The Legend of Bum-bo, a prequel to The Binding of Isaac, is a pretty good smoosh-up of deckbuilding and match-four with an absolutely gorgeous aesthetic mimicking cardboard cut-outs. While the reception was generally positive, the game launched in something of a bad state and received many patches in quick succcession before, in December last year, it all went quiet.
Developer Edmund McMillen, best-known for Super Meat Boy, has on a few occasions teased a free mini-DLC that will add to the base experience, and act as some sort of recompense for the early issues. Now in an update posted to the game's Steam page, McMillen talks about that launch, explains why the DLC hasn't yet appeared, and promises it's coming next year.
"When the Legend of Bum-bo launched on Steam last year it was instantly apparent that it was the messiest launch of my career... James [Id] worked non-stop for days to fix bugs and update the game after months of crunch. He was able to get the game in a stable and playable state within a few weeks, the holidays were upon us and we had started planning a free mini-DLC to make up for our launch issues, I updated many times... but then, radio silence.
"First off I'd like to apologize for lack of transparency and seemingly abandoning the project, I assure you this isn't at all the case but I still feel a huge sense of responsibility and regret for how I dealt with the aftermath of Bum-bo's launch."
McMillen goes on to explain that co-developer James Id had a rough time dealing with depression following the game's final post-launch update, and Covid only made things worse. "I felt helpless seeing him in this situation, but I could do nothing to help him outside of pulling back and trying to figure out another way to continue dev without him as lead programmer. As the months went by James would rise and fall, there were times where dev was back on and things were looking up... then Covid started and as you all know isolation doesn't usually help these types of situations."
Id is now "doing much better" while McMillen has arranged to work with another small team in order to both finish the game's DLC and port it, consisting of Simon Parzer and Adrian Gavrilita, two programmers whose previous work includes Binding of Isaac: Rebirth.
The DLC will contain "a few new alt bosses, new items, a few features that were on your most wanted list and a new playable character, Bum-bo the Lost!"
McMillen ends on a slightly melancholy note, though not without optimism, writing that "my relationship with Bum-bo was very bitter sweet... but I really hope that once this DLC launches next year and it eventually comes to consoles it will be in a place we are all very happy with."
Here's hoping McMillen does end up happy with it. One of the reasons this developer's games can hit hard is their unflinching openness about gross, weird and taboo topics: games like Binding of Isaac ache under the combined weight of empathy and body horror. Beneath the adolescent surface of McMillen's work beats a heavy and thoughtful heart, which is why his best work lingers in the memory. He's also improved his games hugely in DLCs and reworks over the years, and I've got both cheeks crossed Bum-bo will soon number among them.