Carrion Hands-On Preview – A Real Blood & Guts Show

Devolver Digital march to the beat of their own drum. They’re zany, off-beat and their catalogue is teeming with unique, often ultra-violent experiences. I think there’s an unjust perception about Devolver that they publish stuff nobody else wants whereas I think it’s a case of they don’t give a shit and they’ve got the balls to put out exactly what they want.

Phobia Game Studios must respect that ethos because according to developer Krzysztof Chomicki, they didn’t shop Carrion to anyone except Devolver. And it checks the boxes one would expect from a title presumably signed off by the company’s very maniacal (and very fictional) Chief Synergy Officer, Nina Struthers.

Carrion is the strange sci-fi power fantasy I didn’t know I wanted. Forget roaming the halls of a facility as an armour-clad super soldier, Carrion has players careening through the ethically-questionable and mysterious lab as a literal monster. With no fixed form, the writhing mess of gore and parts is as unnerving as it is conceptually exciting. At first jostle, Carrion subverts expectations and absolutely turns the genre on its head. It’s hard not to get Akira meets Katana Zero from the incredibly visceral platformer, though its uniqueness is so profound it’s hard to make those ill-fitting comparisons.

The rather ambiguous game feels no need to spell anything out for its players, relying on the context of the proceedings to paint the picture. At its heart, Carrion is a labyrinthian mess of tunnels, halls and labs that intertwine, relinquishing their secrets like a seductive drip feed. It feels strange suggesting the game is a puzzle-platformer considering you don’t actually jump as the amorphous creature. Instead you tend to perform context-sensitive mantles with your tendrils, though the entirety of the steering is done with the left thumb stick. It handles incredibly well and it’s an animation masterclass, you’ve not likely seen anything so grotesquely hypnotic in a video game before.

As is a staple for the genre in today’s age, the game world unfolds in a gradual fashion as you unlock abilities that help solve the game’s puzzles. It’s the usual suspects: a barge attack to break through once impervious crates, a ranged web shot that can be used to both ensnare prey and trigger out of reach levers and also a cloak that lets you bypass laser-based security systems.

The game’s defining feature is where it gets its name. To grow stronger and ever-larger, you kill and consume the bodies of the lab’s guards and scientists, as you do, their flesh becomes your flesh. Their parts, yours. There’s no shortage of disturbing imagery in this gruesome corridor-crawler, a particular favourite of mine is the death shake that awaits any live prey that is unfortunate enough to run across your maw. It’s like a dog playing with a chew toy, except in Carrion it paints the walls claret-red. 

As a devout and vocal fan of everything Devolver brings to market, I’m so glad Carrion is in line with what they’re all about. It’s a match made in heaven if heaven were a secret lab overrun with a killer blob threatening to blow the joint up.