The Metroidvania genre has many shining examples of what can be done in that format from the obvious series such as its namesake with Metroid and Castlevania, but also more recent entries like Hollow Knight and this year’s fantastic Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Now coming into the fold from developer Phobia Game Studio and publishers Devolver Digital is Carrion. A hyper-violent and incredibly thrilling adventure with a twist that puts the player in the role of a nightmarish human-devouring tentacled flesh monster lurking in the corridors of a massive research facility in what is being classified as reverse horror. Carrion may not have the depth as some of its many counterparts, but it still manages to be some of the most fun I’ve had playing a game this year and one that stands apart from the competition because of just how unique and completely off the wall it is.
The main draw of this game is being able to be this disgusting creature as you devour, impale, and eviscerate anyone that gets in your way as you escape containment. In that regard, they nailed the feeling of being this near-unstoppable force as you leave of swath of destruction in your wake. This game is an absolute blast from the beginning and organically ramps up your abilities as it progresses. You start small with very basic tendril attacks to grab anyone in your way and then it’s not long before you’re tripled in size and launching devastating spikes clean through enemy scientists and armed security. You’re always on the move and there is not a single lull for the roughly 4 to 5-hour experience.
If you’ve played any other Metroidvania then you’ll be able to grasp the basics of Carrion. You’ll find yourself traveling through a labyrinthine research facility with areas that range from forested swamp to submerged science labs to tall industrial towers to name a few. As you progress, you’ll acquire more abilities that not only make you a more formidable foe but also open up more traversal options so you can access areas you previously couldn’t. You’ll gain abilities that allow you to stab your way through tough barriers and others that allow you to turn invisible so you can sneak by enemies or barriers that lock if you’re seen. There’s such a strong variety that keeps things fresh and you’ll quickly be mixing all of them in combat and movement sometimes simultaneously.
We also need to talk about how gorgeous this game is. The visual style immediately clues you in that you’re stepping into a world that would give H.R. Giger or David Cronenberg nightmares. Phobia Game Studio has managed to make some of the best pixel art in recent memory. All of the environments have a grimy and grungy feel to them and they were able to add so much detail to make the facility a character of its own. And Carrion wouldn’t be what it is without its main attraction. The creature is a mass of gaping mouths and fleshy tentacles and is bursting with life as well as a healthy bit of gore from all of the devour along the way. Everything from its movements to its attacks is beautifully rendered in all of their graphic and bloody glory. This game just has such a striking style that never gets old.
The one small issue I have among my myriad of praises though is the confusing choice to not include a map of any kind. There are moments when I did find myself unclear about where to go to progress and not having a map be a button press away made things tricky at times, but never frustrating. I also have the inclination to want to explore especially in Metroidvania-style titles so I did find myself looking around a bit and did spend a little longer than I would’ve liked trying to retrace my steps to where the game wanted me to go. Given that this is a bit more linear than others in the genre, it didn’t take too long to get back on track nor did it detract from the experience overall.
Carrion takes the formula of many of the great 2D adventures that came before it and repackage it with grisly body horror and the twist of being a monster on the loose. It doesn’t change up the formula too drastically with its basic genre mechanics, but it still manages to do everything that it does do near-perfectly in a short amount of time. This is easily some of the most fun I’ve had playing anything recently and a title that will assuredly have a place on my favorites when the end of the year rolls around.
Carrion takes the formula of many of the great 2D adventures that came before it and repackages it with grisly body horror and the twist of being a monster on the loose. It doesn’t change up the formula too drastically with its basic genre mechanics, but it still manages to do everything that it does do near-perfectly in a short amount of time.