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Carrion review – flesh-eating fun

Simon Parkin
·2-min read

Carrion borrows the premise of Irvin Yeaworth’s 1958 science fiction horror film The Blob, in which a young Steve McQueen takes on a corrosive, human-gobbling alien biomass, but casts you in the role of the antagonist. The setup is pleasingly brisk: in the game’s opening scene, you crack open the glass tank in the subterranean laboratory where you’ve been held and begin glooping and schlepping through a rock warren in search of human flesh to consume.

Unlike The Blob’s 1950s Americana, Carrion’s universe, while rendered in Super Mario pixels, is aptly monstrous, a sticky-walled underworld of moss and girders that hums with red light and menace. As you slip from crevice to tunnel, you smash any dangling lightbulbs with an ominous tinkle, further darkening a realm already ideally suited to your spineless form. You traverse like a kind of stringy treacle, swelling and shrinking to fit your immediate environment.

But your most striking feature is not your adaptability so much as your rapidity: as you consume bodies you gain ever more tendrils, which are used to propel and swing your mass through the environment at fearsome, bungee-esque speed. You feel something like pity as, with a flick of a sucker-pad, you rip a steel door from its frame, then chomp the scientists inside to a pulp before they can level their weapons or emit a scream.

With a flick a sucker-pad, you rip a steel door from its frame, then chomp the scientists inside to a pulp

Any game in which you play such an overpowered fiend must construct its challenge from other sources, and the Polish developer, Phobia Game Studio, opts to make the world itself the puzzle in need of a solution. You must locate vats of bubbling liquid in order to gain new abilities which, once acquired, unlock previously inaccessible areas of the underworld. After the devilish thrill of hunting scientists, this lock-and-key stuff is a little anticlimactic, and without a map to help guide you, you’ll often be retracing your slime in order to find out where you’re supposed to go next in order to open up the game world again.

Nevertheless, the primal glee that comes from being cast, for a moment, as the Ur-hunter in a world of cringing prey barely diminishes during the course of the game, and it’s deeply pleasing to master the kind of dripping echoic domain which, in most film and fiction, must be merely survived.