Carrion is a reverse horror game in which you assume the role of an amorphous creature of unknown origins, stalking and consuming those that imprisoned you.
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Reviewed on: PC
Also available for: Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Mac
Developer: Phobia Game Studio
Director: Sebastian Kroskiewicz
Game Design: Sebastian Kroskiewicz, Krzysztof Chomicki
Music Director: Cris Velasco
Carrion, from developer Phobia Game Studio, lets you seek bloody revenge as a mysterious creature attempting to escape a secret facility. In this ‘reverse-horror’ game you play as the monster stalking your prey and causing havoc all over the facility in a bloody fashion that couldn’t be more fun. It’s equal parts Metroidvania and player directed blood-bath and one of the best games of the year so far.
The creature doesn’t have a name and for the most part, the story is left for you to fill in the blanks. Which I kinda loved because Carrion is very obviously inspired by 80’s horror films. I adapted the narrative to fit my fiction and I was playing as the cousin of the monster from The Thing. Because I’m cool like that.
You start out as a small collective of tendrils and begin the game with a simple attack and the ability to move throughout any environment with ease. As you continue through the game you’ll devour both humans and harvest other experiments to build your biomass. This eventually turns you into a massive red tendril monster that looks like something out of a Resident Evil nightmare.
No matter your size the monster has an impressive ability to sort of just float throughout any room. The tendrils glide along walls and pull yourself in whichever direction you want and even into tight spaces like air-ducts with ease. It’s this movement that not only makes the game feel so good to play but makes the monster feel like an apex predator.
Humans stand no chance against the monster, especially those without weapons. You’re free to just launch yourself into a room and obliterate a bunch of scientists in a red-spray of blood — but I preferred having fun with my prey.
With a single button press, the monster lets out a low growl that’ll send most humans running in fear. And those with weapons are automatically put on guard in the direction of the noise. At this point, I’d have more fun slinking my way around to an air duct and bursting out only to grab one human and disappear again. Eating humans will restore your health if you need it, but also watching their friends freak out in the room below is simply too much fun.
In some ways, I feel like those looking to play out devious horror movie moments will get a lot more enjoyment out of Carrion. Not to say it’s not fun to blast through a room and send limbs and bodies flying in every direction — it sure is.
As you progress through the game you’ll eventually have to deal with foes capable of killing the monster rather quickly. These include automated turrets, enemies with electric shields and assholes with flamethrowers. And those hurt the worst. If you catch on fire you’ll need to quickly retreat into water or you’ll die.
Carrion is the most fun when it’s challenging and although the first hour can feel like a breeze, you will start facing harder scenarios. A room full of strong enemies means you need to actively be aware of where all your exits are and the high priority targets to assassinate first. These are the moments you’ll feel like a true hunter as you outwit and outmaneuver any who stand in your way, even with their high artillery.
There’s a lot more to Carrion than devouring humans — although that’s when I’m smiling the most. There’s a sizable amount of puzzles and Metroidvania influence in the quieter moments.
The overworld called ‘Frontier’ serves as a hub for the nine levels in the game. And you’ll progress further into the Fronter as you unlock more powers for the monster.
Early in the game, you get a spider-like web that you can shoot to freeze humans in place, but it’s also used in puzzles. It allows the monster to activate switches it couldn’t reach by shooting the web through gaps. Later you’ll unlock short-form invisibility as well as a dash/smash attack.
Certain abilities can only be used when the monster is at a higher level of biomass, of which there are three in the game. For example, the web-shooting can only be used by a level 1 monster and the dash is for the level 2 monster. At certain sections in levels, you’ll come across pools that allow you to dump biomass that you can collect later if you need it. This leads to puzzles in the game where you may need to shred biomass down to level 1 to use invisibility but have to face some tough enemies on the other side without your stronger combat abilities and health that comes with the bigger mass.
For the most part, Carrion doesn’t fall into the clumsy back-and-forth nature of most Metroidvanias that can lead to players getting lost. The world naturally guides you to your next location through subtle but effective clues. If you’re looking for the exit of a level you literally follow the neon green exit signs. If you’re looking for a savepoint you’ve previously activated or the next one you need to find, a button press will ping any that are nearby. Even the game’s secrets, in this case, Containment Units are easy to spot with little neon signs with a fish emblem on them.
There are a few sections throughout the game where you control a human character in a flashback sequence. Although they never go for more than five minutes, I’m glad they didn’t drag on as I found that the human character controlled a little floaty. These sequences didn’t do much for me other than offer some slight backstory to the game that I didn’t feel was necessary.
Carrion took me four hours to complete and at that length, it’s the perfect length for playing out your own monster movie. The final level is just a blaze of destruction leading to the perfect ending. I kinda wished there had been a harder sequence of enemies right before the final level to make the ending feel more earned, but I’ll happily take whats here now.