Publisher: Devolver Digital | Developer: Phobia Game Studio | Release date: july 23rd, 2020
Carrion has been released upon the world via Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch from the people that created Butcher (which had a largely warm reception from critics). I have yet to play that title, but looking at the teaser trailer for Butcher shows that it was clearly the blueprint that allowed Carrion to be what it is.
Carrion is labeled as a “reverse-horror” game, and that simply means you get to serve up the carnage and scares that are normally reserved for the villains in a story.
Be the monster you’ve always wanted to be.
The first item to note when starting Carrion is the clear nostalgic love that the developers show in crafting a sci-fi horror world derived from classic films like The Thing. The pixel art is beautiful in its own dingy, gruesome way. From the second you break out of your containment vessel, you feel the need to feed, to grow, and to escape your surroundings.
The animations bring extra life to your growing mound of flesh and the victims alike, making every pixel count whether you’re reaching a tentacle into a lab tech to control him and pull levers, or switching into a worm-like form when needing to move through grated areas of water. Adding to the visuals is good, but repetitive sound design–you hear all manners of squishes and squelches with your every movement, but the screams of the many lab victims will eventually become grating.
The controls in Carrion are unique in the genre, almost feeling like a twin-stick shooter; with the left stick very carefully moving the body of the creature and the right stick aiming a tentacle or three at any given time to grab, stab, and throw. There’s a very well done (but sometimes problematic) sense of momentum and physics that you’ll get used to along the journey. For the most part, I truly felt in control of any given situation, many thanks to having a variety of cool abilities to play with when introduced to goons with flamethrowers, turret-style mechs, and machine-gun armed drones.
The likely to be most talked about factor in Carrion is its length. The first playthrough will likely be between four and six hours, depending largely on if you get lost (there is no map function) or just die inconveniently between save points. That said, the indie developer has only charged $20 for this gem on all systems, which is beyond fair. After completing the game 100% in two playthroughs (it’s possible to do so in one), I will say that I easily got my money’s worth. This is not a game you’ve played before, despite it looking like a typical Metroidvania. The combination of puzzles and intuitive level design urges you to complete this game in one setting, and it is worth it.
I don’t really have significant shortcomings with Carrion–the biggest issue for me was that it is possible to halt your progress completely in a section of the game about 90% of the way through (I’ve seen others online mention this as well). I was upset for a while, but I decided to play through again to properly complete it and was highly satisfied when I did. Unfortunately, completing the game only opens up a “Demo” mode, which I don’t personally care about, so replayability will be slim for most. Completing Carrion for me, however, gave a sense of catharsis while tearing ass through the oppressive laboratories and munching on people until limbs popped off. I will most definitely play through this title again, and even purchased the Special Reserve Games physical edition. I highly recommend Carrion, if you can take the subject matter.
score – 81/100
4–AVAILABILITY (OUT OF 5)
4–CONTROLS (OUT OF 5)