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I just started playing the Binding of Isaac and one of the pick-ups I came across was a black/blue-ish heart (much like the red ones that fill up your HP). Initially, I thought it was a sort of "heart container" that increases my overall HP, but I noticed that I couldn't pick up additional health to fill it up.

Here's me after picking up the black heart: Black heart

Then, after taking some damage, I noticed that the extra heart was gone (I was back to the three red hearts alone). So I was wondering, do black hearts simply serve as a temporary HP boost, or are they more complicated than that?

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I call that color "gray". Or if I'm feeling a little spunky then "grey". –  Muhd Jan 15 '12 at 6:12
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up vote 8 down vote accepted

They are called soul hearts, and simply serve as a temporary HP boost, once you lose a blue/black heart, it's gone forever. Note that when you take damage, it will always subtract the damage from the blue/black heart(s) first.

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Actually, damage from blood machines and the razor take from your normal hearts first. –  Muhd Jan 15 '12 at 6:14
    
Following from @Muhd it is possible to die from losing normal hearts in this fashion even when soul hearts are present. –  Grant Palin Feb 14 '13 at 1:14
    
@Grant Palin, that's not true. If there are no red hearts left and you continue to play the blood bank, blue hearts will be used up first. Only if there are no red+blue hearts left und you continue to play the blook bank, you will die. –  Olli Feb 14 '13 at 12:38
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