The Binding of Isaac was a fairly huge hit. Combining rogue-like elements, a wide array of collectable power-ups and Legend of Zelda-esque gameplay, it was a near perfect game that helped throw Edmund McMillan even more into the gaming spotlight. It was a game with a huge variety of depth, but you didn’t need to invest a ton of time in order to feel like you were getting better. Naturally, with such a huge success of a game, there were bound to be games inspired by it. Our Darker Purpose attempts to take the gameplay elements of Binding of Isaac and add a much deeper story, as well as additional leveling mechanics. However, in attempting to add more things to the formula they’ve created a game that is much more of a chore than anything else.
In Our Darker Purpose, we find that a teacher had three students he trusted deeply. Regan was pretty, Goneril was strong and Cordy was shy. One day, the teacher leaves the class and puts the three girls in charge while he’s gone. However, Regan and Goneril rally a number of students to rise up and murder the shy children. Cordy survives, however, and must attempt to escape the chaotic school. The plot is probably the most interesting part of the game. As with many visual and narrative asthetics in Our Darker Purpose, the goal seems to create a slightly darker, Tim Burton like atmosphere and the plot pulls it off nicely.
The art design of Our Darker Purpose seems ripped straight out of a 2D animated Burton film. A number of greys and more subdued colors are used throughout and they set the tone well. The monsters and characters are clearly hobbled together messes. One of the first bosses in the game is a hobbled-together, cardboard dragon. Enemies will have pots and pans on their heads. It creates a grim tone throughout that looks good consistently. However, it’s easy to see why someone might prefer the much brighter, bolder colors of The Binding of Isaac in comparison.
Playing Our Darker Purpose will be incredibly similar, for most people, to The Binding of Isaac. From a top-down perspective, you use your WASD keys to move and the arrow keys to fire off a projectile. Each room is laid out in similar fashion to how the dungeons in The Legend of Zelda were and you need to kill off every enemy in a room before you can progress to the next room. However, some nuances have been added to the formula that some people could certainly enjoy.
Our Darker Purpose has an experience mechanic, allowing you to level up. When you do, you get to choose between one of two upgrades. These upgrades, however, don’t carry over through your runs so when you die, you get to restart the process all over again. Completing various challenges, however, will gain you “credits.” Credits can be used to buy permanent upgrades for your character. That said, you need to invest a lot of credits in order to get any meaningful upgrades.
This is where the main issues with Our Darker Purpose begin to rear their head. Earning credits takes a lot of time when you first start, meaning you will die a lot before you can actually get any meaningful upgrades to your character. Additionally, while The Binding of Isaac had huge variety of stat-buffing items, Our Darker Purpose only has a handful that you will encounter on a regular basis. Most runs blend together because there is no great combination of items to find like in The Binding of Isaac. There’s no one item that will make the game in the early game of Our Darker Purpose.
Even more frustrating, however, is the sheer repetition that Our Darker Purpose has to it. You will find the exact same rooms, in the exact same layout, with the exact same enemies over and over and over again. Sure, in The Binding of Isaac you might have had that happen but it most likely took you hours of play time. In Our Darker Purpose, it’s almost every single run. That cardboard dragon I mentioned earlier? Get used to seeing it because it’s going to be the boss for the first level almost every single run.
At least in The Binding of Isaac, there was an element of randomization. Sure, you were doing the same tasks but the game was designed specifically for replayability. That’s what makes the gameplay work so well. Yes, you will see the same bosses but you won’t see them in the same room every single run. In Our Darker Purpose, though, you see the same enemies so many times that you begin to actively despise them.
As if all of that wasn’t bad enough, there are some enemies that will spam attack you and kill you as soon as you encounter them. While the game does offer some added maneuverability with a dodge button, there are a few enemies who just are substantially faster than you and will be all over you until you die. Adding to the chaos is the various environmental traps, such as sentient fire and rolling spike balls. You’re probably thinking that this is all late game stuff? No, it’s happening in the first level. There are seriously enemies in the game who can spam attack you in the first level. Plus, enemy hit boxes can sometimes be, seemingly, non-existent which makes some enemies incredibly frustrating to handle.
While it does offer some cool additions to The Binding of Isaac’s formula, Our Darker Purpose just doesn’t have the spark that made The Binding of Isaac so special. It’s clear that the game wasn’t designed to be easy, but its difficulty ramps up so fast that it might cause whiplash. The game clearly wasn’t designed with replayability as its key feature, which makes replays extremely difficult since it is a rogue-like with no save functions. Yes, the art and the story are great but in rogue-likes that should always be secondary to making a functional game and Our Darker Purpose just fails at making the gameplay enjoyable.
SCORE: 4.0 out of 10
A code for Our Darker Purpose was provided to Pixel Related for review.