Being all-at-once controversial and incredibly influential, The Binding of Isaac paved the way for an entire emergent genre of Video Games. It remains one of the greatest examples of a roguelike, harnessing the exploration and excitement of the Legend of Zelda-series with the palpable tension of permanent character death that would leave it’s footprint in many games to follow. The success and popularity of Isaac is particularly impressive given it’s downright bold use of religious symbolism, gross-out imagery, and body horror that are used to underscore a tragic story of abuse, neglect, and childhood trauma. This is why it’s especially interesting that the game’s designer, Edmund McMillen, has been working diligently to translate what some may call his best design into a card game.
The Binding of Isaac: Four Souls, is a take-that, semi-cooperative card game for 2-4 players and it has blown well past it’s funding goal on Kickstarter already. Players take control of a handful of familiar characters and collect loot, treasures, and fight monsters in an effort to be the first to gain four souls. Everyone will have to work together to survive and upgrade in the beginning, but as a player gets close to getting their fourth soul things inevitably get treacherous. All of the favorite, cute, weird, and/or funny items and powers are here, their mechanics a reverse-engineered reflection of their video game counterparts, as Edmund explains:
“It was really fun to take a well known item or monster from the game and think up ways to convey stuff like, How could I show that the carrion queen takes damage when you hit her butt? Or how could I represent the RNG aspects of cursed floors or troll bombs only using a deck of cards? Once we finished the first 4 player game session, I knew this was something super unique that really embodied everything people love about The Binding of Isaac.”
As noted by many within the community, the design feels very close to Munchkin, but admittedly a little less chaotic. While this is a take-that card game, the amount of cards and abilities able to be played at a given time have strict limits; careful timing is key. No matter how the thing plays, though, this is as sincere of a translation of this Indie darling that can exist, spearheaded by it’s creator himself, with a lot of fun swag to go along with it for fans. If you’re interested in learning more about The Binding of Isaac: Four Souls, check out the Kickstarter page for the full rules, FAQs, stretch goals, community feedback, and updates.