Is it worth forgiving everything else for a good idea?
In the heading “In plain text” the authors express exclusively their own opinion, which may not coincide with the opinion of the editorial board (or may coincide). They are free to do it as they please and in any format convenient for them. Everything is possible here.
At the heart of Carrion lies a very simple idea – it turns the typical horror story upside down. Imagine “Something»Carpenter, where the main character is not the character of Kurt Russell and his comrades in misfortune, but the alien creature itself. Which, in addition, is extremely offended by the people who unjustly imprisoned her at the North Pole. True, in the game, unlike the cult film by Carpenter, the monster relies not on cunning, but on brute force, dozens of tentacles and several pairs of jaws.
The developers themselves from Phobia Game Studio call their project “reverse horror”, but in reality, of course, Carrion is never a horror – rather a chamber platformer with elements of “metroidvania”. You play as a bloody toothy lump of flesh with tentacles, locked in the bowels of some secret laboratory. The task is simple: you need to break free and take revenge on all the people that get in your way. And there will be a lot of them, to put it mildly. Apparently, the little people guessed what they were dealing with, so the laboratory is well protected – the connecting compartments between the levels are reinforced with shockproof doors, like in bomb shelters. It is not so easy to open them: first you have to devour a dozen or two victims, grow in size and put down “roots” in a certain number of checkpoints.
From the trailers and screenshots, you might think that Carrion, like the studio’s previous game, Butcher, will be a festival of mindless violence, but no. In fact, it is almost entirely tied to simple puzzles; it just so happens that their decision is always somehow connected with the murder of laboratory personnel. The control points that need to be activated to open the next location are often hidden in secluded spots behind several layers of doors, levers, and lasers. And there is only one way to get to them – through evolution.
Pulsating nests, where you can save and restore health, evoke “fond” memories of the zerg hives
Hero (if this is can be called a hero) Carrion is not just fuel for nightmares, but a living and extremely pragmatic organism. He needs people mainly for calories: having devoured the required number of victims, the monster grows in size and takes on a new form, and with it – new abilities. The skills of the first, smallest form, are aimed at stealth: you can briefly become invisible to sneak past the turret, or entangle an annoying drone with a nasty “web”. The second form is already large and heavy enough to break through flimsy walls with its weight and crush enemies to death, and the third, in principle, barely squeezes through doors and prefers to attack enemies with chitinous harpoons.
In this regard, the developers gave their best: the appearance and sound design of the monster in Carrion are great. From one glance at the tentacle wriggling in the main menu, you already want to hide in the shower and never leave it, and in the game itself this slimy sensation of discomfort increases several times – especially if you have ever seen a teratoma (look for photos at your own peril and risk) … The creature obeys the laws of physics and moves, clinging to different surfaces by its branches. Procedural animations hardly affect the gameplay, but the spectacle turns out to be truly repulsive – as if you came across a ball of snakes or a rat king. It seems to be disgusting, but you still can’t take your eyes off. I constantly want to stick to the walls and ceiling, just to see how the amorphous mass of flesh will behave, as if playing with a toothy “slime”.
One of the upgrades (in their role here are DNA samples) allows the monster to crumble into a bunch of nimble worms upon contact with water. Lovely, just lovely
There is only one problem for Carrion – she has nothing more to offer. On the one hand, it seems that she does not need to offer anything: the idea of the game itself is unusual enough to attract attention. In addition, it will take only five hours to complete – the player will not be entertained for long. On the other hand, the question arises: is it worth forgiving everything else for the sake of a good idea? If you think it’s worth it, then Carrion will surely suit your taste. But, in my opinion, no matter how amusing the idea is, everything always rests on implementation – and Phobia Game Studio coped with this so-so.
Ironically, a game entirely dedicated to a bloodthirsty monster rarely gives you the opportunity to feel like a monster. An unstoppable threat that cannot be understood and cannot be negotiated. The enemies in Carrion may be weak, but they are by no means defenseless: every second civilian has at least a pistol, and the guards armed with rifles also cover themselves with energy shields to prevent themselves from being eaten. This is not to mention the various turrets, drones and heavy mechs with machine guns. People are not happy with you at all, and if you get involved in a fight ahead, you will not even notice how they will turn a mountain of tentacles into a sieve – or burn them out of flamethrowers.
Blood is dripping on the guys from the ceiling, but it doesn’t bother them much. What could go wrong?
This sometimes leads to organic gameplay situations. Together with health, the monster loses muscle mass and gradually rolls back to previous forms, which means it loses its most powerful abilities. You have to change tactics on the go: duck through sewers and ventilation pipes, lure opponents into a trap, and attract their attention with noise. But here the game is let down by a primitive AI – to divide a squad of trained fighters and kill them one by one is easy. To do this, you do not need to twist or think about how to use the skills more cunningly: know yourself and drag the idiots through the same hatch. They still will not call for reinforcements and will not figure out to throw a grenade into your lair – apparently, according to the regulations, they are not supposed to.
In other words, Carrion constantly keeps the player in some kind of borderline state. You are not strong enough to sweep away all enemies with a bloody whirlwind, but you are not weak enough to feel truly vulnerable. It’s a good idea, but the game designers didn’t seem to know what to do with it and how to challenge the player within its framework – and therefore the gameplay gets bored very quickly. An hour later, all the battles and puzzles merge into a solid gray-brown mess, and the remaining time flies by like on autopilot, without any emotions.
Although, I must admit, from the side of such “stealth” looks rather ominous, with a drop of black humor. The creature is absurdly flattened to crawl into tight passages and catch the victim by surprise in the most inconvenient place – in the restroom
Cartoony, hypertrophied violence could distract from monotony, but the authors did not bother to provide this violence with at least some kind of plot context. How many times do you need to repeat that the plot never, under any circumstances, spoils the gameplay, but, on the contrary, fills it with meaning! It is not necessary to explain where the monster came from and what experiments were performed on it – you just need to create a background. But Carrion doesn’t have it either. You start the game in an incomprehensible place and move towards something incomprehensible without any motivation. There is not even a feeling that people are trying to interfere with you – they just go about their business while a local apocalypse takes place in the laboratory.
And if they don’t care what happens to them, then why should the player not?
Alas, from a curious idea, Carrion never managed to grow into an interesting game. At least if you put it on a par with Hollow Knight, Rain World or MO: Astray… But a C for diligence is also not bad, especially for a tiny team of a couple of people. Moreover, such convincing and frightening monsters are rare even in AAA games.
Source : Game Informer