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How to Play The Binding of Isaac on Your Living Room TV / HTPC! Configure screen, controller, launching, etc!

Introduction

I’ve been playing the Binding of Isaac for a while, having gotten into it watching some twitch.tv streamers like lethalfrag and cobaltstreak play it live. It’s an addictive game, with elements of a shooter and adventure game mixed in an interesting, highly replayable way. It offers tons of challenges, unlocks, secrets, and makes learning about the new items and overall game extremely fun.

Living Room Gaming

Lately I’ve also embarked on something of a return to “couch” gaming, at least some of the time. Playing games in the living room with a nice HDTV is the perfect setting, and just recently software and hardware have started making it convenient to play computer games in the living room. This article will let you know how to configure your living room computer, or HTPC (Home Theater PC) to play The Binding of Isaac.

Setup

I’ll have to assume you already have your HTPC set up and working with your TV because there are too many variables to consider. Luckily The Binding of Isaac does not require any sort of powerful computer, so pretty much anything should do. Unfortunately it is a Flash based game, so much older machines may struggle somewhat. In that case be sure to turn down the detail and resolution settings in the game. This article assumes you are running Windows on your HTPC. Windows 7 and higher will make installing the controller much easier.

Onto what you’ll need:

 

  • Step #1: Get an XBOX 360 controller.
    I would recommend a wireless 360 controller with the wireless USB receiver. The receiver is a little dongle that will plug into a USB slot on your computer and the wireless 360 controller can connect to that. The Xbox 360 controller is widely compatible with any games that support a controller, and integrates extremely well into windows and many other programs.

 

  • Step #2: Install Steam and set up Big Picture Mode
    • This one is pretty straightforward. I’d recommend purchasing The Binding of Isaac on Steam, or at least add your game key to your steam library (most Binding of Isaac keys should be able to be added).
    • Steam and info about it’s Big Picture Mode can be found and installed from here
    • Once steam and its Big Picture Mode are set up, all you need to do is hold down the big “X” button on your Xbox 360 controller, and steam will automatically start up. This gives a great interface for you to select and start games on your HTPC.
    • You’ll want to go into your Steam settings and select to start Steam in Big Picture Mode

 

  • Step #3: Set up JoytoKey
    Unfortunately the Binding of Isaac does not natively support any gamepad / controller / joystick. This is likely because it is a flash based game (one of the many limitations that will be fixed in The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth title that should be released around the end of the year!) As hinted at in the game’s options screen, to control TBoI with a gamepad, you need to install “JoytoKey”

 

  • Alternate Option #1: If you don’t want to use Steam’s big picture mode, you could consider setting up a .BAT (batch) file. It should be possible to run one file to load up JoyToKey, the Binding of Isaac, and also wait a few seconds then send the “F” keypress to go fullscreen. However when I tried to use a batch file for this purpose, unfortunately JoyToKey had an error where the custom configuration files would not load. I don’t know what causes this.
  • Alternate Option #2: If you run “XBMC” to play media on your HTPC, you can set it up to launch JoyToKey and the Binding of Isaac: Wrath of The Lamb using a plugin called Advanced Launcher. This plugin / addon can run any standard executable file. Personally, I have Advanced Launcher set up to run Steam Big Picture Mode.
  • Alternate Option #3: You could just use a wireless keyboard to control the Binding of Isaac without needing JoytoKey at all. However that’s really not in line with the convenient “couch-gaming” theme of this article!

Troubleshooting

One problem I ran into was Windows’ zoom level was turned up on my HTPC to allow websites to have bigger text by default. Unfortunately this will cause the game to be zoomed in and cropped off, so you can’t use this setting. (Note: many games have this issue with that windows feature). To find it, right click on the desktop, click Personalize > Display. The option is titled “Make it Easier To Read What’s on Your Screen”

It seems there is a configuration file bug in JoyToKey – the program has to be launched by itself in a standard way. I’m not sure on the details, but trying to launch JoyToKey using a batch file resulted in not having the config files loaded.

 

Play the Game!

Now to play, simply hold down the middle button on your XBOX 360 controller and it will load up Steam in Big Picture mode. You can use this to select the Binding of Isaac or any other game you want. The Binding of Isaac won’t launch in fullscreen, so after it loads you’ll have to hit “F” on your keyboard to go fullscreen. From there, everything can be controlled with the controller. (Right trigger to advance through menus, and use the right joystick to select which “isaac” you want to be!

Some handy Xbox 360 Controller Controls:
(using the above listed JoyToKey config file)

  • Right Trigger (Space): use a spacebar Item, or Skip cutscenes, or Advance in a menu
  • Right Shoulder button (Q): use tarot cards
  • Left Trigger (Shift): drop a bomb
  • Left Joystick (WASD): movement
  • A/B/X/Y buttons: fire tears in that direction (alternately you can use the right joystick, but I find this less accurate)
  • Start (escape): Pause / Menu (note that you will need to use a mouse to click the Return to Game button if you hit start)

Conclusion

The Binding of Isaac (and I recommend the Wrath of the Lamb expansion highly)! Is a perfect game to play from the comfort of your couch. Using one of the above methods, or some variation, it can be integrated seamlessly into your HTPC’s controls. I highly recommend using XBMC as the front-end for your HTPC, and using the methods here everything can be controlled with a beautiful interface, using a handy controller (hint-the Xbox 360 controller mentioned here also works flawlessly as an XBMC remote).

Post a comment for any questions or clarifications. I will be writing further articles about couch-gaming and HTPC setup in the future. If you like the website, please consider clicking on one of the Amazon links before placing any order at Amazon. This will help to cover the costs of the website.



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