Ever had one of those days? You know the one, where you just want to devour all of human kind and wipe it from existence? Well in Carrion you can live out those fantasies.
Now I am on some kind of FBI watch list, allow me to break down this fantastic reverse horror metroidvania. I have seen many compare the idea with John Carpenter’s The Thing, but I was reminded of something a little less well known. Slither from the then fresh-faced James Gunn was what immediately sprung to mind. Something about the monster in Carrion just felt like it drew influence from Gunn’s under-appreciated horror.
Anyway, as the titular monster, you will work your way through a series of chambers killing and devouring various humans, which in turn will cause you to grow and become more and more powerful. The simplistic Metroidvania mechanics work well here and gradual upgrades fit the gameplay loop.
There is a bit of an issue though. Early in the game you feel powerful and can consume almost everything with absolute ease. The odd bullet being nothing more than a hinderance. Yet as the game progresses you feel as though you become less stronger and need to be more stealthy.
This is actually at odds with what I wanted the game to be. Whilst I get the ‘good guys’ would get more powerful and find a way to overcome the monster in a traditional horror film, I was hoping we’d move away from this trope for Carrion.
There are many ways the game could have increased the difficulty without the monster itself being as tough as a paper towel at times. Bullets will decrease your body mass and fire can pretty much destroy you. It means you end up fearing the humans, more than they should fear you.
It’s not bad, overall everything is technically really well done, but I wanted to play through a sort of power fantasy. If this was just a way of finding more and more creative and gruesome ways to kill, then I’d have loved Carrion even more. As it is, it feels a little bit of a missed opportunity.
There is something so good about torturing the humans dotted throughout the game and hearing their screams as you corner them. This could have been a playground of pure horror and torture that plays to our own morbid curiosities. Just how far are we willing to go. Carrion threatens this at points, but seems to always hold back, maybe so as not to alienate a wider audience? Who knows.
The first hour of Carrion is up there with some of my favourite moments with games this year. Even without many of the potential upgrades I felt like I was in control and doing some major damage. I was the thing that goes bump in the night. Those screams of desperation were like music to my ears. It just doesn’t last long enough.
I feel like I am dunking on the game a little, which is unfair, not everyone wants to watch the world burn, or devour it in the most torturous ways possible. So looking at Carrion as a pure Metroidvania, it ticks all the right boxes and feels super well paced when it comes to progression and the distribution of abilities and upgrades.
Visually it is a looker too, you get a wonderful sense of disgust from the monster and the world around you. It feel claustrophobic, but for the humans, not for you. Finding a vent and being able to surprise the next unsuspecting victim is great. It also feels oh so satisfying ripping open doors and grates, I would happily have a mode dedicated to doing just that.
That comes from the monster itself not having any humanoid features at all. Even in other reverse horror titles, the main protagonist has retained some recognisable features, but not here. Here the designers have gone all out to make it as grotesque as possible and have nailed the design.
I really hope this isn’t a one and done title, because there is so much scope to expand Carrion and really let the shackles off. I am thinking some kind of Katamari style assault on earth, or an R-rated Mutant Blobs Attack. There is so much potential it in itself is terrifying.
However, I came away from Carrion having enjoyed my time with it, but not satisfying the itch that the early game promised to scratch. Well worth your time, but not quite the great game I expected.