Carrion is an indie that puts us in the tentacles of a monster that tries to escape from the laboratory and devastates everything and everyone along the way. A wonderful pixelated homage to the gore of The Thing.
In that distant E3 of 2019, when the events were still face-to-face and the Los Angeles conference shone on the calendar of every gamer, Devolver Digital opted for Carrion. He did it with nods to the best gore film in a presentation brimming with blood and originality that perfectly synthesized the spirit of the game. This pixelated The Thing was announced with care and with the promise of reinventing, or at least refreshing, the survival horror genre. Here we play the bloodthirsty spawn instead of the helpless human being, a striking premise that made Carrion one of the most anticipated releases of indie dev. Now, a little over a year later, we finally have the opportunity to see if its gameplay is as intense and fluid as real blood or if it pales, watery, like the blood of series B movies.
Blood, viscera and pixels
Carrion is an action game in lateral perspective that puts us in the skin – rather in the tentacles – of a monstrous mass of meat that seeks to escape from the underground laboratory in which they experiment with it. To do this, the beast will do whatever is necessary to achieve it: devour, mutate and destroy. And he succeeds, go if he succeeds. Nothing and no one resists the protagonist formless, who advances devastatingly through the vents. None of the workers or security members of the secret laboratory from which we are trying to flee is capable of standing up to such an abomination. There are some flamethrowers capable of damaging us punctually and some type with a shield that resists our attacks, but it is not mandatory to face them and we can stealthily flee through some ventilation shaft.
The normal thing in Carrion is that one always feels powerful. We devour everything that comes our way, which reinforces that feeling of power as much as our vitality. To a certain extent, this indie acts as an unbalanced beat ‘em up, an me against the neighborhood in which the neighborhood has little or nothing to say. Carrion is a fantasy of power, a dream with only one dreamer and a nightmare for everyone who crosses his path.
And if the combat, as direct and visceral as it is, is not too mysterious, what is Carrion’s central point? As it turns out that although the gore and the dismemberment of its trailers point to explicit violence, the movement of the alien is the really interesting thing. Its tentacles allow it to reach and hook onto any surface, while the ability to modify its shape allows it to smash into wide spaces and sneak through the most remote areas. The bigger it is, the more powerful it is in combat. The smaller it becomes, the more stealthy its movement will be.
There are areas entirely designed to be tiny, others to be huge and to destroy everything, and even some where you can combine both sizes to advance. You may need to break a wall to reach one of the special points where you can lose a few kilos and, even more reduced, reach a lever to open access to another area. Carrion forces to constantly alternate both realities to solve the simple puzzles of a game with which, in general, you will never break your head. These changes provide rhythm, from a magnificent flow between the devastating power and the fragility of stealth, to a level design designed to grow, decrease and devastate.
Focusing on how and where its protagonist moves, Carrion dedicates his efforts to build a broad scenario in which to show off all those skills. Its levels tend towards the labyrinthine, with interconnected rooms to access and exit through different doors. They are more or less large, with more or less vegetation and with more or less accessible levers and switches, although they are all quite similar aesthetically. We will move with greater freedom the more abilities to attack or move we gather. You won’t need to read much more to fit this indie into the metroidvania genre, but, although there is something of that, we are not facing a title in which to get lost or have to constantly consult the map. It is a non-linear game with a focus on exploration – beyond gore – but lighter than any of the last great exponents of the genre.