The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ is an extremely deep game if you’re willing to take the time to get familiar with how the game works. The game is what’s called a roguelike for its hundreds of items that are randomized to appear in a procedurally generated dungeon that gets deeper the more you unlock. Perma-death means once you lose all your hearts in a run, the game is over.
If you’re new to The Binding of Isaac and just picked it up on your Nintendo Switch, I’ve got a handful of tips for you as a veteran player of the original PC version. These tips should help you beat Mom for the first time so you can start unlocking some of the more fun parts of the game.
1. Use an item guide to help you understand your run.
The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ has over 400 items for you to find littered throughout the dungeons. That’s a ton of items to try and remember the effects, especially when all your runs start bleeding together. The game also doesn’t do a very good job of explaining what some items do, making it even harder to understand how best to play your character for that run.
For this reason, we recommend you always play the game with a Cheat Sheet handy. If you’ve got a laptop you can keep nearby, the website Platinum God is the best resource for quickly looking up items as soon as you get them. If you prefer to play on the go and the only resource you have with you is your phone, then Guide for BOI: Rebirth + DLC on Google Play is the best Afterbirth+ cheat sheet app. I don’t have an iOS device, so I can’t recommend any mobile guides for iOS users, sorry.
2. Destroy any Tinted Rocks that you see, they hide items.
This image does a good job of illustrating what the Binding of Isaac (BoI) community calls tinted rocks. The rock on the far left is a normal rock, while the other two are marked with an X. This X means these rocks have a random chance to spawn items that will help you get through the dungeons. Tinted Rocks can spawn the following:
- Soul Hearts
- Golden Chests
- The Small Rock (must be unlocked)
If you have a way to destroy these rocks easily like the item Thunder Thighs, you should destroy them all to see what you get. Be careful about using up all your bombs on tinted rocks because you’ll want to be able to find those secret rooms later on and you’ll need bombs to do it.
3. Always try to find the secret rooms hidden throughout the level.
Secret rooms are hidden throughout the dungeon and you’ll need a bomb in order to find them, or any of the items in the game that reveal them automatically. While it may seem like the secret rooms appear in random areas and finding them is the luck of the draw, there’s actually a good way to determine whether or not a secret room is hidden where you think it is.
First, secret rooms must have at least two exits. That means they must connect to the dungeon in at least two places. They’re frequently found nestled between the boss room and the golden door room, so start your search there.
Secret rooms contain a variety of items that will help you on your journey, but some also appear when you meet specific requirements. One example is the Devil Room doors that can appear after you defeat a boss without taking any damage to your actual hearts during a boss fight.
4. You can leave the room after extra enemies appear.
Sometimes after you’ve cleared a room of the enemies that first spawned and you decide to test walls for secret rooms, you can accidentally spawn new enemies. Spiders and sometimes flies will appear out of pots that are blown up by your bombs, but you don’t have to fight these enemies. Leaving the room and re-entering it will de-spawn them.
This tip also works in the arcade room where you play the guessing game. When you choose wrong in the guessing game, the kiosk will lift a skull to spawn a red fly that will begin flying at you. You don’t have to kill it if you have weak tears, you can leave the room and re-enter to try it again.
5. Drop the items you don’t want, don’t use them!
Some items you pick up aren’t that useful to you. Pills have a random effect and the only way to discover that effect is to eat one to see what it does. All pills with that color pattern will have the same effect for the rest of the run. But did you know that if you accidentally pick up one of these bad items, you can drop it instead of carrying it with you.
You can drop items with the default ZR button by holding it. Isaac will put down the pill or card he’s holding and you can go about your business. This is especially useful when you have a bunch of cards and the item Polydactyly, which lets you hold multiple items you can use.
6. Be conservative with your bombs.
It’s tempting to use your bombs to help you in battle with large rooms, especially if you find yourself overwhelmed, but unless you have a lot of disposable bombs you’re just wasting them.
While one of our first tips is to look for tinted rocks and blow them up, I’d also like to add to keep this tip in mind when you’re doing that. Those rocks only have a chance to spawn items, while bombs are a finite resource unless you get the help of items like the 2 of Clubs card, which will double your current bomb count.
Use these bombs conservatively until you feel like you have a good stockpile. Some runs you’ll have plenty of bombs and others you’ll be bomb-starved. That’s just the luck of the draw when it comes to the game.
7. Find a dungeon with items you really liked? Save the seed!
While all of the dungeons in the game are procedurally generated, if you find a dungeon with a good set of items that you want to try again you can do so by pressing the + button to pause the game. On the left hand side of that screen, you’ll see a jumble of letters on the screen. Remember NES passcodes? This is kind of like that.
That jumble of numbers will let you return to that specific dungeon with another character or again as the same character if you mess up. Keep track of seeds that you really enjoyed playing if you want to “git gud” with a certain item build. The best part is these seeds can be shared online with anyone, so looking around the Binding of Isaac subreddit is a good way to find unique and interesting seeds to try out.