There are certain genres where I tend to bring up gamefeel a lot, because it has such a prominent effect on the experience. Platformers and fighting games are two in particular where the feel of your character as you control them is hugely important to the enjoyment, whereas in a puzzler or point-and-click adventure, the impact is lessened. I bring this up because despite the theme and atmosphere of CARRION being so solid, it’s the actual experience of controlling your terrible beast that sells it. As much as I love the concept of a reverse horror game, I didn’t truly fall in love with it until I was snaking tentacles up through pipes to vivisect hapless guards myself.
Plenty of horror games have that scene where, tucked away in some corner of a clandestine research facility, a containment pod ruptures and the thing you have to run from or desperately battle spills out. Well, this time that thing is you. Loosed from its prison, your horrific, amorphous construct of meat and bone must seek escape from the sprawling complex of labs and facilities. There are, understandably, more than a few gates, traps, and fleshy humans in your path, and all must be overcome with your litany of terrible powers. As you progress through the mazelike chambers, you’ll grow your abilities, spread your corruption, and also gain further insight into where you came from and where you’re going.
I mentioned gamefeel because from the moment you break containment in CARRION, the experience of moving your viscera beast around is a true pleasure. If you’re using a controller (as I did), simply pushing the left stick in a direction causes the creature to move swiftly in that direction, lashing out uncountable tentacles to buoy itself along. You can move freely across wide open spaces, down narrow shafts, and around tight corners. Mechanically, your being can move with no limits wherever there is space, but the game is careful to show tentacles connecting with surrounding surfaces and supporting your movement. It may seem like a small thing, but this attention to detail has a huge effect on the gamefeel, thoroughly selling the concept of piloting a horrible hellbeast around.
The other aspect of gamefeel that works in CARRION’s favor is the absolute chaos you can wreak on your foes and even the environment here. At its most basic, your creature can grab people and objects like crates or doors and shake them around like ragdolls. Humans can, of course, be devoured, which is also an important mechanic for increasing your mass and gaining access to additional abilities. However, some people are armed or armored, making them dangerous to deal with or hard to dispatch. In these situations, all those objects that can be grabbed can also become bludgeons or projectiles. This means that even simple encounters with just a few scientists or guards frequently descend into bloody havoc, with blood and limbs showering the area. And this is all before getting into the powers you develop as you progress, which I won’t spoil but will instead assure you that they offer even more thrilling opportunities for carnage.
If you’ve read my recent review of The Dweller, this sadistic glee might sound familiar. CARRION hits all the same notes and then some, edging more towards the insane gore of the likes of BUTCHER than the more contemplative carnage of The Dweller. There are puzzles here, but they tend towards very straightforward in light of the powers you have. It’s rare for CARRION to really tax your brain, and the most difficult sequences are often big battles, not puzzle challenges. There are some hidden goodies to find, though for the most part you’ll want to carry on in the directions the game points you. This one is very good about indicating where you need to be looking usually, which is good because the map for this game is remarkably confusing and has pretty much no conveniences added to help you navigate.
Most importantly, CARRION nails all the points it needs to for a thrilling, visceral experience. Your creature is such a pleasure to move and interact with, made all the more immersive by the truly excellent pixel art and detailed animations. Sound design is up to the task as well, adding to the creeping dread of the atmosphere and really punctuating all the inevitable violence. It may not go particularly deep with its story or mechanics, but I don’t think that’s the point here. If you’re playing CARRION, you want to make an absolute mess of humanity, and it’s more than happy to oblige you on every count.