What is that Thing?
Halloween is just around the corner so today we’re reviewing Carrion – a 2D metroidvania ‘reverse horror’ title developed by Phobia Game Studio that’s been sitting on my Game Pass ‘to play’ list since it hit the service in June 2020. Carrion sees the player assume the form of a grotesque alien mass known as ‘The Creature’ that escapes from an underground laboratory and grows in size everytime you consume anyone unfortunate enough to cross your path. Your goal is to escape the complex the lab is in and get out into the world where the human race will be yours to devour.
Sitting aesthetically and functionally somewhere between The Thing and The Blob the way you progress is simple. The more people you eat, the larger you grow, the larger you grow the larger the obstacles you can brute force your way through and the more damage you can tank. However, grow too big and you won’t be able to fit through some doorways and entrances to progress so you’ll have to shed some biomass to fit through. The catch? You become more vulnerable to the gunfire, drone mounted lasersand whatever else the people trapped down there with you can fight with. It’s a fresh twist on the metroidvania softlock feature that’s seamlessly worked into the character design, although the more traditional softlock features are present as well.
Your blood red meatball of a body looks every part the vicious alien abomination. Covered in gnashing teeth, glaring yellow eyes, you traverse the environment with ease thanks to the tentacles that heave you along and let out a satisfying swish as you go. You pop against pixel art environments, whether slithering through dark, damp caves, gleaming labs or grimy underground construction sites.
Sound wise the slithering, whipping sounds of your tentacles hauling your bulk around work well and when you get to feasting on your victims they don’t go quietly. The soundtrack is composed by Cris Velasco, an industry veteran that has contributed to the likes of Mass Effect 3, God of War 2 and the Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm. It’s a suitably John Carpetner-esque mix of anxious, unnerving synth work with one track in particular; ‘The Labs’ feeling like Velasco’s very own take interpretation of the Jaws theme.
A well executed, original addition in the pixel art metroidvania vein. Kept horrific by Cris Velasco’s ominous soundscapes (and the shrieks of your victims), kept fun by tactile movement and traversal and kept interesting by a non-linear approach to level design and by the unique way in which ‘The Creature’ navigates it.