Looking back at messages with our editor, I first put my hand up for Curse of the Sea Rats back in January 2021. A lot has happened and changed since then, but one thing remains; my thirst for a good metroidvania! My thirst has been quenched all too infrequently recently, with some hits like Aeterna Noctis, Souldiers and Ghost Song, but also quite a few misses too that have been middle of the road. Admittedly, the metroidvania formula is a tough one to crack in such a crowded genre, but Curse of the Sea Rats certainly has the potential to be worth the wait!
Curse of the Sea Rats is a pirate-themed ratoidvania (a term coined by the developer Petoons Studio, not me), with a cartoony art style. The story follows a group of human pirates who have been mysteriously transformed into rats. Amidst all of this, the captain’s son, Timothy, has also been kidnapped by the mysterious Flora Burn. You can choose to play as one of four rats (Douglas, Buffalo, Akane, and Bussa) as you hunt Flora Burn and her piratey crew along the way. Each character has full voice acting which is impressive for an indie title. Sure the script is a bit hammy at times, but it makes for a welcome change to relying on drab dialogue boxes.
More on those multiple playable characters; you can switch between them at save points which are marshalled by the mysterious Wu Yun. Wu Yun also allows you to redeem a souls-like currency to use in upgrading each character’s defence, attack and magic powers. Sadly, there are no traversal benefits or attributes between each character which makes the character switching system in Curse of the Sea Rats less nuanced than, say, Astalon: Tears of the Earth, but they each have different combat styles, meaning you can pick which character suits you. There’s also the option to play local co-op, which I tried with my wife and it was an absolute blast. It took me back to the good old days of playing as Sonic and Tails, and for a metroidvania, it was a refreshing and original take on the genre.
In line with the pirate theme, the soundtrack in Curse of the Sea Rats is awesome. There’s everything you’d expect; some sea shanties and plenty of upbeat ditties right out of the late 90s/early 00s Rare play book. There are also a number of moodier, more brooding tunes for the boss encounters. This dovetails perfectly with the art style, which makes for a vibrant and visceral experience.
- Voice acting is an impressive inclusion
- Local co-op is a hoot
- Catchy retro soundtrack
Sounding and looking like a turn of the millennium game can certainly be viewed as a positive, but sadly Curse of the Sea Rats also plays like one in some aspects. The combat is pretty one-note as most character’s static attacks involve jabbing the nearest enemies with your sword or staff or whatever weapon they have. There are magic abilities too which are somewhat more exciting, but what with it being rather easy to farm the souls-like levelling up currency, you’ll have your chosen character to be pretty strong, pretty quickly. This has two outcomes; first, it means you’re unlikely to switch characters because getting one character up to full strength is pretty easy. And two, it means that, despite how uninspiring as the static sword-jabbing is, it actually gets the job done pretty well, so there’s not much incentive to use the magic powers.
The bosses are also quite uninspiring and criminally easy for a metroidvania. I don’t like ridiculously hard bosses, but I still like a challenge. However, the bosses in Curse of the Sea Rats are so straightforward that I didn’t even need to break stride. Normally when you come across a boss in a metroidvania (or indeed any game), there’s an element of preparing and stocking up on vital health items. But here, when a boss fight was telegraphed (by way of the room you’ve just entered being red on the mini-map), I was just thinking ‘Oh cool another boss fight, this will be fine’, and nine times out of ten, it was.
There’s a litany of other minor frustrations, like unnecessary perma-deaths when falling down some pits and Wu Yun’s incredibly frustrating sarcastic comments every time you die (‘Have you considered NOT failing?’ - hilarious, thanks mate). There’s also no quest log which makes some of the collectible side quests hard to follow. While these are all minor frustrations, they all sadly add up.
- Combat is uninspiring and too easy to level-up
- Dull, easy boss fights
- Annoying sarcastic comments from Wu Yun
Final Score: 7/10
Curse of the Sea Rats is certainly an enjoyable experience for metroidvania fans, and it’s a lovingly crafted, feel-good title. Sadly for me though, the limited combat and boss fights undermine the experience and rank it lower than many other great metroidvania titles recently. Had these elements had more care or originality invested into them, then Curse of the Sea Rats could have been an absolute hit, but unfortunately, it ends up being just another metroidvania as a result.
Thank you for checking out our Curse of the Sea Rats Switch review, thank you to PQube for providing the review code and thank you to our Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: