In Phobia Game Studio’s new game, Carrion, you play as a throbbing red biomass. Just a hungry maw and tentacles pulsing through the hallways of a human settlement ripping up people, solving puzzles, and collecting pieces of yourself to gain new powers. It’s a 2-D pixel art sidescroller with an emphasis on fast action and grotesque art design. Everywhere the biomass moves, it leaves a trail of itself. The red mass oozes from room to room, ripping apart anything that gets in its way.
It’s a classic setup. The biomass explores a Castlevania style map, freeing bits of itself from other cages that allows it to perform new abilities and unlock new parts of the map. It starts as a tiny speck of matter with a few lashing tentacles, but grows when it feeds on humans. Take damage and the mass shrinks, eat humans and it grows. Roar to echolocate other missing bits of the biomass. Use tentacles to manipulate the environment and solve puzzles.
It’s fast and flashy and gorey. It made me feel like I was a monster in a sequel to Out of This World. The marketing calls Carrion a “reverse horror game” which hints at a very specific kind of power fantasy. The world's problems feel so massive, multifaceted, and interconnected that it’s easy to feel powerless and angry in the face of them. It’s as if the chaos of 2020 is a fleshy infected mass tearing through our world and sullying our world and inner lives. The promise of a game like Carrion is that it allows you to be that monster.
You are the horror, not the pursued and there’s power in that. There’s also catharsis in Carrion’s violence. Carrion’s slathering hungry ball of red oozing red tentacles is a perfect metaphor for rage. I steered the beast with a mouse, but the movements aren’t fine. It’s slipshod, easy to overshoot the mark and leave pulsing mass hanging out of a hole, a ready target for humans. Everything the mass touches is tainted, bodies not consumed are left to rot, and it spreads throughout the map. Saving the game means spreading your goo into the crevices of the building, warping it, making it like you.
Anger, like the biomass of Carrion, can only be steered. It can’t be controlled. Carrion lets me hold on to my anger and gives me the illusion of control of it. The dual sense of becoming that which is feared and riding rage make it the perfect game for the moment.