Carrion Review

Three things I like about this game, and one I don't


By Paul Hunter

I can never pass up a good horror game, whether that's the latest Resident Evil or awesome indie titles like Carrion from Devolver Digital and Phobia Game Studio.

While horror games and movies almost invariably are told from the side of the heroes (and victims!), Carrion flips the script with a unique "reverse-horror" experience where you become the killer. In this case, you play as a monster captive in a research complex who must go to great lengths, or ahem great tentacles, to find your escape. And you'll do everything you can, including ripping humans and robots in your way to pieces, all for sadistic pleasure because why not? So let's journey together to the Relith Science research facility, here are three things I liked about the game...and one I didn't.

Liked: The Clever Storytelling

Like most horror movies, Carrion's story lead in is straightforward. A horrible creature is trapped inside an underground research facility before it breaks loose and wreaks hell on all those standing in its way. The intro is quick, and then playing as the monster you're free start ripping scientists in half and gleefully consuming their corpses.

Soon you'll discover that Carrion is excellent at environmental storytelling to fill in the gaps about what happened to the monster inside this research complex. For example, you'll discover bits of your DNA around the facility in research tubes, clearly indicating these scientists joyfully sliced the monster to pieces all for their selfish pursuit of knowledge.

In a more direct form of storytelling, Carrion peppers in some clever flashback scenarios that fleshes out the monster's backstory even more. In these flashbacks you'll leave your monster body to control a human who's visiting to complex to find out what's going on. These mini episodes are welcome as they mix-up the pace to keep you engaged, while also putting into context the monster's sadistic ways.


The Ever-Evolving Gameplay

Controlling the creature in Carrion is quite the guilty pleasure and remained enjoyable until the very end of the adventure. The biggest factor is fast and fluid the monster moves using its tentacles to cling to the walls like Spider-Man. Because of your speed, you can dash around the screen in an instant to grab and mangle humans making combat super exhilarating. Plus you slide into one of the game's many ducts to to catch opponents from above and even deviously smash through a door to make a surprise entrance for those on the other side.

As you gobble up humans your monster's mass will increase along with their power, but surprisingly your movement speed stays the same so carnage continues at the same pace. In all, there are three different sizes for your monster, from small to huge, and each form changes your available attacks and moves

As I mentioned earlier, you will find DNA capsules throughout the research facility and these bestows excellent and useful powers to your creature. You'll gain the ability to charge electricity, toss your membranes at opponents, become invisible, surround yourself with a shield, a few other nifty moves. Not only can these abilities help you shred humans to a bloody pulp, but most help you overcome the many environment puzzles thrown at you in the game. What's neat is the game world is built like Metroidvania, encouraging you to backtrack to previous areas with your newly acquired abilities to discover new routes and more abilities.

Liked: The Amazing Pixel Art and Quality Tunes

The review would not be complete without mentioning Carrion's beautiful pixel art. The artistic direction is virtually flawless, presenting you with varying biomes and scenery, like underwater, a jungle, and research labs filled with all kinds of interesting gadgets.

Also noteworthy is the excellent soundtrack by Cris Velasco that was later released on vinyl in collaboration with Devolver Digital. The sound effects are equally good, like the bloodcurdling screams of your victims and the sloshy noises your gooey monster makes as its tentacles cling to the walls.

Didn't Like: Lack of Map

My one complaint about Carrion is the absence of a map, which being a Metroidvania game can be a bit problematic. While the level design overall is pretty good, I did get lost a few times and had to aimlessly wander around and I figured out where to go to next. There's also no objective indicator on the HUD further compounding the issue. This problem mainly manifested itself after you get a new power, since you've got to rely on your memory to figure where the locked door was you can now open, or the barrier a dozen screens back can now be overcome. A simple map with markers would do this game wonders.

The Verdict

Carrion is a devilishly enjoyable horror experience where you can swoop up enemies in your tentacles and rip them apart with a smile on your face. It's a short adventure lasting around 6-7 hours, but it's worth it for the gameplay alone. The awesome reverse-horror story is icing on the cake. It's too bad there's no in-game map as that would have eliminated getting lost and made this an even better game. Still, with what's on offer it's an easy recommend for anyone wanting their next juicy horror experience.

Final Score: 8.5/10 - Great

Carrion details

Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Developer: Phobia Game Studio
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Genre: Horror
Modes: Single-player
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)

A key was provided by the publisher.