The new expansion delivers a heaping helping of more content.
When we reviewed The Binding of Isaac Rebirth on PC and Playstation 4, we thought it was an amazing game and awarded it a score of 9.0. Here’s what we said then:
“The time I’ve spent with Binding of Isaac: Rebirth has been non-stop fun and surprises, with just a tad too much frustration when I lose a rare item. But even when it slaps me down harder than I’d have liked, starting again is always a treat, because I’m likely to discover something new and darkly comedic. That’s plenty of motivation to keep right on playing this amazing game.”
The Binding of Isaac Afterbirth+ includes a new expansion plus all of the previous DLC, and it further fleshes out Isaac’s replayable, addictive gameplay formula by offering more of what made the original shoot ‘em up action game so great. The almost non-stop variety, mysterious powerups, and procedurally generated maps are just as cryptic and challenging as they were before, but now you can play even longer without ever seeing the same thing happen twice.
I can’t tell you how unexpected it was to find X-ray glasses that showed me secret rooms hidden in the dungeon, or how silly it felt to step into one and discover a golden turd that spits out coins when I shot it. I’ve never seen those glasses or that shiny turd again, but almost every power up has a potential story like this that’s both funny and messed up, and it’s a satisfying part of what makes The Binding of Isaac special. The chances of discovering something you haven’t seen before is overwhelmingly in your favor.
And the variety is off the charts across all categories. Afterbirth+ boasts a total of over 600 items, 180 enemy types, and more than 90 deadly bosses. It’s a lot see, but the included trackers will help you keep up with what you’ve found — along with other neat stats, like enemy HP or how many times you’ve killed something. It’s also a painful way to track the long, hard road you’ll need to take to unlock all 20 of Afterbirth+’s ending sequences.
As helpful as this info is, Afterbirth+ still relies on external wiki sources if you want to get more detailed information on what items actually do. I don’t think I would have ever figured out that passive collectibles like the Acid Baby drops pills after every two rooms, or that the Tonsil trinket has a small chance to summon a familiar that can block enemy shots without looking it up.
It may be frustrating to not know what subtle effects certain items have the first time you find them, but Afterbirth uses that to fuel your curiosity. I can’t tell you how many times I held my breath as I pulled the trigger just see if a special item would help or hurt my run. It’s a satisfying dice roll and, after enough experimentation, you start to learn what special items are effective and what to avoid. The mystery surrounding items makes for an addictive game of chance that will constantly throw you curveballs, and never feels predictable.
Afterbirth+ on Nintendo Switch runs at 60 frames per second on both the TV and the handheld screen. Since the Switch can quickly detect additional controllers, it is easy to add up to three more players for drop-in co-op, and co-op works great with the individual Joy-Con controllers turned sideways. The default settings are fine, but you can remap every button action to fit your playstyle. Adding a support character come with some risk, since it sacrifices one of your hearts, but I’ve seen it pay off with OP item combinations that can help two players breeze through dungeon rooms.