed long before this game and was McMillen’s mascot back in his early days when he was still designing flash games on Newgrounds. In fact, he still uses the moniker of Bluebaby on Newgrounds to this day. This helps to solidify the connection between Isaac’s struggle and McMillen’s.

Also, serving to bolster that connection are the characters borrowed from other McMillen games. Such characters include Stephen from Time Fcuk, Larry Jr. and C.H.A.D. From Super Meat Boy, Gish from… well… Gish, and Triachnid from (of course) Tri-achnid. If McMillen and Isaac are intended to be one and the same, it would make sense that the little boy with a wild imagination (creativity is a boon to indie game developers) would be making up the same creatures that he is.

Lastly is what I feel to be the strongest evidence of this being a fantastical dramatization of McMillen’s real life struggle to accept him self. Going back to The Seven Deadly Sins (this is about coming to terms with your sinful nature as a human, remember?), all of them have Super Sin forms. However, only one has an ultra form; Ultra Pride.

Notice how radically different Ultra Pride looks to his standard and super counterparts? That’s because he and the baby that follows him are modeled after McMillen himself and his partner on the original Binding of Isaac, Florian Himsl respectively. They did this because they both agreed that pride is “their sin” and the one they are most guilty of. McMillen is admitting and coming to terms with sin as we play.

Overall and in closing, MatPat’s video gave me a new respect for a game I already adored and he deserves major props for his research. I will however disagree with him on one point; The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is not a depressing or sad game. After all, Isaac wins his freedom in the end… and so did Mr. McMillen.

Back to the Binding: Thoughts on The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

Long time readers of my gaming articles will know that I am a huge fan of The Binding of Isaac. So after roughly a month of playing the newest installment, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, I feel I’m ready to discuss it in a public forum.

The game is essentially unchanged in terms of story; you still play as Isaac attempting to escape the wrath of his insane mother who is hallucinating that God is demanding that she sacrifice him to prove her devotion. But enough gameplay and graphical elements have changed to justify making this a stand-alone game rather then a DLC.

Rebirth is shaping up to be one of my favorite games of the last decade. But I feel the important thing to ask here isn’t if Rebirth is better then the original, but how it changes from the original.

Well, there have been a lot of major changes as well as some superficial ones, Including…

New Items

Rebirth has teased a slew of new items that fans have been giddy to play around with.

My personal favorite of the new items so far is The Ludovico Technique – a reference to the film/novel A Clockwork Orange – which grants the user a single remote control shot. This is useful against larger, slower moving enemies with more health as you can float the shot over them for multiple hits.

Also new to the items are the runes, a set of magical stones that occupy the same item slot as pills and cards and provide some of the most powerful one-time-only effects in the game such as removing curses or destroying all breakable objects in the room.

And with all of these new items come new item synergies. Remember how I said I love The Ludovico Technique? Well, try pairing it up with my favorite item from the last game, Brimstone, to create a remote controlled ring of bloody, boiling death.

New Characters

All of the original cast of playable characters have returned in Rebirth, but they’ve brought four new friends with them that add new strategies to gameplay.

First is Lazarus who, despite having some of the most pitiful starting stats, is useful as a high- risk character. If he dies, he will live up to his namesake and respawn with a single heart of health. In addition, he gains the Anemic effect that leaves a trail of damaging blood on the ground.

Next is my personal favorite of the new batch, Azazel whose terrible range, luck and health stats are made up for by starting with the power of flight, a short-range Brimstone laser, and the highest starting damage output in the game.

Third up is the fascinating Eden. Eden can only be played if you have an Eden token which can only be obtained by defeating Mom’s Heart. What makes Eden so interesting is the fact that his stats and starting items are completely randomized; making for challengingly unpredictable runs.

Finally comes The Lost, arguably the most high risk/high reward character in the game. The Lost LITERALLY has no health and can’t gain more (though respawning items still work with him), meaning that he will die with one touch. However, he starts with the power of flight and can take deals in the Devil Room for free.

Oh, and while they technically don’t count as characters, it is worth noting that there is a multiplayer option where player two can control one of a multitude of “babies” to assist Isaac.

New Crew

Where as the original game was a comparatively small operation with only a handful of people working on it, Rebirth benefits from having the backing of the larger Nicalis Inc. behind it, even going so far as to get 1001 Spikes producer, writer, and designer Tyrone Rodriguez to assist creator Edmond McMillen in art and design.

As a result, the art is shockingly beautiful. Lighting effects from fire and lasers (especially in darkened rooms) add to the creepy atmosphere – assisted by Jon Evans’ and Matthias Bossi’s haunting musical score.

The cutscenes combine McMillen’s trademark darkly comedic art style with fluid animation that trumps the original in almost every way. Also, the new cutscenes get much creepier (the ‘Rubber Cement’ ending freaks me out every time).

Final Thoughts

While I normally dislike re-releasing a game like this, Rebirth does enough to change it up to justify it’s existence. It adds new strategies and tactics, reworks the original’s art and atmosphere to be truly terror inspiring and is an all-around solid performance.