Carrion is basically The Thing, only you get to play as the horrific alien. Such a concept is an intriguing one. Instead of being part of a group of scientists trying desperately to survive against impossible odds, you’re the one killing all the humans in an attempt to escape a research facility. It’s a bloody, intense roller coaster that gets better and better as you make your way towards the satisfying conclusion.
From humble beginnings to terrifying beast
The violent adventure begins with the alien breaking free of a containment unit. After that, you are free to do what you do best: eat people. Consuming the various scientists throughout the lab helps you grow in size. You’ll comb each area looking for holes to duck into to save your game and also spread your biomass. The more you take over, the weaker the sealed doors get that lead to the next area.
As you explore, you’ll find other containment units that house power-ups. Absorb them, and you’ll learn new abilities while also enlarging. However, the inhabitants of the area will match your progress by throwing more advanced weaponry your way. Guards will gain force fields, flamethrowers, mechanized suits, and powerful drones to stop you from spreading. It’s a very smartly balanced design.
The whole game isn’t just a murder spree, though. You’ll come across various puzzles, as well. These conundrums will require your extraterrestrial to deposit its biomass into pools of water and shrink in size. Why would you want to become smaller? Well, certain abilities are tied to the three tiers of proportions that make up the alien. The smallest one allows you to shoot webbing and become invisible, the medium variant has the capacity to charge through certain obstacles, and the largest provides an impenetrable shield for a short period of time. Knowing when to grow or shrink is key to finishing your journey.
A Metroidvania without a map?!
One of the areas in which Carrion falters is its lack of a map system. In fact, the only way you can tell where save points are is by letting out a growl, which echolocates the nearest one. (This can also be used to confuse and scare enemies.) This doesn’t sound bad on paper, but the issue lies in backtracking. Let’s say you gain an upgrade that allows you to tear out a column from the other side. If you haven’t been keeping track of these objects, you’ll get frustrated looking for them. I frequently took gambles that thankfully led me to the right area to proceed, but other players may not be as fortunate. Some kind of radar or waypoint system is needed for a title like this.
Another issue piggybacks off the previous one. Carrion contains bonus containment units off the beaten path. These will give you such enhancements as more health, an extra tentacle to grab and feed on technicians with, etc. Yet the only way of knowing if you nabbed the augmentation or not is a display on a video screen at the start of each area. A late-game section actually shows a bunch of these monitors all at once so you know which areas you have left to 100%, but there is no way to fast travel to them. And at this point, you’re already close to the conclusion, so it doesn’t really matter if you get the boosts or not.
Carrion is too fun and concise to pass up
Regardless of the few gripes I have with Carrion, the title is such an original idea that it’s very easy to recommend. Also, you grow in such a tightly designed manner that gameplay never gets stale and the experience is over in a satisfying length of time. Sure, it might take players a while to get used to swinging their tentacles to snatch up food, but after a few minutes, you’ll be ingesting screaming victims like a pro. And best of all, you get the ability to control humans by shoving your tentacles into their body, forcing them to shoot their comrades so you don’t have to get your hands dirty. Knowing that, how could you not want to play this right now?
A review code was provided by the publisher.