Carrion - John Carpenter's The Blob (Game Review)
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Phobia Game Studio
Platform: PC, XB1, Switch
Genre: 2D Side Scroller
Creepy Crawlies always suck to deal with, especially with games these days that uses highly defined visuals to create much scarier atmosphere. What if that was reversed and you played the monster instead? Yeah, reverse horror games have existed before like Alien vs Predator or Stubbs the Zombie. But Carrion kind of takes the Cronenberg/Carpenter thing to a different level.
It has that 80s nostalgia cheese you'd want with nice and colorful 2D pixelated visuals and sound design with the familiar screams from every cult classic you've watched. Carrion is a treat for the horror movie fans out there.
It ain't far off being great though, part of this game mostly works in concept and feels like it was introduced as a start of a series. It got flaws, a good number to count, but you've still had a good time playing it. You might not nitpick it as much as the other guys, but alas, here we are, this game could be another Devolver cash in, yet I align on the not-so-much scale.
What would a being imprisoned against their own will do? Well decided that they've had it with the people keeping him in stasis and goes to finally break free from its captivity. Wreak carnage upon the facility and its inhabitants whom have locked this poor guy away and let him ascend to godhood.
Yeah, there's nobody much else to like in this game, every human beings are disposable. While there is a cohesive story to be found, it was told in a secondary fashion that adds little impact to the main narrative overall. Playing as an unknown species of Tubifex worm, you get to do whatever you want.
But who cares, it's not like you need a better reason to mutilate and gorge on every human being you find, right? What's even egregious is that the facility is based somewhere on a city, it's like they're not even trying real hard to be precautious or doing well to hide it from public eye. Yeah, some hints at this could be a prologue invasion story. Also this takes place in Seattle.
There's no voice acting, just dialogue from flash sequences that mostly just try to flash out some part of the plot, but it's only about the premise. Nothing much else, you go from a petite abomination to an unstoppable killing machine of sheer carnage.
What's even great is how much this movie loves to pop out references from The Blog, John Carpenter's The Thing, and the one from James Gunn, Slither. It's blood choke full of weird ideas but also takes liberty of making plot twists. It's like a backstory for a horrible experimentation gone wrong and probably some main character from the opposite spectrum will come to face against this thing in the next game, if that is true then I would love to see that happen.
In Carrion, you play as this sentient blob of carcass that can mold and create whatever object and living thing it wants. This thing also has the ability to cloak, stuff itself through tunnels, grab people and objects just to pummel them around each area of the level. Basically this is a twin stick 2D side scroller where on one you move the thing, while with the other you move its hands around then grab things with it.
Basic controls are you moving and grabbing humans before you bring them close to your mouth to eat em up. Going through levels, you have to grab ventilation covers or doorways to get to the next area. As you progress through the game, enemies are armed and are more difficult to tackle with. Killing them requires you to grab them off and pummel them to the ground or you can use abilities you unlock through the game like barrage where you thrust your entire body onto everything. But in order to do that, you need to be in full biomass mode. Meaning that in your petite version, you have spit snot and grab levers or other humans. You can scurry around faster, your other biomass mode is where you express all your aggressive carnage on.
Within the first few levels, you're going on about avoiding detections and finding ways to invade the seal door to another level. You must also find hives to nest in, which also acts as this level design used to progress through the game levels. These nests are also used as checkpoint saves, even something I'd forgot about and had the game's difficulty remind me of that in time.
From the start, you play at a rudimentary level with only a few handful of abilities. Puzzles are easy to figure out once you know how to use them. As you progress through the game, you unlock new abilities which allows you to use as different puzzle mechanics for newer pathways. Also few of them are handy against whatever the facility throws against you. Enemies goes from wielding pistols to armed personal with rifles, shotguns or flamethrowers while also equipped with some form of ballistic shield. Sometimes I did my growl to attract them before coming from behind to finish them off. Growl can also be used to navigate to find hives that have been nested. Other times you'll be fighting against dangerous mechs, the one that has two gattling guns. But you do get newer abilities, like passing through security lasers with your stealthy camouflage, being able to skewer people with your spike ability or mind control them. You even get to increase your fuel(or mana or stamina) and biomass health after you reach the third stage. This is where the game allows you to enter into full on carnage mode and go berserk on everybody.
The game's difficulty is something a bit difficult to grasp, because it's short. Adequately short, the game mostly challenges you with less fine-tuned controls and harder to fight enemies in the area. Sometimes even the puzzles can get little confusing, feeling like it's forced. Other times, you need to store your half of biomass into the water so that your petite version can grab levels through pinholes. This requires you to backtrack quite a bit. Also, lastly, the navigation can really suck. I got lost from the pacing when I was going to places completely losing track of where I was supposed to go.
There are ways that the story is told but it involves playing this human exploring the facility and drawing out expositions. Which do flash out the story a bit but these sections feel boring and pretty tedious and mundane.
There is quite good fun to find in the first few hours, but you need to push past its flaws right before the third act, where all your hardwork finally pays off and you get to just destroy. Rip and Tear as much as you would want to. You become stronger, harder to kill and far more dangerous as well. Takes you around 4-5hrs to finish this game.
This is straight up a 2D game, everything has this sprite quality to it with radiant color scheme and fast animated visuals. This is a current-gen indie game but the other stuff it does is pretty incredible like particle effects and blood gushing. This, of course is developed with Monogame engine which was used for making Bastion and Fez. Pretty sick.
I have to say, all the sounds of people screaming and the creature just growling and shrieking reminds me of the Xenomorphs sometimes. Like, all the noise of you breaking and entering is pure classical take on horror movies. It gives you that feeling while the music instead of making you dreary kind of gives you this sadistic pleasure of wreaking havoc.
This game was a nice conceptual roadtrip. It was pretty cathartic while it lasted but the impact it left me wasn't monumental to say the least. There are things that do hold it back, but also, its length. Which even if adequate, feels like maybe an hour extra or so might have allowed even more stuff to flesh out.
Like I would have loved to continue playing a game like this, possessing humans inside giant mechs, shooting people with mini-guns. But this outta do it for now.