[Game: Spelunky, Mossmouth, 2012]
Platforming Perfection:

The Incredible Design and Even Better Execution of Mossmouth’s Spelunky

 

Introduction:

Derek Yu’s Spelunky first appeared as a freeware game in 2008, and it soon became a beloved piece of software for many gamers in the know (including acting as one of the two biggest influences on Edmund McMillen’s design for The Binding of Isaac). Yu then turned his attention (enlisting the help of Andy Hull under the Mossmouth heading) to a ground-up HD remake of Spelunky, and its release garnered a victory in the design category of 2012’s IGF, followed by PC Gamer naming Spelunky‘s Steam release their game of the year for 2013. That second accolade resulted in a lot of controversy, with gamers all over the internet commenting concerns about how a simple 2-D indie game could possibly beat all of 2013’s massive studio releases, with each franchise’s fans arguing their case.

If you know me well, you’ve already got a pretty good idea of what sort of remarks I made toward those negative reactions. Mostly, I wondered whether most of those commenters were merely judging the game by its cover art, as it were, and had not actually played the game. As it stands, I would not only concur that Spelunky was the best game released in 2013, but I would go yet further and say that Spelunky is one of the best games I have ever played. To explain why, I will now compare Spelunky to the original Super Mario Bros. games.

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[Game: Spelunky, Mossmouth, 2012]
Platforming Perfection:

The Incredible Design and Even Better Execution of Mossmouth’s Spelunky

was last modified: May 16th, 2018 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, Edmund McMillen/Nicalis, 2014]
Bound and Determined:

The Binding of Isaac as a Worthy Successor to the Original Legend of Zelda

 

Introduction:

Edmund McMillen Sketch by M.R.P. - The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth - The Legend of Zelda - Edmund McMillen

Caricature Sketch by M.R.P.
[High-res prints available here]

Since its original release as a subversive flash game way back in 2011, The Binding of Isaac has ascended from a cult classic to a mainstream success. In the time since that release, all of the elements which made it subversive, from its dark themes to its biblical allusions, have been covered and analyzed by critics from numerous angles.

Theories about the meaning of the game’s obscure, sparse narrative have ranged from wild ad hoc hypotheses about Isaac’s family history to carefully built cases tracing themes across several earlier games made by designer Edmund McMillen. Regardless, it has seemingly all been said (until the upcoming Rebirth expansion brings new evidence, at least).

I see that sort of analysis as highly valuable, and I find myself largely in agreement with commenters who interpret The Binding of Isaac as a portrait of a particular type of upbringing, with all of the entailed positive (i.e. creative and skeptical) and negative (i.e. repressed and threatened) effects. Acknowledging that as trodden ground, however, I would like to discuss an aspect of the game which is often gestured toward, but seldom discussed at length: how the roguelike gameplay lends itself to the game’s homage and spiritual succession of the earliest Legend of Zelda games.

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[Game: The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, Edmund McMillen/Nicalis, 2014]
Bound and Determined:

The Binding of Isaac as a Worthy Successor to the Original Legend of Zelda

was last modified: May 14th, 2019 by Daniel Podgorski