Developer/Publisher: Phobia Game Studio/ Devolver Digital
Release Date: 23, July 2020 on Switch, Xbox One, PC
Played: April 2021 on Switch
Carrion is a reverse horror metroidvania in which the player controls an amorphous blob of flesh to break out of a containment facility and an underground complex. With nicely subtle story and worldbuilding Carrion shines with the movement and immersion more than with some of its mechanics and metroidvania elements.
Superb creature design
Many reverse horror games and even the normal ones feature just another bipedal creature that is in the end just a skin for a human character. Carrion does not. In Carrion the player controls an amorphous blob of flesh, which tentacles and mass can move and pull it anywhere. Into the smallest spaces, clinging to walls or the ceiling. In beautiful 2D pixel art the red monster spawns tentacles and jaws full of teeth when needed. But more even than the design itself, it is the way the monster moves that is so different. The game really makes you feel like a blob of flesh that can move fluently through the corridors of the facilities.
In good metroidvania tradition the player unlocks new abilities. In the case of Carrion by breaking the vessels in which other parts of the flesh monster are contained. In that way the monster learns for example to bend light and in that way be invisible or shoot out a web. The monster also grows in stages. For everyone of them there are different offensive and defensive abilities. These are used for the different puzzles. It is necessary for some of them to leave some flesh behind to gain other abilities. This was a moment where I was stuck. The game did not necessarily tell me before that I could just eat the deposited biomass. It is a abviouse mechanic actually, but it just did not occur to me. I think there may have been the tiniest button prompt at some point but here is one of the downfalls of Carrion.
Here there be monsters
Sometimes Carrion is just inscrutable. Without any map it is hard to know where to go. I had to refer to a walkthrough at some point to even be sure where to go. Circling multiple times through the facility to find the next entrance or way to unlock with a new learned ability. And while there is an ecolocate based ability that helps to find the next destination its use is severely limited. A control room at the end of the game is also the closest to any level select you came. And no you can not select levels from there. It is just an overview to see which levels you have previously visited and a display of your level of completion. The puzzles as well as the overall level design are well trotted ground for a metroidvania. Switches need to be pulled, traps to be dodged and security disabled. It is not bad, just inoffensive.
Carrion is a shorter game but while it is going it is great. There is little that compares to it especially when the monster just thrushes through guards and humans. The game still has a very enjoyable difficulty curve. And even the underwhelming puzzles are still fun to solve. There are far worse games to play and Carrion can carry itself well enough on what makes it unique.
7/10 A Good Game