Back in 2013, Binding of Isaac fans turned the single-player game into a competitive pastime where multiple players raced against each other, live. Races involve two players facing off simultaneously, side-by-side, with each running through the game as fast as they can. That scene faded for a while, but now it’s making a big comeback on Twitch.
For the uninitiated, Binding of Isaac is a roguelike with creepy themes buried under a cutesy art style. It came out back in 2011, it’s had a couple of expansions since then, and it’s got a devoted speed-running community, which splintered off into the BOI racing community.
Last night, longtime Binding of Isaac League Racing (BOILeR) commentator Crumps2 hosted the first round of a weekly Wednesday night BoI race, sponsored by Twitch, with a $5K prize pool. 16 racers have entered the competition. Crumps2 hosted the race on his own Twitch channel, with co-hosts Slackaholicus and BrainTM1 also providing commentary on the first round.
As you may know, levels in the Binding of Isaac are randomly generated, as are items and power-ups, so winning races is as much a matter of luck as skill and practice. At this point, Binding of Isaac has an impressive roster of 504 items. In the past, BoI racers have had different internal rules about which items they deem “fair” or not, but the real trick is getting the right combination. Items like the Teleport or the Compass help a player navigate the rooms—but you’ll also need some incisive offensive items to take out the baddies that generate therein. It also helps to snag, say, an orbital—a familiar that will whirl around you and help you face your enemies. The biggest clincher is getting a perfect combination, since your character can hold multiple items at the same time. A Compass might not be game-breaking on its own, but if a player grabs a Compass, a Teleport, Mom’s Knife, and an orbital? Their opponent could see themselves outpaced ... unless they manage to pick up a good blend of passive and offensive items themselves.
If you’ve been keeping up with Crumps2 and anxiously awaiting the return of all things BOILeR, then last night’s race didn’t come as a big surprise to you. A month ago, Crumps2 made an announcement video describing his plan to get the band back together. At that time, he declared that the first round of racing would be on February 22nd, thereby giving Binding of Isaac speed-racers a little time to practice and get their chops back.
In that video, Crumps2 admitted that he himself wasn’t familiar with some of the additions included in the latest expansion, Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth, and that he would be learning the game’s latest tricks along with audiences. For the past month, Crumps2 has hosted several practice videos on his channel, giving racers the chance to learn the ropes and get their nerves out by performing for the (virtual) public. The practice races also served as an opportunity for Crumps2 to commentate on the game’s latest build and make sure he understands the new additions and tricks; in all the series makes for a great crash course if you’re totally unfamiliar with the history of BOI speed-racing.