If you are like myself, you have watched a movie like The Thing and wondered what it would be like to be the amorphous parasite, sneaking from room to room only to unleash your fury on an unsuspecting lab worker. While we may never get the chance to roam the North American research station in Antarctica, in July of 2020, Phobia Game Studios gave us the next best thing. In Carrion, you get the chance to control an ever growing tentacled monster that escapes from containment in an underground lab outside of a city.
In Carrion, the plot is told through very brief and far between sequences where you watch a lab worker trying to escape from the lab once the breach happens. Everything else follows a metroidvania style of play, as you move through the underground facility, violently absorbing and devouring lab workers, containment squads, and armed guards. While your abilities start off extremely limited, each lab you clear contains a new parasite sample, that can change the abilities of your monster. Like most games of these types, you frequently run into blocked entrances, paths you cannot get through, and challenges that will destroy a lesser monster. Until you hit the last 3rd of the game, many paths are inaccessible.
Carrion presents an extremely challenging puzzler in that there is no map, no directional goals, and only provides an echo feature to give the general direction in which another save point may lie. In addition, the game frequently has you crossing areas you may have already been, adding to the feeling of confusion and loss of direction.
As you progress, the enemies get stronger, the challenges get more complex, and it can become extremely frustrating, though I personally enjoy that in my puzzle mechanic games. There were multiple times I got myself so lost that I had to revert to a game guide just to get myself back on track. However, by the end of the game, the result is so satisfying and fun that I was sad to see it end.
The soundtrack is extremely synthy and fun, but I found myself muting the game soundtrack and playing the score to John Carpenter’s The Thing for an added effect. The controls are a bit wonky to start, using only right and left mouse buttons to control the movement and sentient tentacles, and four key bindings to use abilities. As the puzzles increase, you often have to shed your monster abilities to access certain parts of the labs, gaining you access to a new area, but leaving you dangerously underpowered against often overpowered enemies.
If you enjoy metroidvania games, 8 bit puzzlers, horror games of any type, and wish for a nice 4-5 hour challenge, Carrion is the game for you. It feels extremely appropriate playing this while a pandemic rages outside our doors and the world around us has gone to shit. Shut your mind down for a bit and grab this one immediately.