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692012823_Carrionlogo.jpg.4e95ede922e97eb78fe252568d2d4812.jpgCarrion puts you in the role of the monster in a monster movie: an amorphous blob of tendrils and teeth escapes the research facility holding it, and now seeks freedom while devouring every scientist and guard in its path. It's a grisly, visceral game that is utterly satisfying to crawl and slither through, even if the experience is over far too quickly.
 
The game doesn't dwell too much on storytelling or plot, but you can piece together the narrative as the creature initially escapes confinement and explores the facility. There are also some flashbacks that fill in a bit of backstory, but with no dialogue and very little text on screen it's not a story-rich game. Ultimately that works for Carrion though—many of the great monster movies didn't need exhaustive explanations about where their beasts came from, and it's the same case here, and the quiet mystery of the whole situation only makes it more foreboding. The important thing is that this creature won't stop until it finds freedom.
 
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Carrion is generally billed as a Metroidvania, though it's a pretty simple one since there isn't a ton of backtracking or elaborate exploration involved—generally your progress is pretty linear, though you do pick up new abilities throughout the game to help you explore. That also means that the exploration challenges are fairly simple. A locked door typically means a switch is close at hand (or at tentacle), and oftentimes there's only one open path ahead of you anyway.
 
What Carrion really nails though is just the fun of controlling a blob monster. The creature's movements are quick and fluid as tendrils shoot out to cling to walls and ceilings, propelling it rapidly through rooms, air ducts, and caves. The simple act of moving around is so oddly satisfying in Carrion, and the little details of the monster's animation strike a perfect balance of gross and cool. Even if there aren't a lot of puzzle challenges in your way, wandering around as this blob beast is a lot of fun.
 
In addition to just exploring you'll need to fight back against the guards and security robots that try to impede your progress, and again there's something so grisly and grim yet viscerally satisfying about grabbing a guard with a tentacle and consuming them. You can eat people to regain health and eventually you'll unlock the ability to increase your biomass which gives you access to new abilities, which is one of the few "puzzle" aspects of the game—e.g. the smallest form of the beast can shoot out a long-range tentacle, while the larger form has enough mass to break down sturdy barriers, and you often need to swap between these forms to progress. Swapping forms and abilities based on how large you are is a clever mechanic, though it can be a tiny bit annoying at times since you can only lose biomass in specific pools of reddish liquid (taking damage also shrinks the monster).
 
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Combat itself can be a little tedious at times though thanks to the somewhat finicky aiming controls. Sometimes it's hard to grab the guard you're aiming for when there is other debris in your path, and sometimes it's just hard to aim smoothly since the camera's movements can be a little fast and dizzying. The good news though is that combat is never so complicated that you're really likely to be stymied by these control quirks, and even if you are, save points are frequent.
 
As mentioned the game is pretty short overall, though that also means the gameplay never overstays its welcome. The pacing is brisk and propels you to the next area to explore further and grow even larger—it makes the game hard to put down. And although there isn't too much backtracking needed to progress through the game, there are collectible upgrades that may require visiting previous areas to grab. These upgrades aren't required but they do have some useful effects.
 
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The game gets away with a lot of its grisly material thanks to the relative simplicity of its graphics, but the developers still managed to make 16-bit bloodshed as visceral as possible. It's disgusting in the best possible way, and again the animation of the creature is just so much fun to drink in. The soundtrack overall is pretty subtle but the sound design knows when to punch it up with a gruesome bone-cracking squelch or the shriek of terror from one of the hapless scientists. It's just what you'd want out of a horror game.
 

Carrion puts a clever twist on the "monster movie" formula and makes controlling the monster just as much fun as defeating it. The gruesome, violent subject matter probably won't be for everyone but it's an absolute blast to put yourself in the position of the monster and run rampant. Although the game nails its subject matter, the gameplay itself could use a bit more fleshing out with more engaging puzzles or combat mechanics, but overall this is a delightfully macabre and unique game, perfect for a late night play session.

 
Rating: 8 out of 10 Tendrils
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