GamingReview: Carrion (PS4)

Review: Carrion (PS4)

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There are only so many ways to scare an audience, and as such one could argue that the horror genre is a wheel that cannot be reinvented – that is, until the ‘reverse horror’ came along. Introducing aspects not possible with a traditional horror, this subgenre and also any game where you are the enemy inspires a fantasy-violence that when given the right context, can be both amusing and awful at the same time. Indie title Carrion provides this in spades and is one you won’t want to miss.

Moving around dark 2D Metroidvania-like levels in a reverse horror conceit, you, a Carnage/Venom alien type monster, aim to escape your prison and gorily devour any unfortunate humans who happen to be in your path. Set-up like a horror movie with tense music and screaming women, you are the monster with an insatiable appetite, and it’s glorious.

Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on how you want to look at it – the underground base you find yourself in is quite intent on keeping you there, with plenty of barriers and doors preventing your exit, so you, as a malleable and disgusting beast, must use your 3 forms (all with their own offensive and defensive abilities) to break through and reach your freedom. The environment requires that you change your form to use a specific ability to destroy or bypass certain barriers, which in turn requires that you either gain health, by consuming the unsuspecting populace, or by shedding some of your biomass. It’s a great way to integrate the environment with all the amusing bloodshed, giving it meaning and decent pacing.

Upgrades are unlocked progressively throughout the game and by the end, you’ll have some very satisfying attacks that can take out entire rooms of people that take to the air with ragdoll physics.

Our little monster looks kinda cute here…..

The joy of using your prehensile limbs though, outstrips all the attacks, allowing you to flip, grab or throw almost everything in sight, whether that’s switches, vending machines, or the resident homo sapiens. It’s even sensitive enough to move the enemies elsewhere in the room if you don’t wish to slam them from floor to ceiling – or to just hold them upside down just for laughs. Another great ability is a limb that connects to a living or dead enemy’s brain and controls them, allowing you to take out enemies with guns, flame throwers and to pilot robots with miniguns – a surprising, but awesome inclusion.

It’s a shame that no importance is placed in sparing the sacks of flesh though, and a mercy rating/kill rating that measured your activities would have been brilliant, but as the gameplay requires that you replenish your health in order to use certain abilities, it perhaps would have been difficult to implement.

Once you get past the barriers and motion-detecting defenses halting your progress, you disappear through manholes in the labyrinth of labs and propagate, slowly taking over the compound and bursting through re-enforced doors. The art and color design does a great job combining with the epic horror movie soundtrack to create an appropriately horrific atmosphere and provides a gleefully tense stage for all the glory about to commence.   

Not so cute here though…..

While minor in the larger scheme of things, Carrion is not the most varied of experiences, with levels that share a very similar structure and enemy types relatively few in number. Armed humans and drones make up the majority, and while they do combine at the end to provide a decent enough challenge, a main boss or two would have been nice to truly put the monster’s abilities to test. There is also a separate human-controlled section of gameplay, but it feels unnecessary and adds very little of anything to the proceedings.  

“Why can’t weeeee be friends? Why can’t weee be friends?”

Latching onto these issues and drawing them into a gaping oblivion of ragged teeth is its refined core gameplay, as Carrion never gets old, with abilities that provide a great number of ways to finish off the enemy. What pushes it over the edge for me though, is its incredible attention to detail that adds to the overall experience. Whether it’s the small hanging lights that can be ripped off the ceiling or the effortlessly smooth and liquid-like movement as your monster moves and grabs onto the environment with its tentacles, it’s a masterclass of interaction and 2D animation and is highly impressive for a development team that largely consisted of two people.

Unfortunately, for those playing the recently released PlayStation version, your experience is likely to be hampered by a final area that crashes every 15 mins. There are save points dotted around each area, but it’s frustrating enough to make you want to put the game down for a few months in order for the developer to fix it. Until then, your desire to purchase this short, but gloriously bloody experience should probably be put on ice, but know that something great is waiting for you once it is fixed.

SUMMARY

+ Disgusting and grotesque monster
+ Wonderfully detailed animation
+ Very flexible array of attacks, making the gameplay endlessly enjoyable
+ Great art and level design
- Crashes way too often
- Unnecessary human-controlled sections

Played on PS4, already available on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC.
Alex Chessun
Alex Chessun
Currently obsessed with the Yakuza series (minus no.7), Alex is an avid fan of immersive Open World games, quick pick-up-and-play arcade experiences and pretty much anything else good. He also desperately wants Shenmue 4 to happen - a lot.

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Review: Carrion (PS4)+ Disgusting and grotesque monster <br/> + Wonderfully detailed animation <br/> + Very flexible array of attacks, making the gameplay endlessly enjoyable<br/> + Great art and level design <br/> - Crashes way too often <br/> - Unnecessary human-controlled sections <br/> <br/> Played on PS4, already available on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC.