I love the honesty of a video game where you play the bad guy. So many games revolve around murder all in sight, and at some point, we should admit that turtle-killing plumbers and mass-murdering treasure hunters are not as “good” as we are led to believe.
With their murderous intent laid bare, the best “monster” games are all about pure power. Classics like Rampage world tour and Destroy all monsters let yourself be wreaked by explosive and hilarious havoc, then rack up humanity’s increased efforts to stop your wickedness.
The new game from Devolver Digital Carrion, released this week for PC and consoles, follows this tyrannical tradition, but with a different approach. Instead of looking like a schlocky monster movie, Carrion goes full HR Giger with his stealthy monstrosity, clinging to walls, tentacles and teeth. Its mix of atmosphere, mechanics, and dark and hilarious traversal makes it one of the coolest 2D games we’ve seen in years.
Screaming Mozzarella Sticks
The idea for the new game of a “plot” has only just begun: you are an amorphous, crimson-red monster, made up mostly of tentacles that can reach, hang on, and crawl along neighboring surfaces. They can also grab and throw debris, doors, and people nearby, and your blobby center features a massive, tooth-lined mouth to better eat humans. When you come out of captivity, some of the personnel nearby shoot pistols, and the primary way to heal these wounds is to kill and eat anyone in your path. So you’re gonna do this often.
Or you can grab them and throw them, letting the physics of collisions do the damage as they jerk around like they’re screaming mozzarella sticks. Or you can hit a “growl” button, designed primarily as an echolocation tool, to scare the still-alive bejeezus away from the ones you haven’t eaten. It’s that kind of game.
This movement and combat core works well on gamepad and mouse and keyboard, although the latter is about mouse click, not WASD – and, my god, it’s nice to aim your movement path with a mouse pointer and see your creature instinctively grab all the relevant surfaces to propel itself in a gentle and dangerous lurch. (In particular, it’s nice to watch some of the tentacles whip nimbly across the screen, while others latch onto closer surfaces to strike a surprisingly natural balance.) The animation routines needed to maintain as many moving, spiraling, and aiming tentacles just the way you want, whether for movement, puzzle solving, or combat, are some of the most awesome things I’ve seen in a 2D video game . This quality will quickly disarm any negative impressions you might have about the pixelated designs in the game.
Speaking of: All of the “Metroidvania” vibes you can get from watching the game are well placed. Your progress from area to area is usually limited by new types of barriers, such as cumbersome doors or tricky laser grid security systems, and you will move between battle rooms and light puzzles to find the right exploration path to your next crossing improve. Carrion is smart about that price-does-that price in a few cases. One example is a ubiquitous âbiomassâ option. At some point, your monster can double its health and take advantage of a “ram” attack, propelling your entire mass of tentacles towards enemies and barriers. But when equipped, you can’t use some abilities, like a “projectile launch” attack, which you’ll need to solve some puzzles.
Your monster circumvents this issue by being able to dump its bonus health into any pool of standing water, allowing certain abilities, at the expense of health and the aforementioned ram attack. This is a smart trade-off between risk and reward, not only in terms of reduced health at major difficulty peaks, but also because you never have to switch abilities by pausing and stopping. browsing an “inventory” menu.
Terror can emerge from any vent
Therefore, CarrionThe developers keep players in the action at all times, instead of popping them in and out of game-style pause menus. This is probably the same reason the game doesn’t include a built-in map, despite the fact that you will pass through previously explored areas to advance. A few times I would have liked to have had a map to retrace my steps through repetitive hallways, but for the most part not necessary thanks to a mix of clear signage and one-way tunnels propelling you forward if needed.
Carrion Also skillfully incorporates combat into your progression from area to area, aided by the sci-fi trope of your monster escaping from a Weyland-Yutani-style industrial-military complex. Typically these enemies emphasize directional attacks and shields, like a guard aiming an electric shield in any direction, causing you to regularly notice every air vent, narrow passage, and alternate path. in a given combat room. Do you sneak up from behind to grab and eat an enemy? Falling from above, while using a spare tentacle to throw a ripped door at a guard to knock him out? Studying a particular area becomes crucial once enemies also start using elemental attacks; you need to know where a puddle is, for example, once enemy flamethrowers get into the mix.
As a grab-and-throw monster, you need to either create your own projectiles or think carefully about what you’re catching and why. Enemy endgame designs do well to point this out, as a seemingly invincible clone of RoboCop‘s ED-209; you can’t kill him, but with careful maneuvering you can lift its open cockpit and choose its pilot like a cherry pit.
Short, bloody and sweet
I’m leaving a few of the game’s clever tweaks to the Metroidvania formula untouched, as the powers in question are delicious surprises. Suffice it to say, going from point A to point X sometimes made me chuckle like a mad scientist. The same goes for combat encounters that push your limits as an infernal monster. These emphasize that your creature can die as fast as it can kill and force you to plot a given battlefield before leaping from a hidden passage.
My biggest beef has come from the heavy nature of overcrowded fights. One-on-one encounters are clear and manageable, but when a few people are standing side by side, it is impossible to grab them all and crush them all at once; even the ram fails to sweep the crowds consistently. Besides, Carrion take care not to wear out its welcome, so you will only need about five hours to complete your first trip.
But in terms of a tense and unique 2D course, Carrionthe execution of has no peer. Closest thing I can think of is the 2015 experimental goo-platformer Mushroom 11, but the puzzle potential of this game has nothing to do with Carrionhallway fights and memorable environmental delights. It’s a pretty easy recommendation for $ 20 – and a hell of a job for the paid one Xbox Game Pass subscription service.
Honestly, if you’ve ever wanted to pretend like a xenomorph in a video game, Carrion offers a better facsimile than any officially licensed one Extraterrestrial Game.
- Slide, leap and devour as this game’s grotesque monster is second to none in 2D games.
- Detailed animation techniques make the monster’s bestial movement all the more appealing.
- Environmental effects like blood, flames, and eerie lighting bolster an already beautiful assortment of sci-fi interiors.
- Crackles, screams, drops and explosions: the sound design really helps for this monster game.
- Clever twists on the usual Metroidvania formula allow players to advance while progressing through solid environmental puzzles.
- The combat escalates with a solid enemy design, meant to emphasize your monster’s grabbing and throwing powers.
- No card system to help when you inevitably get lost.
- Overcrowded battles can become difficult to handle.
- The game does not go beyond its welcome, but be prepared for a little game at five o’clock.
The ugly one:
- I dunno, man. This game is pretty awesome while remaining within a modest scope.
Verdict: Buy (or claim on Xbox Game Pass for console or PC).