In one short and sweet sequence, Carrion proves that it knows exactly how to handle the anti-genre it’s aiming for. The demo of Phobia Game Studio’s 2020 ‘reverse horror’ opens with your playable thing emerging from its gruesome nest and making its way towards the nearest meal which, in this case, appears to be the inhabitants of the surrounding facility.
It fits the ‘Metroid’ part of ‘Metroidvania’ to a tee, and the environment immediately gives off vibes of the classic series as you move between laboratory rooms, underground tunnels, and passages overgrown by nature. However, despite the inverted nature of Carrion, a tense atmosphere is still evoked very successfully throughout the demo.
Control is completely mouse-based. You guide your grotesque mass of teeth and limbs by clicking while using the right-click for more precise tentacle-based action and the middle click for special moves.
While simple on paper, when combined with the game’s environment this setup allows the player to approach scenarios in various creative ways. In order to increase your health, and consequently your mass, you must feed on humans via grabbing them and dragging them into the creature’s mouth(s). Other objects can be utilised as well for incapacitating humans; doors and grills can be torn off and thrown at prey, with potentially fatal effects. For crowd control (or for clearing more sturdy obstacles) a devastating charge attack can be used if your monster is big enough; if not they can instead make use of a ‘net’ with which to trap enemies.
Of course, not every human on this base will just scream and run for their ill-fated lives: some are armed, be it with regular guns or with traditionally effective flamethrowers. Both the former and the latter can be very dangerous if you find yourself in a bad situation.
The larger you are, the easier you are to hit, and you can very easily find yourself dropping out of a nearby vent only to be surrounded by survivors who will not hesitate to shoot. Other foes may not be so edible either, and therefore unable to strengthen your beast, whether they are armoured mooks or flying drones that aren’t afraid to go wild with their artillery. Given how stale the enemy variety could potentially become in a setting like this, one would hope for a large spread of differently armed threats, both human and mechanised, to be present in the full game.
That single worry aside, Carrion looks to provide an incredibly entertaining experience, one which at times can leave the player feeling apprehensive despite controlling the inhuman menace themselves.
Dispatching enemies is made consistently fun by the layout of rooms and objects, allowing you to make your creature as much of a silent and/or destructive terror as you like. Grabbing a human from the ceiling as they stroll below you, blissfully unaware of their violent impending demise, never gets old.
Movement feels and looks great, with lavish animation conveying the fully horrifying nature of what you’re controlling. Additionally, while not massively fleshed out in this demo, the genre-typical backtracking so far seems well-paced and not forced at all; the demo even gives you a special treat if you can recall the map well enough at a certain point.
The Carrion demo is available on Steam until the 4th of November, making it a perfect little companion for Halloween gaming antics. If the full game’s quality matches that presented here, it will be very difficult to rival in its newly conceived genre for a long time to come.