Carrion (2020)

Carrion, which is defined as “Dead or putrefying flesh” is a game about exactly that… well, kinda. The character you actually play as, is a massive monster with tendrils and many mouths. It’s immediately interesting in the way it looks and moves. It is a dripping bloody mass of what could only be described as dead flesh but is alive. It’s a cross between Stranger Things’ Season 3 monster The Mind Flayer and the symbiote Carnage. It’s alive and it’s ready to kill anything in sight.

Carrion really is more of a fully realized tech demo. The story is mostly non-existent, the game mechanics, while incredibly fun, get a tad boring after the fourth or fifth time, and most puzzles become tedious, with pretty bad checkpointing in certain spots.

The monster that you control is trying to escape a government facility, and it’s labyrinthian in design, which makes this game a “metroid-vania” with tedious backtracking. It’s exacerbated by the issue that the game doesn’t have a map, while also making most of the facility feel and look very similar. Which requires keeping track of where you are in relation to the many portals to move around the game’s large levels.

The puzzles themselves don’t require too much thought, and are only an issue when you have to use a forgotten ability that you might not have used for an hour or two. Around the facility, there are biohazard cases that allow you to break in and gain a new ability, that in turn with the genre will unlock new paths previously unavailable. Those abilities range from using a paralyzing web, to becoming bigger in mass and breaking down barriers, coupled with some weird powerups as well, like becoming invisible, or creating a shield of hardened flesh.

Government officials roam the halls, some just scared scientists or security guards with a single pistol that is more food that gives you health back. The real threat is the cleanup crews armed with flamethrowers and electric shields and gatling guns. Facing some of these enemies, or even the later game Mechs become a tougher challenge, as going toe to toe usually ends up with you getting shredded into bits in a matter of seconds. Scoping out the layout, and using the many vents and grates to fling across the room and take out unsuspecting guards is key to survival in these areas.

Another strategy is to use my favorite ability, which is possession. Sending out a single tendril to penetrate a victim and use them as a husk that you control is easily one of the more enjoyable parts of the game.

Carrion excels in how the creature moves and plays. It’s disgusting and menacing and just oozing and pulsating in a way that makes it feel like it’s a purely evil creature that you don’t get much in games anymore. The fact that you play as this character as well flips the normal horror game on its head as it feels unique. Only a few games have had a main character that feels like this, something like Smartball or World of Goo come to mind.

With there really not being any sort of story to tie the game together, nothing more than basic puzzles requiring you to add or remove body mass to get access to certain abilities that only can be performed with a larger or smaller body. It just seems like an enjoyable tech demo dragged into being made into a much larger and ultimately unnecessary length of a game. Two hours would have been perfect for this game, and the failure to include a map for this game is unforgivable. It really hurts the overall experience and would have made the game much more enjoyable with a bit more mechanics or things to do, instead of repeating the same few tricks over the course of four hours.