Developed by Phobia Game Studios, Carrion is twin stick controlled horror game, released for Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One on July 23, 2020.
“Im a monster” I think casually. My mirror would argue I’m a pudgy meat sack but my actions in this game would suggest a killer. Between you and me, I love it. Upon release, I had this game ready to go on my Xbox Game pass and I was met with the menu screen pulsating with flesh and teeth. A chorus of children whisper from my childhood memories “Siiick”.
Carrion lets you play as a monster with the intent of escaping a secret underground research bunker. Instead of kind words and lollypops, your amorphous body delivers death and destruction. Visually, it is a mess of tentacles and teeth but what strikes me first, is the slick handling of its quick movements. It feels dangerously quick, like I could snatch out your heart. The creature is superbly animated as its moves, its body naturally rag dolls itself into crevices and seamlessly pulling itself up elevator shafts. I would imagine a lot of time and effort would have been put into the creatures animation, especially with all the ways it interacts with its environment.
A lot of reviews are throwing around the term Reverse Horror like that’s always been a thing. Its an apt description but its completely new or this is the first time a game has so perfectly tapped into a predator and prey theme. Its a major reason why I love indie or pixel games. These are the games that are still innovating and experimenting with gaming mechanics. Another important component of the game that was reversed, was the role of the music. I remember clocking resident evil 2 with the volume down because it filled me with dread. In Carrion, that ambient dread empowers your actions and becomes your villainous soundtrack. I come in like a Millie Cyrus reference, bringing the drama (kill) and its perfectly orchestrated.
As you explore and infect new areas, the map unravels itself in a Metroidvania fashion. Meaning, you have to backtrack to old areas to solve puzzles and gain upgrades(mutations) in order to progress. The puzzles always feel intuitive to solve and that’s a huge tick in my book. I don’t have the time the 12 year old me had to complete the water temple from Zelda. I was able to knock this on the head and finish the game in a weekend. Its a benefit of the game and its formulaic structure never got repetitive.
The game smartly tells the story through interactive flashbacks dotted through out the game, its just enough to invite interest and curiosity. I don’t remember any text scrolling in the game and if that’s the case, the game is shaped by very subtle story telling. Especially pixel games, text is the main avenue for communication but the game doesn’t need it. Its the narrative of a creature with only one language and its written in blood.
This game is a love letter to John Carpenters horror film “The Thing”. If you dont know it, do your self a favour and watch it. If your interested in horror, pixel games, taking control of the monster, then this is your jam. Look I loved it. Im sure some people would say its too short or it doesn’t have replayability but those were intentional design choices. Its a roller coaster ride that doesn’t out stay its welcome. I highly recommend this game and its doesn’t require a timely commitment.