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Carrion review: day of the tentacle

By Alan Wen. Posted

Who is the real monster?’ some higher-minded games may ask. For Carrion, you can spare me the intellectual metaphors, because you are the monster. You’re quite unlike any other monster as the thing you control doesn’t have a defined form, all bloody tentacles and mouths growing out of its… well, as I say, it doesn’t have a top or bottom – it’s a terrifying alien biomass from the moment it breaks out of its specimen tank with two simple objectives: escape, and feed.

Carrion is essentially a Metroidvania: you navigate through a frankly huge and labyrinthine underground facility, while your monster evolves over time as you interact with other specimen tanks but crucially, devour everything in your path as an unstoppable and abominable force of destruction. Scientists cower, while security forces fight back with increasingly stronger firepower, but they all succumb, screaming horribly, as you smash them into a bloody pulp, rip them in half, then snack on them. One of your later powers channels The Thing as you possess other humans to turn their weapons on each other. While this somewhat dilutes the 100% monster movie marathon I was promised – similarly so with a few flashback sequences that has you controlling a human character – changing back also results in one hell of a body horror transformation for the unlucky host.

Adding to the gross factor is a fixation with squeezing into orifices to make progress, or also save progress, in this case.

There are drawbacks to a monster as amorphous as Carrion’s, namely that it becomes increasingly unwieldy to control, especially when you’re trying to aim your tentacles or make tight turns. You’ll also find yourself having to switch between biomass sizes to solve puzzles as your abilities are tied to specific forms. It doesn’t always make sense – why is a lever only reachable if I shoot a web at it in my first form, but not by tentacle in my second form, when I’m perfectly capable of reaching it?

Being an especially gooey chunk of matter, your monster lacks map-reading skills. It’s not as confusing as it sounds, since this is quite a linear Metroidvania, with many pipes and paths designed to funnel you through in one direction. But there are still occasional blind spots where you end up lost and cursing its rigid design. At worst, I was unable to return to one area I accidentally skipped and was completely stuck, with the only solution being to restart the game. That such a setback hasn’t soured the entire experience is indicative of how much fun Carrion is when it does let you unleash hell. If you’ve been feeling loathsome about humanity of late – honestly, who hasn’t – this feels like the perfect form of revenge.

The pixel art works in Carrion’s favour, making the gory visuals bearable yet still leaving the repulsive detail to your imagination.

Highlight

If video games have been getting you down about the violence you regularly consume – *cough* Naughty Dog – well, Carrion sticks that into a vent and then devours it with bloodthirsty glee. This is the most guilt-free you’ll ever feel about killing swathes of poor humans. Recommended for anyone with a misanthropic streak.

Verdict

A disgustingly good monster-munching sim, even if its originality results in some unwieldy design.

73%

Genre: Reverse-horror Metroidvania | Format: Switch (tested) / PC / XBO | Developer: Phobia Game Studio | Publisher: Devolver Digital | Price: £16.99 | Release: Out now

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