I vaguely remember Carrion when it was originally announced many years back. The game features an awesome sales pitch. As a “reverse horror” game, Carrion allows you to play as an amorphous blob of blood, organs, fangs, and chitinous claws stealthily hunting down hapless scientists in a secret laboratory.
The game disappeared from the public eye for a long time, only to suddenly resurface again with a new trailer during E3 after being picked up by everyone’s favorite insane drunken uncle of the indie game scene, Devolver Digital. Phobia Game Studio and Devolver decided to celebrate this year’s Halloween by releasing an alpha demo on Steam, and while the demo is no longer available, I’d still like to take a moment to discuss my initial impressions of this promising upcoming game.
The demo doesn’t really give players any insight into the overarching story, if such a story even exists. All that you can gleam from the demo is that you are some sort of demented blob monster of unknown origin that has just escaped from its holding cell in a secret laboratory, with no discernable motivation beyond the insatiable desire to devour the walking meat sacks that have imprisoned you.
I must admit that the game feels extremely clunky at first. The game’s controls are entirely mouse-driven, with the mouse buttons controlling the writing tentacles that cover your blood blob. You can use your tentacles to stick to any surface, interact with objects, propel yourself forward, and of course, drag defenseless scientists kicking and screaming towards your indistinguishable mass of fangs and mouths.
The initial clumsiness of the controls is mostly due to the game’s physics engine. Your horrifying form controls like what you’d expect from a blob of jelly, and you need to get used to the ranges of your tentacles and attacks.
After fumbling around for about ten minutes though, I finally got the hang of it, and soon realized that the game’s controls and physics allow you to do some pretty slick moves as you sneak through ventilation shafts and ooze down walls to pounce on patrolling guards.
You have access to some special attacks too. Initially you have a ranged attack that covers an enemy in a net of sinew, disabling them and allowing you to pull them closer. About halfway through the demo you smash open a test chamber containing more of your body, which grows your mass further.
This gives you some extra health, a longer range scything attack, and your net is replaced with a lunge that dismembers enemies and smashes some objects. While you are capable of ripping apart humans with ease, Carrion is definitely more of a stealth game than an action platformer.
Losing health reduces your mass, and I can already tell that your overall size will dictate what abilities you have access to at any given time in the full game. Even a few guards with pistols can quickly chip away at your form, so you’ll need to figure out the best way to separate enemies and catch them unaware.
The androids are particularly dangerous, as they carry flamethrowers and an electrical barrier in their front arc. If you’ve ever seen The Thing, you know that flamethrowers are especially dangerous to shapeshifting blood blob monsters, and you’ll need to quickly find water to put out the fire if you are hit by them.
Worse yet, the androids can’t be consumed to regrow your mass if you are injured, on account of them being made out of metal and synthetic materials instead of the all-natural organs and tasty blood sauce a growing unholy abomination against nature needs to stay fit and healthy.
Unfortunately, the demo wasn’t more than just a small, bite-sized teaser that contained only around 20 minutes of content. Even still, the demo showcased fairly decent enemy variety and hinted at how the game’s growth mechanics will work as your make your way through the campaign.
Once you get the hang of the game’s controls, the demo for Carrion was a blast to play through. The pixel art is very detailed, and your monster looks and moves in a suitably grotesque manner.
Carrion is shaping up to be a game that gives you the satisfaction of rampaging through a secret facility as a formless abomination without making you feel so overpowered it becomes boring. Hopefully the full game can maintain this balance and pacing.
Carrion is set to release sometime next year on Windows PC, Mac, Linux (all via Steam), PS4, and Xbox One.