Carrion is a Metroidvania game with a difference. Described by the developers as a reverse horror, it lets you play as the monster. That’s right, instead of saving the day you’re here to ruin it. Your goal is simply to exist and that means turning on your captors and finding a way to escape the facility that they’ve been holding you in.
The central mechanic of the game reminded me of the classic game Snake. That’s because as you eat, you grow in size. Except here your food are the many staff who happen to work in the facility where you have been imprisoned. The horror that you play is a bright red amorphous creature made up of tendrils, eyes, mouths and sharp teeth.
Watch the Carrion ‘Become the Monster’ launch trailer below:
The movement of your monster is delightful and surely relies on some kind of procedural animation. When you move the left stick on your controller in a particular direction, the creature morphs and adapts to the environment. Tendril’s shoot out in all directions and grab onto the nearest surface. You’re not constrained by gravity which gives a brilliant sense of freedom. The movement is also incredibly fluid and somewhat addictive.
The right stick gives you control of one of your tendrils and allows you to reach out to grab stuff. This lets you do all manner of things such as opening doors, destroying environmental items and pulling levers. Most fun of all is grabbing the various staff you find around the facility. This lets you swing them around, bash them off walls, drown them in water and even rip them apart. The bodies and (parts) of those you have killed can be grabbed and fed into one of your hungry mouths in order for you to grow in size.
Watch the Carrion gameplay trailer below:
Most of the enemies that you come across are quite harmless. Many will even scream in terror and try to hide or flee. These are easy pickings and you can easily rip and tear through a room before enjoying a feast. As the game progresses enemies do get tougher and will attempt to fight back with guns, energy shields and even mechs.
As you move from room to room there’s a lot of choice to be had about how to tackle each situation. You can bust through a door and tackle enemies head on or opt for a more stealthy approach and slither through ducts and vents. Getting behind your next meal and popping out to surprise them never gets old.
I quite liked that the game leaves you to your own devices. It doesn’t throw objectives at you, there’s no map to track where you’ve been and it never points you in the right direction. This can make it easy to get lost or confused about where to head next but it forces you to rely on memory and look for signs of the carnage you’ve previously left behind. I guess this is something that will frustrate some players but adding these kind of helper features would have made the game a lot easier. Thinking about it a real monster wouldn’t have a map or a helpful guide would they?
In typical Metroidvania fashion, locations have various paths blocked. As you explore and progress you uncover hazardous materials that change your DNA and enhance your abilities. These include a dash to break through some blocked paths, a web-slinging ability to press switches or web enemies and a cloaking ability to move undetected. My personal favourite allows you to infect a human (dead or alive) with a parasite to take control of them. This lets you do things like press switches or use their weapons against their colleagues.
View some Carrion screenshots in our gallery:
To keep you thinking the game doesn’t allow you to use all of your gained abilities at once. Instead your current size determines what is available to you. The more powerful abilities require you to grow in size. Taking damage makes you smaller or you can even deposit a chunk of your biomass into certain pools to slim down and access different abilities. The later parts of the game require you to constantly switch size to progress.
Carrion is light on story but does have a few flashback sequences that help flesh things out a bit. Once you’ve beaten the game you’ll probably want to go back again just because of how fun it is. There are some optional collectibles you might have missed which you’ll need if you want all the achievements. It’s also a perfect title for speedruns. I beat the game in two sittings which was about five to six hours in total. I reckon I could probably halve the time to get through on my next playthrough.
Overall I had an absolute blast with Carrion and would highly recommend the game to horror and Metroidvania fans. There’s a puzzle element to the gameplay as well which makes you stop and think. It’s a fairly short experience but the getting to be the monster for a change is very satisfying.
Carrion was reviewed using a digital code provided by the publisher.
Publisher: Devolver Digital Developer: Phobia Game Studio Release Date: 23rd July 2020 Reviewed On: PC/Steam Also Available On: PS4, Xbox One (Game Pass)