Carrion Review: Bloody Brilliant
There’s something childlike about Carrion. Not that the game is catered to children. On the contrary, I couldn’t place it further away from my three-year-old son. It’s instead based upon the idea of an amorphous creature who has escaped and is learning to adapt.
Starting from infancy, the horror platformer teaches you to live in brand new ways. It’s kind of beautiful, even amongst the gallons of blood that are spilled across the screen.
Carrion Review: Bloody Brilliant
Carrion is the latest indie title published by the notoriously self-aware Devolver Digital. It's developed by lovers of the horror genre, Phobia Game Studio. The premise is simple: You control of a blob-like creature that has escaped from a lab and is hellbent on causing as much chaos as it can. Imagine King Kong if directed by Quentin Tarantino, and you’re on the right path.
The game wastes no time covering the screen in gore as within mere seconds, you’ll be tasked with breaking free and using your deranged tentacles to devour everything in your path.
If there’s one way to describe Carrion, it’s "crunchy". As you escape the facility and make your way through the world, numerous obstacles will try to halt your progress. Vents will need to be smashed, wood charged through, and multiple soldiers (shivering in fear as they try to take you down) eviscerated.
You'll smash, punch, and chimp your way through Carrion, and every kill is accompanied with a very satisfying bite from the creature's mouth. It’s bizarre and utterly lovely.
Everything plays out like a David Cronenberg movie — dialed up to 11. There's enough grotesque body horror to give The Fly a run for its money.
The world of Carrion doesn't merely exist to soak your screen in buckets of blood — there’s a fair few Metroidvania influences involved as well. Puzzles are often one of the main roadblocks you’ll encounter, and they can range from sliding your tentacle through a tight gap to reach a lever or growing larger so you can smash through tougher obstacles altogether.
Carrion doesn’t possess the same amount of depth as other Metroidvanias and doesn’t oversaturate the world with collectibles, but there's enough influence in its DNA to keep you going back to previous areas.
One of the main drawbacks of navigation, though, is the lack of a map. The lab's corridors and sub-areas merge together in one massive labyrinth that takes time to learn. A button press hints at nearby save points and can be upgraded to highlight other objects, however, the navigation can at times still be a burden.
To help this, you’ll be granted the ability to shift between two sizes using water, each of which determines the abilities at your disposal. The smaller version of your monster is more nimble and can easily shift through smaller spaces, while the larger creature can become a wrecking ball of destruction.
The shift in sizes can also help in combat encounters and combined with a taunt ability, you can utilize the map's crawl spaces to become a deadly assassin.
New abilities are dished out at a brisk space and finding secret areas can enhance your monster even further. Some abilities often work in surprising ways, though revealing any of the later game inclusions here would detract from the fun of discovering just how the creature works and evolves.
Carrion is punctuated by brief moments where you control a human character and learn the origins of the creature, delving into darker and darker territory. While these moments are often quite short, they provide tantalizing teases of story and are surprisingly engaging in a narrative sense.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said from a gameplay standpoint.
Each section plays out like an adventure game, tasking you with finding items to proceed, but the controls are simply too slow sluggish. Playing as a human often feels like a sluggish affair and a sharp break on the fluid movements of the creature. For a game that prides itself on momentum, it’s a jarring switch that would have been better suited as a slate of cutscenes.
Carrion Review — The Bottom Line
- Beautifully grotesque in all the right ways
- Constant sense of progression through new abilities
- Wonderful feeling of fluidity and momentum with the creature
- Story is surprisingly engaging
- Navigation can kill the pacing with areas looking fairly familiar
- Human sections are a slog
While Carrion won't win any awards, it plays out much like a late Friday night feature, full of gruesome horror and satisfying effects. More importantly, it doesn't outstay its welcome.
Becoming an overwhelming force of destruction never ceases to be fun and the constant evolution of the creature provides players an increasing amount of tools to play with. Playing Carrion can often feel parental, as if you're nurturing a child through the early years of their life — except this child is a deadly, wanton killing machine.