Carrion PC Review

As long as you can weather some frustration, playing the hungry monster in Carrion can be very fun.

By Woozie, Posted 23 Jul 2020

Stringy, red tendrils stretch across a hallway, grabbing at anything to support the formless body dragged behind them. They open the nearby door with almost human dexterity before ripping out a grate through which the unnatural mass of flesh squeezes to enter a vent. Below, scientists go about their daily business, unaware of the horror waiting to strike. As the creature reaches the bottom of the vent, it prepares for a powerful charge. Seconds later, it bursts out, using an outstretched tentacle to grab one of the scientists mid-charge. His headless body falls to the floor as the fleshy mass that almost fills up the room reaches for the other unlucky victim before heading deeper into the facility.

It’s not every day that a video game lets you play as an amorphous pile of flesh whose number of monstrous mouths grows as it eats humans. Trapped in a research facility that’s completely foreign to it, the creature’s goals are simple: escape and eat as many things as possible on the way out. Carrion’s protagonist might not have the charisma or charm of its human counterparts, but it compensates through sheer destructive potential and tactile movement. You control the beast using your mouse, pointing and clicking at the location you want it to move. As it slithers across the game’s 2D levels its weight translates past the screen as sections of it get temporarily stuck on platforms or take a few seconds to catch up when trying to fit in one of the game’s few elevators. While it’s true that the bigger you grow the more creature you have to get from one point to another, you remain surprisingly agile all throughout.

Carrion PC Review, Screenshot

As you try to escape captivity, you encounter various puzzles that you can solve by using the powers available with each of the monster’s three forms. At its smallest, it’s able to turn invisible and crawl past lasers while its long, webbed tentacle can be used to both stun enemies and operate levers you can’t reach otherwise. In its second form, it can grow spikes on its outer shell, letting the creature literally slam into opponents for kills, while its charge can dislodge obstacles when hitting them from behind. Its third and largest form can coat its entire body in a strong shell that renders explosive harpoons unable to deal it damage – although nearby obstacles and humans aren’t as impervious to explosions –, while its massive tentacles can dislodge certain obstacles right from the front.

Although it’s always tempting to stick to your largest possible form due to the increased health pool, you’ll often need to deposit biomass in red pools, as even late into the game you’ll reach areas with puzzles whose solution requires your weakest form. This actively makes you use all your powers, keeping things fresh over the game’s length of seven-or-so hours. You unlock these powers from test tubes as you breach different wings of the facility, becoming more versatile as you explorse.

Carrion PC Review, Screenshot

For the most part, Carrion is a relatively linear affair, although you’re free to go between locations you’ve already explored whenever you want to. Completionists will find a relatively limited amount of backtracking necessary to find optional biomass containers that can enhance abilities, but this is not quite a Metroidvania. The complete lack of a map – although justified in the context of playing a foreign organism in an unknown environment – can, however, cause some trouble. After breaching an area, the monster always emerges in a sort of a quasi-overworld that links levels together. Even with the game’s relative linearity, finding your way to the next room can prove tricky, leading to small but frequent moments of frustration in which you’re trying to get your bearings.

Although you can use echolocation to get a hint as to where the next save point – represented as big fleshy mouths – is found, it doesn’t filter between new and already discovered ones. While aesthetically  Carrion’s locations do change color palettes and assets, its pixelated areas both in and around the base fail to establish themselves as actual places you’ll remember, instead feeling just like simple zones you transit as you try to escape. This missing sense of place that Carrion’s levels have as a whole not only makes the facility feel forgettable but also contributes to the ease with which you can get lost.

Carrion PC Review, screenshot

Carrion’s bipolar combat alternates too much between making you feel like a powerful misshapen monster that easily devours any humans crossing its path and a useless, weak, stumbling mass of flesh. This happens irrespective of how big you are and, subsequently, how much health you have. You can breeze through an area, ripping enemies to shreds in an instant or methodically picking them off by quickly emerging and reentering vents only to be killed in an instant as you burst into another room. Enemies donning rubberized coats, portable front shields and firearms or, even worse, flame throwers, can end your life in a matter of seconds and the fact that you can only control the creature using the mouse makes it unnecessarily fiddly to flank them in most cases.

This lead to many situations in which I found myself frantically clicking and using powers in hope of taking down an opponent before I desperately slithered back to safe areas, unable to pierce their frontal shield. From there, I either had to wait for themto forget about the monstrosity that just attacked and return to their patrols or go back to a nearby save point to regain my strength. The latter isn’t always an option and, as taking hits also decreases the monster’s size, dealing with mechs equipped with miniguns or multiple human enemies can see you repeating the same short sequence to the point where it overstays its welcome.

Carrion PC Review

Thankfully, the save point placement is quite generous, somewhat alleviating this issue, and the combat itself does have some awesome encounters.  Anytime you can easily dominate your opponents, Carrion sends you on brief power trips that suit the hungry alien beast whose nature is to accumulate biomass and spread it throughout the facility. Grabbing enemies with your tentacles alone makes for multiple awesome moments, regardless if you’re toying with helpless prey by slowly dragging it towards your many gaping maws to hear its desperate screams, or bashing a soldier that took half your HP away into walls way past the point required to kill them. As sadistic as it may sound, I found myself doing both more often than I, perhaps, should have. Combat itself shines the most once you obtain the ability to directly control humans, provided you can sneak your tentacle near them and have a few seconds away from their peers to take over their minds. It’s great to turn humans against each other, especially when you clear entire rooms with a captured mech’s devastating flurry of bullets.

Carrion’s concept of playing the evil, inhuman creature that’s out to eat everyone is definitely interesting and, at times undoubtedly visceral despite its distant 2D perspective, letting you bloody up rooms and leave halves of corpses lying around for later consumption. Its movement enforces the foreign nature of its protagonist but frequent frustrations like repeated difficulty spikes during combat and getting lost in its unremarkable facility do chip away at its awesome parts. Nevertheless, if you can weather some frustration, you’re in for a lot of delicious dismemberment and many horrified screams as you take Carrion’s flesh beast on its bloody journey.

Bogdan Robert,
Senior Editor, NoobFeed
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General Information

Carrion

75/100

Platform(s): Xbox One, Switch, PC
Publisher(s): Devolver Digital
Developer(s): Phobia Game Studio
Genres: Action, Horror
Themes: Reverse Horror
Release Date: 2020-07-23

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