There is an undeniable and strong bond between horror games and movies. We’ve all seen Alien, Event Horizon, Predator, Hellraiser and so on. You’re rooting for the protagonist(s) and hoping that they make it out in the end. However, I imagine there’s always been a morbid curiosity in all of us where we all wondered how it would feel to be on the other side. To be the predator. While I can’t recall many movies with that premise, I have such a game in front of me. It throws morality and compassion for the innocents out of the window as you tear anything other than yourself apart. You ever wanted to play as a symbiote before it evolved into Venom? Well, here is your chance. Let’s see how it works.
As you can assume, in CARRION you are the hunter. A small meaty blob of murder that crawls through dungeon-like sewers, ventilation shafts, and laboratories on your way to freedom. And a road to freedom is paved with many corpses and torn off limbs of the innocents. Stalk and consume those that imprisoned you, spread panic throughout the facility, and acquire more powers and ways to murder as the story develops. Should be easy enough, right?
Well yes but actually no. It’s fairly easy (and fun) to rip apart the innocent workers in the first few sections of the game. Later on, certain humans (aka our enemies) will possess guns, shields, and other ways to protect themselves from you. It is imperative later in the game to scout the area before engaging, to learn who is armed and who isn’t. As you consume the enemies, you gain mass. The bigger you are, it’s harder to be killed and you also look cool and scary as a bonus. Eventually, you gain some special powers including how to trap enemies, paralyze them, and tear down stronger barricades. The control scheme of CARRION is also intuitive. It relies mostly on the mouse buttons, while the rest of the keys are assigned to the keyboard. It works that way since most of the time you spend will go on traversing the levels and looking for the next switch to open access to a different area.
You can find something appealing (and disgusting) in the design of our anti-hero. He is an amorphous blob of flesh, blood, and tentacles. An unstoppable meatball squeezing graciously through wall cracks and shafts while leaving only a small puddle of blood after consumption. While the enemies could use more variety, CARRION saves itself with creativity in the level design and the fluidity of animations. There is a certain weight and some light physics involved as you stick to the walls and climb up and down while on the search for your next victim.
Although I can find a lot of praise for the pixelated yet detailed visuals, I struggle to write anything about the audio here. I can’t say it’s nonexistent since it is somewhat atmospheric to listen to various squeaks and groans and dripping of blood even when you’re not doing anything. However, music is pretty scarce here, and calling it minimalistic would be pretty generous. I’ll just say it’s a missed opportunity that more love wasn’t given on that front, especially during segments of tearing the whole room apart and painting it red with the blood of the innocents.
All in all, CARRION is a nice indie game with a novel approach. It tries to do something different, it sticks out from the bunch and I applaud the devs for that. It’s a pick-up-and-play with not much philosophy behind it, but with intuitive controls and fluid gameplay. However, the thing that sticks out is a pretty courageous price for such a product. I started playing this trying to accumulate at least 6 hours of playtime before I had enough material to form a coherent review. Imagine my surprise when it took just a tiny bit over 5 hours to finish the game completely, with most of the upgrades collected and some missed. While there is decent replay value in CARRION if you’re going for everything, I’d say the purchase is somewhat of a gamble with such a price tag. In short: buy it but buy it in a sale. In any case, I give this a passing grade just on the account of trying to do something new and (surprisingly for an indie game) succeeding in that. So next time you watch The Thing and think for yourself “I could have slaughtered that whole base in less than a minute”, why not prove it in CARRION?
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.