Carrion is a reverse horror game, yes you read that correctly, a reverse horror game. You are not the hunted you are the hunter within this game. As an amorphous creature, you must wreak havoc on the people that have kept and experimented on you. Establish a foothold in the facility, spread your biomass as far as you can and kill anyone in your way. Waking within a testing container, you struggle to keep your rage as you see your captors all around you. You are smashing against the glass designed to hold you back, and over time you gain the strength to break free. Screams follow the smashing of glass as you realise the chain of power is in your favour. You use your body to form tentacles and start destroying and consuming everything around you; this facility will be yours.
Developer: Phobia Game Studio
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platforms: Windows, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 23 July 2020
The enemies are typical, nothing out of the ordinary but that is okay, they are what you would expect to be within the facility. The humans will hear you if you are too loud and either investigate or run. You can use this to your advantage in many situations. Time and time again there would be what I would call “movie scene moments” as individual approaches a drainage pipe where you are lurking only to be torn apart in front of their colleges who either run or help. There is a sense of power that the game gives you, and it is a fun experience being the hunter rather than the hunted. What I found interesting with the humans within the game was the subversion of hope in the last stand. Typically, a human who is about to die and has taken it upon themselves to take the attacker down with them signifies a sense of hope. But being the attacker in this situation the game subverts that hope, it instead becomes futile as you continue your rampage through the facility. The game caters to your predator instincts, and there are frequently many ways that you can approach situations. Allowing you to stalk the humans as they stand there trying to find you, you can play to the horror aspect of the game.
The OST highlights this horror aspect well. With classic horror tropes of unsettling music and noises that accompany your rampage. Naturally, the sounds would make you feel scared, but as you are the monster, they make you feel that much creepier. You start to think more about how you are playing the game. It is a weird thought; Horror sounds make you more focused on being a monster.
However, enemies do get better. They start using machine guns and shields that make you think about how you’re going to approach a situation. In the beginning, you can launch into any room take a few pistol shots and destroy everyone in sight. Once they start brandishing shields that have electricity on them, you must consider how to use the space around you seriously. After all, you are an amorphous blob so you can fit anywhere. The change in difficulty is a jarring experience for the player. It makes you realise that you are not invisible, you learn that you are not as strong as you appear. I enjoyed this little aspect; it both serves to add difficulty to the game and applies a learning experience for both the player and the monster you are controlling. The monster is learning the rules of the world, just like the player. I thought that it worked quite well within the context of the game, I kept coming back to movies with monsters like this, and there is always a learning experience for them.
The learning experience does not stop there. The monster/player also learns that as an amorphous monster that can gain more and more size, there is limitless potential. With three different sizes that affect how you play the game; the first being the smallest, which is the sneakiest, allowing you to be invisible and use a web to hit leavers form a distance. The second is the most useful, in my opinion, allowing you to break through barriers to get into new areas and still be a little sneaky if needed. The third is the overpowered broken destroy everything mode, allowing you to take a lot of damage, protect your body with a shield and shoot spikey tentacles all over the room devastating anything in their paths. The forms provide an exciting way to build puzzles within the game, with the ability to switch between them by either dropping off mass or picking mass up at specific areas. It is exciting and allows you to approach the game how you want. Do you want to be invisible and strike enemies from the shadows? Or do you want to be able just to burst into a room-filling it with your amorphous blob-like body and leave the enemies struggling to find room to fight you?
There is an attempt at a story with some flashback scenes that, unfortunately, takes you away from what makes the game enjoyable. In the flashback scenes you must take control of a human wandering through the same facility you are haunting. At the same time, I do appreciate the attempt to add a little story to the game. But I believe the game itself provides enough enjoyment that you do not particularly need it.
That is the main struggle with Carrion. There is a lot of pacing problems that I faced; for example, areas do not repopulate over time. Usually, this would not be an issue, but there is a lot of backtracking within the game. Rooms feel empty and make an already dull task that much more boring. The negative to the map is that there is no real direction; you feel like you are just exploring and hoping that you find the next area. At the same time, this can be an advantage in this style of games, unfortunately with Carrion if you combine that with the lack of repopulation. You end up just searching through the map regularly to desperately to get back to what the game does best and leads to weird pacing issues within the game. You have a bloody and fearsome fight to the death. Then you are left to travel through empty rooms where the game is reliant on just its movement being fun, which it is! But his is not enough to fill those slow moments in. The fun becomes few and far between towards the middle/end of the game, and it slows it down to a point where playing can become a chore.
Overall, the gameplay is enjoyable and allows you to be a little creative with how you tackle situations. But the lack of repopulation and direction within the map itself leads to moments where you are just searching for the action. The game is an enjoyable play, but I would love to see some more enemies while you are roaming areas you have cleared. I understand that technically you have killed everyone, but maybe they could put SWAT-like teams who search the map for you. Or have them attack some of the nests you have made, forcing you to other areas of the map to defend yourself. There is a lot of good here, but also a lot to be desired. It is a fun game that works with its premise very well, and you will get enough out of it! It is currently on Gamepass, so if you have a moment, I recommend trying it!