CARRION is one of those once in a lifetime games where the developer thinks outside the box and does something different in gaming that should have people standing up and take notice, but since CARRION is not a huge AAA title with a massive marketing budget, a lot of people are letting CARRION fall to the wayside when really they should be giving this horror game a rip and tear though.

Name: CARRION
Platform(s): Xbox One, Steam (Reviewed), & Nintendo Switch
Developer:
Phobia Game Studio
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Game Type: Horror
Mode(s): Single-Player
Release Date: July 23, 2020
Price: $19.99USD/$29.95AUD

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Break out and Survive (Story)

Normally there would be some sort of story that goes along with something like a viral breakout, but with CARRION you get none of that and you are left to just run amok through a bunch of Military laboratories. Sure, from time to time you get some sort of backstory sequences that you control a bunch of humans in, but there isn’t anything given to tell you the story. Honestly, why do you need it? You are playing as a viral blob, and viral blobs don’t read, read minds, talk, or anything like that. Your only instinct is to survive and feed, that is all. So given that there is no story to speak about, you are just left to play a game, something that not many games these days would just let you do. You make the game your own and worry about the details later somehow.

Slithering Smooth (Gameplay)

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First off, I’m going to recommend that even on PC, that you skip the mouse and keyboard to use a controller of some kind. For some reason, I found the controls on a controller a lot better and more comfortable to use than using the mouse and keyboard. The reason for this is that movement with a control stick is just so fluid and easy that using the WSAD keys just doesn’t have the same effect and comfort. Also, using the right control stick to aim your tentacles for grabbing and shooting things is much more fluid than using the mouse to do the same thing. I’m not sure if this was an oversight by Phobia Game Studio or that I’m just used to using controllers in my gaming.

But either way, CARRION is still one amazing game to play through as you make your way through indoor and outdoor areas trying to find your way out of the laboratory while eating all types of people along the way. Sure there are a bunch of enhancements that you can get to either make exploration easier or rip the humans into giblets quicker, but to be honest the combat upgrades are pretty pointless outside of shooting webs, grabbing people, and using them remotely as a parasite.

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Blood-Filled Retro Charm (Graphics)

At first glance, CARRION might look like a bit of a retro game with little detail, possibly invoking an early Prince of Persia from the DOS era in looks of characters, Metroid or Castlevania in terms of level design, and something from the movie Rabid with the main… thing?… Virus?… Creature?… Whatever you want to call it. However, the look of everything put together is pretty amazing when you think about the design aspects of CARRION. The way light filters in through large and small gaps in windows, behind fans, and even the lights on the walls helps give CARRION the best horror vibe that I’ve seen in horror games since the Silent Hill series.

Since CARRION is a game where you are killing and eating a lot of people throughout the whole game, you know there is going to be plenty of the good old red stuff that’s usually meant to be on the inside of the body suddenly coming to the outside of the body and painting the walls, ladders, flood, roof, and everything else a nice shade of red. CARRION does a good job of not only showing off its carnage but also how it affects the monster itself, at times growing larger as it fills. This is also evident in the save point system, which is where you merge yourself into a wall and spread out through the facility, taking more and more of it over as you become a better, more evolved hunter.

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However, this is where a small flaw in the game presents itself. You are placed in a Metroidvania style game with no map system and only an echolocation sound to find where the nearest save point is. This leads to you getting either stuck going around in circles or forgetting where you have been before and missing something that might have made getting around easier or something that would give you some direction as to where to go next.

Now I understand this is because you are playing as a monster who doesn’t read or would know anything about using a map, so it is authentic, but at the end of the day this is a video game and with something as large as CARRION is, you do need a map or something to reference when moving around. Otherwise, you are going to either get stuck, go around in circles, or just give up and quit the game.

What was that? Creepy… (Sound)

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Now CARRION doesn’t have a soundtrack to speak of, but what it does have is some amazing sound effects when it comes to the creature itself. As you move around using your tentacles to cling onto things, you get this weird yet soothing sticky sucking and un-sucking sound as you move, sort of like someone squishing some meat together in their hands. This does give the creature some life as that’s the main thing you are going to be looking at during this time in CARRION. The people do not have voice lines but do have little grunts and screams when they either see you or get suspicious of where you are hiding. This makes for an interesting idea that the creature is the main star of the game and doesn’t understand humans at all, a great change for a horror game.

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PAC-MAN on steroids! (Wrap Up)

For anyone who’s ever watched a monster movie and thought “Hey, it would be pretty cool to be that monster,” the premise of CARRION is immediately appealing. It’s a power fantasy that has you going an utter rampage through an underground facility, terrorizing both armed and unarmed inhabitants along the way. Developer Phobia Game Studio is uncompromising in its approach to making CARRION as true to this fantasy as possible, and it makes for a game unlike any I’ve played thanks to a collection of truly excellent moments.

Even when the novelty of grabbing a helpless scientist and slamming them all around a room wore off, CARRION’s puzzles and cerebral combat encounters still kept me thoroughly entertained. CARRION is an amazing idea that works well for something that not many people would think of. So enjoy wandering the halls as the final boss of other video games and eating your way through so much human fodder… Don’t forget the radioactive soy sauce.

Review Disclosure Statement: CARRION was provided to The Outerhaven for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.

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Summary

CARRION is a game that only someone associated with the madhouse publisher that is Devolver Digital could create. The retro-style graphics make me feel like my eyes are fuzzy at times but otherwise, it looks good for the aesthetic that the game has. The highlight here is the gameplay that makes you feel like a blob that can move anywhere where you can then plan your next move. Straight forward run and gun gameplay follow some good puzzles, but the backtracking without a map really makes the game slow down at times. CARRION is a weird mesh of a game that will be worth at least a one-time playthrough and worth the $20 you’ll drop for it.

Pros

  • Amazing fluid movement
  • You feel like a monster
  • Lots of good puzzles and combat encounters

Cons

  • No map means you’ll get lost a lot
  • It only takes one small misstep to die
  • Power-ups are hidden too well and not really needed
Overall
4


About The Author

Karl Smart
Senior Editor / Reviewer

The main "Australian arm" of The Outerhaven. Karl primarily spends time playing and reviewing video games while taking time to occasionally review the latest movie or piece of gaming technology.