To call Carrion a ‘murder simulator’ is simultaneously a gross oversimplification and completely accurate. To sum up the story of the game: you are a murderous tentacle creature that has been captured and taken to a scientific facility and is being studied. You are trying to escape. That’s it. The game isn’t about to tell you an in-depth, character building narrative that deals with the morality of what you’re doing or your tragic backstory. You’re a monster, people are your food and method of growth, go!
I’m someone who was waiting for a game like Carrion to come out long before it even existed, just like I think many people were. If you were a fan of Body Snatchers, The Thing, or even zombie films as a child then you most likely wanted to play a game like this. No story. No moral choices. Just being a monster. People that just want violence have had various methods to indulge that primal desire for years. Grant Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat, DOOM. The list goes on. This is something different. You are playing a character that is both completely incomprehensible and just plain deadly. It’s about this ‘otherness’ that makes it so interesting, you are truly a monster.
Moving on to gameplay Carrion is pretty spot-on for what it is. You start off with minimal powers and stealth mechanics because you are just a small murder blob with very little health. As you grow, you get powers that reflect the fact that you no longer need to hide as much or at all. Controls wise the game is pretty easy to get your head around; you hold left click in whatever direction you want to slither and right-click is your very short-ranged grabbing tentacle with which open doors, rip them off your hinges, grab human beings and fling them around like a rag doll spattering blood and gore everywhere and also pull switches.
As the game goes on things get more challenging while still indulging the monster fantasy. Your simple webbing attack preciouses used to stun enemies or hit distant leavers and brief invincibility are replaced with a charge attack and spike armour and eventually more deadly tools with which to slaughter rather than hide. Your weapons are part of the fun and surprise so I’ll not mention any others to avoid spoiling the entertainment.
Everything is easy to use and simple to do but each ability’s uses are far more in depth than first expected. That charge is given to you to bust down wooden walls but you then realise that because the game has a stunning physics based damage system you can use the charge on a closed (and easily openable) door to send the door flying into a group of armed guards, either stunning them long enough for you to pounce and proceed with ripping and tearing or outright kill some weaker enemies. The game is truly generous in its ability to let you choose your solution. There are vents everywhere for you to crawl into and stealth attack your way through and there’s plenty of throwable objects around if you just want to charge in tentacles blazing and munch munch munch.
Story-wise, as I said, it’s pretty basic but the game does have a few moments of brilliance through its flashbacks to the scientists who found you. In these moments you’re simply a man with only four limbs at your disposal so your methods of navigation are maddeningly simplistic. You must solve a few puzzles and survive fights in a completely different way to how you’re accustomed. Unfortunately, these moments are few in number, there only being 4 in the entire game. They were great little buffers between feeding so I definitely could have done with a little more to fulfil my nerdy desire to know the backstory/origin of my murderous red blob.
The only two other criticisms is that because you don’t have a map (because what blob monster would have one?) it becomes a little tricky to navigate and know where you need to go to forward the game and the lack of a completion bonus. Due to the lack of map I actually ended up completing the game because I thought it was necessary rather than optional until I found the entrance to the final level.
The other criticism is the lack of a completion bonus. Throughout the game there are 9 optional pods to collect that give you buffs like more health or energy or other (again, the surprise) and funnily enough I actually completed the game by accident due to my first criticism. I just assumed I had to collect 9 pods before the final level would unlock. The developers might say that the new tools at your disposal are bonus enough but honestly considering the game is so reminiscent of old school games in its presentation and simplicity I was honestly just hoping for a little nod that says “Hey, good job.” Instead of just a steam achievement since I haven’t cared about steam achievements since ever.
Without spoiling the ending the final thing you see is a night sky and a shooting star. Personally I would have made the shooting start the completion bonus. SNES games and before didn’t have ways to give you real completion bonuses like new costumes or art galleries, instead it would just be a message at the end that said “You completed the game, now go play outside.” Having the shooting star only appear once you 100% the game would have been just a great little nod to the classic games of yore.
Overall the game is around 4 hours, I died around 6 times and had to redo a puzzle or two but you’re looking at 3 and a half hours at your quickest first run of the game. For £16.99 I think that’s pretty well worth it for the shear novelty of the game if nothing else. I heartily recommend this game for anyone who has the stomach for it. The game is pretty graphic what with being able to rip someone’s head off bringing their spine along with it so maybe don’t let your kid play it if you happen to buy it on the family Switch.
Carrion is available now on PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch.