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Carrion is a Gross But Unwieldy Monster Metroidvania

Forget about talking to the monsters – you are the monster in Carrion.

It’s a fiendish subversion of the horror genre as you escape from an underground lab and proceed to wreak havoc on all the humans who have been experimenting on you. Don’t mind their screams, they probably deserve it – and the pixel art does help keep things a bit comical and abstract.

Carrion is certainly something different as your monster doesn’t even have a set form. From a initial glance, I’d say it’s a disgustingly red blobby tentacled mass that evolves as it feeds on the shrieking scientists running around in panic.

With its tentacles animatedly latching onto the walls and ceiling, traversal is something of a breeze. As you explore the underground lab, it starts turning into something of a Metroidvania; you’ll need to evolve new powers to make it through new areas, like having the strength to rip open blast doors, or a dash attack that lets you smash through certain walls and open up new paths.

Yet for all the effortlessness of moving around – it feels as if you’re swimming through these environments, albeit leaving a gorey trail in your wake – there’s something a little unwieldy about your interactions in Carrion that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

You’ll use the right stick to aim your tentacles around before pressing another button to either grab an object, or more likely tear through somebody. In doing so, I often felt like my timing was off or it wasn’t clear which of all these tentacles was responding. If I moved into the vicinity of a human and swim around them and wiggled the right stick a few times, I would eventually tear the poor fella to bloody shreds and also lay waste to anything else in the area.

Things, however, do get trickier as you get a little further – not all the humans in Carrion are poor and defenceless. It’s not long before you run into humans with guns or armoured-up military types wielding flamethrowers. Precision is important if you want to snuff them out quickly because the more damage you take, the more your form also shrinks. You can be stealthy as well, knocking out the lights and then getting the jump on them; but being the monstrosity you are, it’s awfully tempting to just charge in with brute strength and cause all sorts of carnage. It’s almost disappointing to realise you’re not, in fact, invincible after all.

Still, Carrion has the atmosphere down with its dimly lit environments, creepy soundtrack, and disgustingly visceral audio design, making it exactly the kind of game you’d expect from publisher Devolver Digital. For all the bloody havoc you’re wreaking though, this thing also reminds me of the monster blob at the end of Inside; ultimately, you’re just trying to break free from the humans who were oppressing you in the first place (though I do wonder just how big this secret lab is).

Either way, I look forward to finding out more about Carrion when it releases in 2020, and hopefully by then it won’t feel quite as slippery to play.