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E.Y.E. has a well-deserved reputation for being completely off the wall: but I think a large chunk of this is due to the way the game does such a bad job introducing itself. At the same time, the fact it plays so hard to get feeds into the profound sense of alienation it creates - a perversely brilliant distancing mechanic in the game. The myth of an largely impenetrable backstory comes from the fact that you're not told which order to read one of 6 terminals around the Archives, and the story itself veers wildly between era spanning historical archive, vignettes of a day in the life of a serial killer, and your own personal diaries - including events which have not yet happened? - both between terminals and paragraphs. So where to begin? I think the best way to penetrate this game is to consider at every point if you don't understand a mechanic, it is probably 10 times more badass than you could possibly conceive of.
What lifts the Binding of Isaac above horror movie cliche and 'significant' themes, is the thematic interaction between the protagonist and the items he finds in the game. Pickups are expressed in either terms of their relationship to Isaac (Sister Maggy, distant admiration) or as a singular object that Isaac must have encountered (the Bible, not a Bible), or both (Dead Cat (Guppy)). More importantly, in the context of playing as a child in a world defined by childish wants and fears, the relationship between an item and its game mechanic is exposed for what it is, an arbitrary rule defined by one child (the game designer) in relationship to another (the player), much as two children playing together negotiate the rules of a game. The random drops from game to game are the toys that happen to be the closest to the playing area, each map the way they are strewn about, procedural generation as a virtual sandbox. Playing the Binding of Isaac exposes the elemental nature of game play as
The reason I say Terraria is a beautiful game isn't because of the glorious pixel art; although the combination of pixel art, procedural generation, and smart use of lighting and particle systems are beautiful, but because many of the design decisions are just precisely right. For a game developed over 5 months by 4 people, it shows an incredible level of maturity.
The user interface is elegantly understated. My chief problem with Spelunky is the large number of controls needed to move through the environments: Terraria uses WASD movement but up and down are not used to start with, along with a 2 button mouse, space to jump and ESC; but this limited control set sensibly handles a huge number of interactions and permutations of objects, terrain and furnishings. (For pedants, yes there are other controls but those are strictly optional, and all just faster ways of selecting which items to use).