Tag: brisbane

Carrion Review

 

Developer: Phobia Game Studio

Publisher: Devolver Digital

Audio: Cris Velasco

Platforms: Switch, Xbox One, Window, Mac & Linux

Release Date: 23/7/2020

Genre: 2D Action Platformer

 

Carrion is made for those who have, in one way or another, wished to unleash their inner Mr Hyde. And a warning to the wise and not so wicked, if you dislike the creepy, or are triggered by pixelated gore, the spatter and squelch of viscera, screams of terror, or unleashing the horror within… you are probably not going to be into this.

In Carrion, you control the hive mind of a symbiotic colony of an antediluvian ancestor to the tubifex worm, resulting in a cyclopian monstrosity of Lovecraftian horror. Basically, you’re a mass of prehensile tentacles and teeth bent on freeing yourself from the scientific dissection of your biomass.

Commonly, this game is described as reverse horror. Instead of playing the protagonist hiding from the horror as it stalks through the facility seeking freedom, you are the horror.

After breaking from your containment, you stalk your captors, ripping and tearing apart the available flesh to absorb as precious biomass. The biomass you will need to protect yourself while searching for the genetic skills of your kin scattered the of throughout the facility.

Towards those that dare fire upon your amassed power, you will revengefully return to chew on their corpses for the audacity of attempting to damage your majestic abomination.

Or maybe that’s just me…

What the developers at Phobia Game Studios really got right was the weight and movement in the game. The feeling of throwing doors, grates, vending machines, and human torsos come with a satisfying inertia and the added benefit of distracting – or even dismembering – your human opponents. This satisfaction also extends to the effects of your size on your movement as well.

Your own movement is also hypnotic. The worms that make up your body constantly move and shift, slinging out to fling you, swing you, and catch you. And while the movement looks complicated, it controls remarkably well.

I played on PC, and if you have ever played a shooting game, you know that your hand need not move from that position. The mouse controls your movement and prehensile tentacles while your left hand activates skills and levers, the latter of which are many.

Carrion is at its core a linear game pretending to be metroidvanian. The aim is to move from area to area, with you unable to traverse to the next without a new genetic skill. To reach the next save point, lever, or destroyable terrain piece, you are required to solve little puzzles or battle the different types of security intent on annihilating you.

And did I mention there is no map? You will have to rely on your own unique awareness and memory, a special little trap for overthinking completionists and people to took so long between gameplay that they forgot where they were up too… not that that happened to me.

Visually, the pixel art is perfect for the transitions between the clean, bright scientific active compounds, the rusted and disorderly industrialism, and the luminous greens and blues of botanical cave systems. It also means the game can live between the super realism of our imagination and the disbelief of pixelated abstraction, allowing for a modicum of separation between you and the horrors you commit. This is especially relevant as the game play actively covers all the interacted environment with a visceral palette of reds and purples as you course through them.

Acoustically, the game does balance the need for horror elements to the environment without overdoing it. So, while the screaming and whimpering of the cowering humans is ended with the crunch of cartilage and bones, there are no wet slaps of tentacles as you traverse. Instead, a pleasant soft carolling of schwips as your weight-bearing tendrils flail about to find purchase. The atmospheric soundtrack, composed by Cris Velasco, matches the horror theme perfectly. The tension-filled tracks, rather than filling you with dread, instead drive you further into the carnage as you lay waste to all before you.

Overall, Carrion is not a long game, and manages to find a place in the truly short list of games I’ve actually finished. The game’s length means it sits comfortably between learning how to utilise all the skills, and not overstaying its welcome. If you are looking to speed run this metroidvanian world in your first playthrough, I don’t think you’re going to get much satisfaction out of Carrion. However, if you choose to relish the screams, take revenge on those that hold you back, and take your time to work through the puzzles like the Dexter you always knew you were, then I think this sinewy tale might just be for you.

It is no wonder this game won the 2021 BAFTA’s Game Awards Best Debut Game and was nominated for best original property game.

Ready Player Two

I was incredibly excited for this book to come out. I was a big fan of Ready Player One despite its flaws as a debut novel. Unfortunately, Ready Player Two falls into many of the traps that a sequel is known to have. The following review may contain some spoilers surrounding plot and characters.

Ready Player Two took me much longer than I anticipated to finish. I thought it was going to be a book that I picked up and finished in a matter of days, but it took me over a month to complete. The book has one glaringly major flaw: pacing. The first several chapters rush you through the three years since Wade won the contest. It’s a big information dump that includes information I believe would be much better placed throughout the novel. It removes a lot of the mystery that could have been there. It also almost immediately establishes the story as fast-paced which means that for the next 366 pages the reader is in for quite the ride. The exact opposite happened.

It took a bit too long to get to the inciting incident and the appearance of the corrupted AI Anorak. The twelve-hour time constraint that is placed on the High Five is often forgotten throughout the novel and the characters don’t ever move with a sense of urgency even though it takes them the better part of twelve hours to locate the first five of seven shards. Somehow, they manage to get the last two shards in just under two hours AND also fight off an army in the real world. It didn’t make sense from a narrative perspective and it severely messed with the pacing of the overall story.

The thing that I loved the most was how Wade’s idealisation of James Halliday slowly unravelled throughout the story. It made for an interesting amount of character growth, but the story was very much still rooted in Wade and his own obsession with Samantha. Wade was simultaneously judging Halliday’s inappropriate obsession with Kira Morrow while being equally obsessed with his own ex-girlfriend. Wade never really learns anything from the situations he’s placed in. Not to mention, all of his friends exist as mostly 2D characters in the story.

Pacing and characters aside, I still enjoyed the many references to pop culture that were scattered throughout Ready Player Two. Cline possesses an intense knowledge of 80s pop culture and I found myself reaching for some of the films mentioned in this story. There was more of an emphasis on movies than video games, but gaming still found its way into the plot. I would love to make my way through all of the John Hughes films and I have this book series to thank for that.

I wasn’t incredibly fond of the ending of Ready Player Two. Everything was being tied up too quickly in a nice little bow. The choices that Wade and Samantha made weren’t entirely believable to me as a reader and I felt that their decisions betrayed their characters a little bit. It became clear that Wade hadn’t learned from the experiences in the past twelve hours. Unfortunately, the ending made the entire story seem redundant. Just as Wade appears to be learning from the events he’s been through, he makes a decision that undone all of that hard work. Not to mention that apparently the very high stakes that kept the High Five on track during this quest weren’t very high at all. Plot points were half-heartedly resolved, and I feel both the top and tail Ready Player Two could have benefited from a little more care and attention.

While I’d still recommend Ready Player Two to fans of the first novel, I’d suggest that new readers stick to the original novel. While my experience left me somewhat disappointed, I understand the value of a novel such as Ready Player Two in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy literature genres. I’m not usually one to reach for either of those genres in the novels I read, but as a video game nerd myself, it’s important to be represented in that way.

Ready Player Two addresses accessibility in video games, artificial intelligence, climate change, death, grief, loss, love, and obsession. It is ideal for readers in the Young Adult and New Adult age ranges, but is appropriate for all readers older than 18.