Carrion caught my eye the first time I saw it and I knew I’d have a good time. Old school pixel art design, Metroidvania – these things are my bread and butter. It’s not all plain sailing though from this game where you tear through the lab as a pulsating monster hell-bent on finding an escape.
Carrion is a game about a monster trying to escape the research lab. There’s plenty of security and scientists there trying to stop you, and there’s certainly an amount of joy in taking revenge by disposing of them one by one. When I say monster, I don’t mean something like Big Foot, I mean a vast blob type creature with tentacle and teeth. It’s terrifying and yet satisfying at the same time.
Movement and feels are some of the great selling points of Carrion. It feels good to move around the screen throwing out a tentacle here and there to nab an enemy or climb around the environment. The more you consume as the monster, the more you grow and are able to navigate the environment around you. There’s a similar feeling to one of 2019’s best games, Ape Out, as you take on the role of a caged beast trying to escape and disposing of everyone who tries to stop you.
This is a Metroidvania at heart. There are new areas to find, and you’ll need to power up before you can get to them. The key to getting access to new areas are the switches. Some are nearby and within reach, others aren’t and it’s your job to et more powerful to activate all the switches so you can make your way to safety. As with other Metroidvanias, the key to progression is the power-ups. These are all pretty cool and change up the gameplay in new and interesting ways including invisibility, webbing and the ability to grow spikes.
As well as the power-ups there are some puzzles too in Carrion, although they’re not going to provide major barriers. At any one time you have access to three of the powers you’ve unlocked and it’s in the combination of these powers you have to solve puzzles. Mix and match and have a play around and see what works for you in different situations.
Movement is certainly fun in Carrion, but so is the combat. The powers that you’ve used previously to flip switches definitely come in handy here, allowing you to take out enemies in more interesting ways as you progress through the game. Scientists and Security Guards will do their very best to hold you off with guns and other weapons, but they aren’t really a match for you. This is one of the drawbacks with Carrion, it’s fairly straight forward to get through. There were only a few occasions that really caused me any trouble on my playthrough.
One of the unique elements of Carrion is that there’s no map. This is usually a staple in Metroidvania games, knowing where you are and where you have to go and explore. Here though we don’t have any of that, and that can lead to a little frustration. Some players out there may be cheering in that the game doesn’t really give you any clear direction, so you can go off on your own path and try to find the escape any way you can. To others though, myself included, I missed the map and the sense of direction in the game.
There’s plenty to enjoy in Carrion for sure. It’s a monster movie lover’s dream being able to roleplay as the monster. The combat and puzzles are fun, but there are a few elements missing here that are really holding it back. It’s a good game, but it’s not great, which is a shame as is really caught my attention in the initial trailer. The good news though is it’s available on Xbox Game Pass from day one, which is where I played it.
If you’re a fan of metroidvania’s then I’d recommend picking it up and giving it a go, if you have Game Pass then it’s a must-try. However, I am unsure whether I’d buy it as a stand-alone game on another platform. I don’t know what that says about what services like Xbox Game Pass, Netflix and Spotify are doing to my brain, but they do make we weigh up my purchases a lot more these days on other platforms.
Developer: Phobia Game Studio
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox, Mac, Linux
Release Date: 23rd July 2020