Carrion is a horror indie game developed by Phobia Game Studio and published by Devolver Digital.
Described as a “reverse horror game” you play as a giant tentacled monster that’s being held at some research site. You break out of containment as a small biomass, after quickly escaping your initial cell. You are tasked with recovering your lost biomass, and escaping.
The monster is remarkably fast, it moves with a large number of flexible, extendable tentacles, allowing it to quickly traverse the caves and hallways of the facility. Able to climb up walls and pull itself across open space. This translates into the player being able to move any direction in the 2D space. Combined with the speed of the monster means that you can explore and back track around the map.
Controlling the monster is intuitive and satisfying. Simply moving the left stick in a direction is enough to move that way. R2 (on PlayStation) alloys to grab enemies/items with your tentacles. R1 is a movement ability, and L2 is an ability that uses energy (which can be absorbed from the electrical grid of the facilities.)
As you explore you can find containers with missing pieces of the biomass, and freeing them will allow them to reabsorb together, granting you new abilities, and as you collect more, the monster grows larger and more powerful.
As you grow you gain access to different abilities and higher health pools. Taking damage will make you smaller, and revert to previous abilities. Eating biological materials (mainly soldiers and scientists) will heal you and increase your size back to larger sizes. Which is because you take damage quickly in this game. You are faster and stronger than anything in this game, but they have bullets, fire, explosives and numbers on their side. SO every encounter has to be approached with thought and consideration. You need to look where you can hide, and how you can escape if need be. Making combat more than mindless romp where you just point towards your enemies.
Certain abilities are only available when smaller, such as firing a web or short term invisibility. However, rather than forcing you to take damage, you can find pools of red liquid and depositing some of the biomass, leaving it behind for you to return too when you no longer need the ability.
This ties to how this game is actually a metroidvania. The map is a large interconnected world, and often abilities you gain allow you to traverse past obstacles that would stop you before. Such as being able to smash through wooden planks or swim through latticed stonework.
Also, given the way you move in this game makes this a non platforming one, and if you like the idea of metroidvanias, Like Metroid or Hollow Knight, but you’ve found the platforming too punishing, this is worth at least checking out.
To progress you have to activate every save point in the area (Spreading your biomass) after every one is activated, you have enough biomass to force open the door. Meaning you have to explore the entire area to some degree to progress.
Controls aside, the game nails the aesthetic of monster escaping sci-fi. The music is ominous and echoing, matching the massive labyrinth of stone and steel. The games pixel art style is still remarkably detailed and high quality. Every action is animated perfectly. And the art direction takes advantage of the limitations to work to its advantage.
On that same note, the storytelling is subtle but effective. Scrolling text on the walls serves as announcements to staff, and shows how they are attempting to respond to the crisis, but besides that, the rest of the story is told entirely visually, which is clever and engaging, if at times somewhat ambiguous.
Carrion is a dark twisted take on its genre, both in story and gameplay. If you are a fan of either classic sci-fi horror, metroidvanias, or horror games in general, it is absolutely worth playing. Also, included for free is a small christmas themed dlc, for if you finish the game but you still have a drive to play more.
Carrion is available on Playstation 4/5, Xbox One/Series X, PC and Nintendo Switch.