Monday, 2 January 2012

The Binding Of Isaac using JoyToKey

OK, so I bought The Binding Of Isaac in the Steam Christmas sale for just £0.99 and though it may be good to pass a few hours. Well just a few days later and I've already put in 12 hours. It really is an addictive game. I first loaded it up and died within about 2 minutes and I thought, "Oh, is that it?!". So I hit the start button again and got a little further. Before I knew it a few hours had past, and I found myself getting to the caves for the first time.

Below are some good resources/tips for playing the game I've found:

Northerlion's Let's Play The Binding Of Isaac
Quite hilarious commentaries of game play runs where I've learnt some strategies for how to beat certain enemies and bosses, and what certain items do, when is best to use them etc. I been watching through the whole series and this one was particularly good.

List of Items on Binding Of Isaac Wiki
Along with watching Northanlion's videos I found it really useful to have the Wiki open so that when I do come across an item that I'm not sure what it does, I can quickly check it out before it ruins my game. There are also tips on how to beat most enemies and the bosses, but I've tried to steer clear of them and figure out my own strategies for this.

So anyway, the main reason for this post was after playing for some time and flicking to the options screen quite a few times to get full screen mode back up (I now know you have to be in the menu for the F shortcut to work) I sore the gamepad comment that you should google JoyToKey to get this working. So I downloaded the program got it setup. After doing some research to see how others have configured there setup for playing Issac, and seeing the number of people complaining that the game does not natively support game pads, I thought a step by step guide may help out a few people, so here it is.

JoyToKey Setup for playing The Binding Of Isaac

This tutorial will show you how to download and set up JoyToKey to enable you to play The Binding Of Isaac by using and Xbox 360 controller as an input. The key assignment that I will show will set the left stick to move Isaac around, the right stick and A B X and Y keys as attack, Right Bumper as Tarot card / Pill use, Left Bumper to use bomb and Left and Right Triggers as use item.

First of all you will need to download JoyToKey. I found the best download was from CNET which automatically downloads the latest version of the software (v5.0.2 at the time of writing). Hit the Download button and save the file to a location on your machine.

The download is zip file containing a downloader for JoyToKey. Unzip the file in a location where you want to keep the software (Maybe create a folder in your program files to keep it with other installed software?) Go to the location where you saved the file and extract the files.

Here I have used the default tool that comes with Windows 7. Older operating systems will require software to do this. I recommend 7-Zip. Once the software is 'installed' (or unzipped) open it up and you will see the main screen.

The first thing to do in setting up a profile for Isaac is to go to the options tab and set up a few preferences.

  1. Set the number of joysticks to configure to 1 (this is optional, but keeps the main window a little less cluttered).
  2. In the Show/Hide buttons section, use the drop-down box to select Show all axes (8 way + POV x2. It is important to select this option to enable the trigger buttons of the Xbox controller.
  3. For the Threshold for input, set Stick one (the value for left stick) to 30% and Stick 2 (right stick) to 50%. If you find that the controls seem to be 'sticking' a little in game and Isaac is not moving as you would expect (or like), then have a play with the threshold for stick 1. However, it is important that the threshold for Stick 2 is no higher than 50% as this will create a dead zone between the up/down and left/right inputs.
Once this is set go back over to the Joystick 1 tab and we can start to set up the configuration for the controller buttons. Below is a reference image for what each button on the Xbox controller represents on the Joystick 1 window.

On the Joystick 1 screen, make sure the very top input is selected, and press the Bulk assignment wizard button at the bottom of the window. This will open a window where you set what each button press on the controller will replicate on the keyboard as a key press.

To configure the controller as outlined at the start of the tutorial press the following keys on the keyboard in this order.

A | D | W | S | Left | Right | Up | Down | Space bar | Space bar

This will set:
  • Left stick to movement for Isaac (A | D | W | S)
  • Right stick to attack in the direction you press (Left | Right | Up | Down)
  • Left and Right triggers to use items. (Space bar | Space bar)
(By pressing the space bar twice in the wizard you are setting both triggers to operate the item button. You can skip one or the other if you don't want both to trigger space bar presses, but I recommend having both as you can panic in a fight and at least have two chances to use your item.)

Once you've set up these key assignments press the Finish button, move down to the Button 1 input, select it and press the Bulk assignment wizard button once again to set up the rest of the key assignments.

This time you need to press the following on the keyboard:

Down | Right | Left | Up | Q | E | F | Escape

This will set the following:

  • A, B, X and Y buttons to attack (Down | Right | Left | Up)
  • Left bumper to use pills/tarot cards (Q)
  • Right bumper to bomb (E)
  • Select to toggle full screen mode (F)
  • Pause to pause the game (Esc)

At this point you can go ahead and start playing The Binding Of Isaac with your Xbox controller as you have fully configured JoyToKey. The following steps are for setting up JoyToKey to automatically loading JoyToKey on windows start up and be associated with the game.

Associating the profile we have just configured with the game is useful if you have more than one profile setup in JoyToKey. It is likely that you only have one profile now, but if this is setup now then in the future you won't be left wondering why your controller is acting odd in other games.

Before setting the association with the game I first recommend renaming the configuration we have just created so that it is clear in the following step what needs to be selected. To rename the configuration press the rename button down in the bottom left corner, type a name for the profile and press OK.

Once the profile is named press Preferences on the top menu bar and select Associate config files with applications. A new window will open. Press the Add button in the bottom left corner of the new window and enter the following information into the screen.

Applcation name: Isaac (NOTE: what you enter does not have to be the same, I just thought this was a meaningful name.)
Application Path + .exe filename: C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\the binding of isaac\Issac.exe
Associated Config File: Isaac (NOTE: this is the name of the profile that we renamed in the previous step, which can also be selected using the drop down.)

NOTE: the application path I have entered is if you installed steam and/or The Binding Of Issac in the default locations. If you have not then browse for the location and manually it in the Application Path + .exe filename box.

After you have entered this information press OK. This association is now set up, so every time you open the game JoyToKey will automatically load the profile you have created. The final step is to set JoyToKey to automatically load when windows does. Again, this is an optional step, but it saves you having to load JoyToKey everytime you want to play Isaac.

To have windows load JoyToKey for you on startup, click on the windows icon in the bottom left, go to all program and right click on the Startup folder and select Open from the drop down menu.

This will open a windows explorer with the location following location:
C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup

Now open a separate explorer and browse to the folder where you unzipped the JoyToKey files. Select the JoyToKey icon, right click and drag the icon to the Startup folder and chose Create shortcut here from the list that opens when you drop the icon.

One final thing that you can do the make the process of loading JoyToKey a little more hidden is to check the following options in the Preferences menu:

By checking these options JoyToKey will be minimized to the taskbar upon opening, so you won't actually see it when it loads as you won't need to do anything with it again! If you play Isaac in more than one location then you can always copy the JoyToKey Folder to a USB pen drive and, although it will not automatically load when windows does, it will automatically switch to the correct profile when you load the game, as long as JoyToKey is running.

Hope this helps, and although the game does not have support for gamepads, it's not that hard to set it up really.


  1. Thanks! This really helped with my Logitech 710 Gamepad! I could get alot of the keys to work but some others needed tweaking! Keep up the great work.

  2. hey this worked great. but my when i try to play i cant move right but the d key is assigned properly and it works when i test it just not in game. any clue on how to fix?

    1. I'm afraid I've not experienced any problems with my set up. The only thing I can think of trying is mapping the key to another button on the game pad, as you may have a problem with that button!?

  3. It really worked!! Thanks man... i get use to play with the controller that i can't play without it!!!

  4. I've followed the instructions above, however, the controller doesn't seem to be picked up by the game. Any tips? Thanks!

    1. Never mind. It turns out that I had to run Joy to Key as administrator to make it work. Thanks anyhow!

  5. :\ its working well sort of.... my shooting is like inverted i checked my like control options and its all off the inverted stuff my A button shoots up and my Y button shoots down my X button shoots right and my B button shoots left please help cause i really wanna play with a controller thanx :)

    1. You may have input the order of the keys incorrect. First thing I would suggest is to go back and try that part again. The order is A | D | W | S | Left | Right | Up | Down | Space bar | Space bar.

  6. Triggers don't work as spacebar in JTK 1.5.2

  7. I have a problem with the "application path + .exe".... It tells me it's empty or invalid...what to do? I would really appreciate some help :)

    1. if you do not have issac installed in the same directory as shown in the screenshot, you need to manually type in the place where the .exe is installed to.

  8. Thanks it worked! 1 question tho, how do i get the joy to key program to show again after i set the settings to stay in minimalized mode?

    i want to add another profile to it but the program doesnt open

  9. Did you ever find a solution? We are having the same issue. Any info is helpful. Thanks

  10. thanks for this helpful post for me and all who find The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth game. can you tell me how to install in apple ipad mini. i have face some problem in two different games to install in ipad. Second game = Star Wars:Force Arena game. please tell me how to install easy and simple way.

  11. Anyone try to use this gamepad? He is good?