The hallways are dark. Briefly illuminated by electric light and seemingly abandoned, we wander through the vacant halls of a research facility and explore passageways that carry us to empty rooms. All is quiet as a tomb, and we are just learning how to move, how to be, how to exist. This is a horror game after all, and a monster could be around the next corner.
Bipedal monsters with two eyes and two arms, fragile suits of flesh who have encased us within this labyrinthine building.
This is survival horror, but we are not looking to escape a fog-blanketed small town or a village of cults. We are seeking our freedom, our emancipation from what the humans have done to us. They’ve chopped us up and locked us away and now it is time to feel whole again.
Carrion, developed by Phobia Game Studio and published by Devolver Digital, is a self-proclaimed “reverse horror” game where instead of escaping from some monster, the player take control of a many-tentacled, many-mouthed creature as it escapes from an underground laboratory that’s been segmented off into locked areas. The game’s strange uniqueness stems from how the player is able to stalk the humans that exist in the facility, eating them to regain health or mind controlling them into opening doors and operating heavy machinery.
This fresh Metroidvania title is a wonderful new take on the horror genre, allowing the player to control a creature straight out of John Carpenter’s The Thing as it patrols dark hallways and sleepy offices in its efforts to escape. Carrion is a short game that is spread out over a labyrinthine array of vistas, from underground waterways to ancient jungle caverns to wide cityscapes.
The gameplay is sets itself apart from other Metroidvanias in that the carrion creature is controlled with floaty movements that let it slip and slide through tiny passageways, up walls and over ceilings. Its tentacles can be controlled with the right analog stick, where the player has the ability to use its appendages to grab shrieking humans and stuff their soft bodies into its many hungry mouths.
While the lack of a viewable map in Carrion can make some segments more than a little disorienting, the game moves along at a clip, and the nonstop feast as the player faces innumerable interesting puzzles keeps the repetitive cycle interesting. Sprites are beautiful and disturbing, though the carrion creature can feel a little unwieldy once the third biomass is added in the later segments of the game.
What I found most fascinating with Carrion is how it made me feel as I progressed through the game’s handful of hours. Initially, the biomass feels week and frail, with nothing but a few spindly tentacles to latch onto unsuspecting humans. As the game progresses and the biomass gains new abilities by repurposing its stolen genetic code, the creature becomes a godlike nightmare of claws, teeth, and bone spears. There’s enough of a silent mystery in the game’s small story to push one forward, but the real motivation comes through the simple joy of tearing through the viscera of hapless humans in your quest to mutate the biomass into the ultimate ghoulish entity.
Carrion is a must-play experience for horror and Metroidvania fans, as it scratches the itch of both with its gore-stained teeth. The journey of the carrion creature as it finds its segmented genetic code and steadily grows into a monster of nightmares is a blast to play, and its fun to finally live out the fantasy of being the monster that everyone is afraid of.
Carrion is currently available on Steam, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One.
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