Ever watched John Carpenter’s The Thing and thought how cool it would be to play as the organism? If so, Carrion is the game for you.
You play a small organism that escapes from a holding cell. Upon reaching the vents you find yourself in a massive, sprawling research laboratory with two goals: spread your infection throughout the facility, and, of course, escape. These unfurl in a traditional Metroidvania style, with interconnected levels that open up more as your abilities increase.
There is less backtracking than usual, a welcome change — and a necessary one — as the environments blend together easily. The gameplay is okay, never really graduating beyond serviceable. You can only use certain abilities at certain phases of your evolution, which makes for interesting puzzles as you have to account for the form you take. This bevy of tools does end up making combat trivial, as you tend to feel too strong for anything to feel properly challenging. All of this is perfectly fine, as the real star is the organism.
A grotesque, pulsating mass of flesh and eyes with no defined form, all you do is break things and consume helpless, fleeing people. This hunt is the real star, with a ludicrously excessive level of violence. While we mentioned that combat doesn’t offer much of a challenge, it does leave ample room to roleplay as a traditional horror film creature, and we had a lot more fun adding these self-imposed rules. Isolating people and striking suddenly from the shadows is more satisfying than blindly rushing in and spamming the trigger, even if the latter is easier. Cautious, careful planning fits the mood of the game much better.
The atmosphere is oppressive, with dark colours, low lighting, and an ominous, bassy rumble permeating the facility. Even the way you move contributes, a disgusting mass of tendrils reaching out in all directions, coating things in blood. And the animations are impeccable: beautiful, horrifying, fluid.
Despite the gameplay and level design being pretty middling, we still think this game is worth a spin. It’s all about the atmosphere, and the organism itself, both of which are rousing successes and worth the price of entry alone.