Curse of the Sea Rats is a ‘ratoidvania’ platform adventure which has lovingly crafted, hand-drawn animations. Embark on the epic journey of four prisoners of the British empire, transformed into rats by the notorious pirate witch, Flora Burn. To regain their human bodies they will have to fight dangerous bosses, uncover the secrets of the vast Irish coast and ultimately capture the witch who cursed them.
A labyrinthine network of hundreds of pathways, rooms and discoveries lie ahead. Curse of the Sea Rats offers a substantial quest with over 12 hours of content. It offers a game which challenges you to master each character’s playstyle, find all the hidden secrets, and unlock each of the game’s multiple endings.
How it begins
Curse of the Sea Rats’ story begins off the Irish coast in the year 1777. The ship that you and your fellow prisoners are on, ends up being cursed by the feared pirate Flora Burn. She turns you and the rest of the crew into rats and makes her escape with the son of the captain Benjamin Blacksmith. Benjamin, desperate to retrieve his kidnapped son, asks the remaining 4 prisoners for help offering your freedom as reward for returning his son to him.
This sets you out on the main quest of the game to save the child and break the curse. The story is fully voiced, something that was very surprising to me. However some of the main character’s dialog is done with accent’s we could have done without.
Choose your fighter!
As you start the game you are given the option to select one of four main characters. Each character has his/her own unique short backstory. One of the strengths of this game is the variety between the main characters. David has control over fire magic and uses a cutlass, a well rounded character in stats. Bussa has control over earth magic and uses his fists, he is more defence oriented. Buffalo has control over air and uses daggers that can also be thrown, she has the highest attack stat in the game. Akane has control over water and uses a naginata, she is more magic oriented. You can easily track your character’s growth from the menu after you select your character.
Outside of the stat growth you gain as you level up, there is a personal talent tree per character available as you progress in the game. You earn spirit coins by defeating enemies that you can then spend on talents. The levels you gain count for all four heroes. The coins are also shared among all four if you wish to invest in the others. You can buy a reset potion at the shop if you wish to try another approach.
The meat and bones
Once you’re into the game proper, it’s clear that Curse of the Sea Rats has the fundamentals of the Metroidvania genre pretty much nailed. Platforming is very responsive and satisfying, with our heroes leaping from surface to surface with ease. The combat is pretty responsive as well, with our furry heroes able to strike with a wide variety of parries, magical attacks (that can be replenished by killing enemies) and more.
With the combat overall being very responsive I do have to admit that there is one big flaw. The animation of many of your attacks will either lock you in place or move you slightly in a single direction. After some time with the game you will get used to this but it can be frustrating at times.
The game can be played from start to finish with up to four players. You can gather up to three of your friends and have a good old fashioned couch co-op session.
In co-op mode note that your money pool and spirit coins are shared. You’ll have to decide together with your friends who needs the upgrade the most or who needs the item the most. Co-op is very fluent and enjoyable however since some of the sections of the map are so small you can easily get teleported around (without warning). Every time someone moves out of an area there is no prompt. Everyone just teleports out. This can be frustrating at times when you spot something hidden that your friends may not have seen.
The difficulty of the game needs to be adjusted greatly in my opinion. The early parts of the game and the first few bosses can be very difficult as you are still trying to build your character. In due time this will all balance out. But because you are able to gain levels and passive stat increases, if you take a bit of time to level yourself up you will be severely over leveled. This happens easily if you like exploration and try to complete the map. Bosses do little to no damage to you, while the normal enemies remain strong and well balanced. The bosses need some tweaking in this regard. It can really ruin the experience when a boss can be dealt with in seconds.
Even with all its flaws and issues the game has a lot of charm and a lot of care has gone into the making of the game. The art shows the passion of the creators and gives a lot of charm and depth to its characters and bosses. The main problem the game suffers from is its balancing. While it starts off very difficult, it becomes very easy if you take a bit of time to level up.
The bosses are very well made and have their own unique arena and skills but feel very scripted in my opinion. They seem to follow an exact pattern and do not deviate from it. It removes the feeling of going up against an actual boss that challenges your skill in their own arena. This left me disappointed.
Feel of the game
The characters all feel unique with their own skills, each hero has his own strengths and weaknesses and can be switched out if another approach is needed. The exploration in the game and the area’s are very well crafted. The movement is very smooth, you won’t have any issues making skillful jumps or timed dodges. This part of the game is done very well.
The co-op leaves a lot to be desired but if you have your friends gathered and just want to have a good time going through the game, it works surprisingly well. The aspect of deciding together what skills to invest in or who to give certain items really bonded us together. A tip we would give the developer is to give a prompt to all players someone intends to move on and you are able to cancel to get an item that you discovered. This way, you won’t be travelling back and forth so much.
The ”in the meanwhile” story bits really keeps the story alive while you are making your way to Flora to save the Captain’s son. They are fully voiced and very enjoyable. The story has many hidden gems stashed throughout the different zones. Part of me wishes for more of these hidden optional quests to really flesh it out more.
The game will take you roughly 4-10 hours depending on how much you wish to explore and complete. I could not put the game away for long even with some of the flaws. I felt that I wanted to progress some more even after having to take a short break from it from time to time.
- Beautiful handcrafted art style
- Good character skill diversity
- Family friendly
- Option to play story Coop
- Difficulty needs scaling to keep the game challenging throughout
- Attack animation can lock you in place
- Weak enemy AI