Of all the games I got to play at this year’s E3, Carrion was one of the most fun and absolutely the most unsettling. Played out in a blood-spattered pixel art style typical of publisher Devolver Digital, Carrion stars you – that is, a voracious alien lifeform on a quest to spread corruption through a (presumably top secret) facility and eviscerate any humans that stand in your way.
You navigate the world as a writhing amorphous blob with a series of rending, grasping, whip-like tentacles. These allow you to cling to ceilings, squeeze through pipes, rip doors from their hinges and, of course, tear people limb from limb. Consuming the unfortunate souls trapped in each level allows you to gain mass, with your size governing which special ability you have equipped. Keeping yourself at a smaller size – or losing too much mass by taking damage from your enemies – grants you the ability to shoot a mucusy cobweb, pinning an enemy to the spot. Bulking up, however, replaces this ability with a short dash which allows you to crash through wooden barriers and deal huge amounts of damage.
Carrion’s environment has a distinctly Metroidvania feel to it, meaning you’ll be revisiting locations frequently to take a previously inaccessible path. With that in mind, managing your size and abilities is all-important as you continue your rampage. Carrion’s adversaries are capable of reducing your biomass surprisingly quickly, which leads to a tremendous sense of being powerful and terrifying and vulnerable all at once.
If that duality puts you in mind of The Thing, then you are absolutely spot on. The influence of John Carpenter’s wintery masterpiece is abundant, from the genuinely unsettling creature movement and buckets of gore to the frankly excellent sound design. Eschewing existing audio libraries, every sound effect in Carrion has been purposely made and the extra effort really shines through. The noises you hear as you slither, dismember and gorge your way about the place are genuinely disgusting, provoking a strange thrill that’s part elation and part revulsion at your own actions.
Carrion, then, is definitely one to keep an eye on – even if only to make sure it doesn’t creep up behind you and pull your legs off.