Carry On Murdering
Developed by the aptly named Phobia Game Studio and published by Devolver Digital, Carrion is a reverse-horror game where you play as the villain: a red, squirming ball of tentacles and teeth reminiscent of John Carpenter’s The Thing. The premise is to stalk and consume the humans who dared imprison you in an underground laboratory complex.
The game opens with your escape from containment, where you’re taught the very straightforward and easy to master controls. Your goal, it would seem, is to slither and squirm your way through the map, consuming all humans in your path as they scream in terror. Although not everyone cowers in fear. Armed (and armoured) humans will try and take you down, chipping away at your biomass. These provide a welcome challenge which allows the game to showcase its unique combat mechanics, and let’s face it, puny humans are no match for the reach of your tentacles; But I couldn’t help but feel some sympathy for the hapless human I consumed while they were on the toilet. The more humans you consume, the larger you become as they add to your biomass and become one with the monster. The larger you become, the more mesmerising it is to watch as you traverse the maps, with tentacles taking up large portions of the screen.
Although impressive to behold, the larger you are, the more cumbersome you become to squeeze around the map too. The game does a good job of giving weight to the monster, as if it is literally dragging its sprawling mass behind it. This does also make you an easier target when being shot at, I found myself literally hanging off ledges as I couldn’t squeeze myself into hiding fully. It does also make traversing thetighter parts of the map a little difficult, and sometimes you can’t even tell where your mouth is.
Stealth is often useful as it doesn’t take too many shots to kill you, and some pesky humans will even attempt to use fire against you. But what competent villain doesn’t use stealth anyway? If jump-scare isn’t your style though, you can choose to burst into view and thrash around in a frenzy of horrific tentacle gorn… Moving swiftly on, you’ll also encounter mechs and drones, which do require some patience and the application of different abilities. I would not recommend trying to attack these head on as they will rip the monster to shreds in a matter of seconds.
The game will also present you with puzzles to solve in order to move onto different areas, and some elements can only be unlocked once you acquire certain skills. As you move through the game, you will unlock more abilities. Some of which include the ability to turn invisible and charged punches. Interestingly, size matters when it comes to which abilities can be used. So, you’ll occasionally need to deposit part of your biomass in pools of some kind of amniotic fluid or retrieve biomass from save points. I enjoyed this mechanic, it adds a little more complexity to the game, whilst still maintaining the fast pace. It also meant the game never felt too repetitive, as you’re always presented with new challenges, and different ways to face them.
Unfortunately, the game isn’t always good at telling you where to go, or what you need to do. So be prepared to spend a lot of time slithering through the same levels. I found myself backtracking a lot, trying to remember which way to go. This was easily my biggest gripe of the game and it felt very frustrating and it broke the pace. This could easily be solved by the edition of a map to help get your bearings. Fortunately, though, you can use the carnage left behind you as an indicator as to whether you’ve already been to certain areas and exit signs will generally point you in the right direction.
The music for this game is done by Cris Velasco, who has also recently contributed to the likes of Darksiders 3, Resident Evil 7 and Overwatch. The style is sinister and really helps set the horror movie tone for the game. Visually this game is a treat and is a great application of pixel art graphics. A particular highlight for me is how the monster moves and how it burns, along with the fire from the flamethrowers. The experience is very jarring to watch and made me dash for the nearest pool of water. The different levels all have a unique feel to them too, with a combination of grey tones for laboratory areas, green for mossy levels, and blue for underwater. This is a game you will never tire of looking at.