Horror games are a dime a dozen these days. What’s less common are games where you get to be the monster – hunting hapless victims, chopping up the innocent and so on. Sure, there’s stuff like Dead by Daylight, but even in that game your character can easily be stopped by a carefully-placed chunk of wood. If you want real monstrous power, you’ve got to check out Carrion, a “reverse-horror” Metroidvania adventure from Phobia Game Studio and the usual suspects at Devolver Digital.
Carrion’s unique because, well, you’re not exactly controlling your average hero character. Instead, you’re a horrible body-horror fleshbeast that glorps around a facility dicing people up and eating them. Crunch. This means that the controls are more than a little awkward at first, especially if you’re using a controller, since you’re kind of moving around the center of the blob rather than the blob itself – automatically sending out tendrils to get around and the like. Once you get the hang of things, though, Carrion’s monster is surprisingly responsive, with the key being that you’re giving a general suggestion to the creature it then fulfills rather than handling all the minutiae yourself. You’re in more control than it seems.
Level design tends to focus on blocking off your exits rather than any sort of platforming or such as a result, making maze-crawling a central point of the game. You’ll search for a lot of switches, learning new abilities as you do so, and you’ll need to periodically change the size of your monster by taking a dip in goop or eating people to access different skills. You don’t have an ingame map, but (and perhaps because of this) Carrion’s stages tend to be pretty easy to navigate. If it seems like you’re stuck, you probably need to find a new ability to move on, such as switch-yanking webbing, invisibility or possessing humans. Later you can come back and find a couple new goodies in completed areas in true Metroidvania style, which is a nice, friendly touch for a game about being a horrible monster.
As for the horrible monster part of the game, it’s all nice and messy. Humans are, by and large, incapable of stopping your rampage. You can throw stuff at them! You can charge through them! Eventually they wise up a little bit and carry guns or wear armor, but even these toys aren’t going to help. After that initial acclimatization period with the controls, you’re basically unstoppable. Later, robots and drones are a little more of an issue since they’re inedible, but by the point that they become common you’ve got a good enough handle on things that it’s likely smooth sailing to the end of the game.
Graphically, well…look at those screenshots. The horrible creature thing is you. You’re going to run around dicing up low-fi people all over the place, throwing their bits into your many mouths because they’re tasty. All this carnage is aided with an appropriately scary soundtrack and gross sound effects. More squeamish players might have some trouble grappling with Carrion. It’s all perfect for the kind of game that Carrion wants to be, and it also runs like a dream on pretty much anything.
Carrion is a relatively short experience, which is probably for the best given that there’s not too much you can do with the concept once the novelty of being The Thing wears off. The ending is appropriately chilling (or satisfying, depending on how you felt about being a tentacle monster) so it’s worth making your way through this one. Bite-sized gaming snacks like this are always a treat, so if you’re feeling hungry, try chowing down on some Carrion.