… giddy and satisfying …
Even the most casual gamer will have spent hours of their in-game lives hunting and destroying monsters. Whether the setting is a pristine laboratory, an abandoned warehouse or sinister factory, it’s likely you’ll have splattered an irate organism or cranky xenomorph across it many times over. But what if you weren’t the heroic human in the story? What if, in fact, you were the slime-slicked creature crawling through the vents? That is the premise of Carrion, a game that really shows how much difference a change of perspective can make.
Carrion puts you in the pulsating biomass of a nameless beastie being experimented on in a laboratory. At the beginning of the game you manage to escape from a canister as a small but swift critter, and then it’s time to evolve, increase in size and power, and find your freedom. Oh, and you’ll massacre and absorb a metric tonne of quivering, screaming, terror-scented human flesh along the way.
Of all the many things Carrion does right, its best element by far is the way the monster feels to play. The rapid, slithering, tentacular movement remains exhilarating from minute one to the conclusion four or five hours later. Sweeping out of vents to grab scientists and rip them in half, punching through obstructions like a tumescent wrecking ball and letting out a roar before you engulf multiple victims like a wave of malignant meat is just… wonderful. If you’re of a slightly demented mindset like your humble reviewer, you’ll likely spend much of the game cackling like a cartoon banshee, much to the chagrin of flatmates and cats.
The graphics too, in a crisp engaging pixel art style, tickle all the right retro gaming receptors and are a joy to behold. Slightly less successful is some of the exploration, with a few of the environments reading too similarly to deliver legible landmarks, which can lead to some frustrating and confusing navigation loops, compounded by the lack of a map. Also, players expecting a strong narrative or enticing backstory will likely be left a little cold, because it’s pretty threadbare.
Still and all, the story is not what Carrion is about. This is the type of clever indie game that saw the incredible third act of Playdead’s Inside and went “yeah, let’s do a whole game of that!” and it’s as giddy and satisfying as that sounds. Certainly, the short length and repetitive gameplay will give some pause, but for those who always felt like The Thing from John Carpenter’s The Thing got a raw deal, Carrion will provide splattery catharsis. And in the end, it turns out ol’ mate Friedrich Nietzsche was right: when fighting monsters you yourself do become a monster… and it’s a fucken hoot!