LadiesGamers: Curse of the Sea Rats

Curse of the Sea Rats Review

Game: Curse of the Sea Rats
Genre: Action, Adventure, Platformer
System: Nintendo Switch (Also on Steam (Windows & Linux), Xbox & PS4)
Developer|Publisher: Petoons Studio | PQube
Age Rating: EU 7+ | US Everyone 10+
Price: UK £16.99 | US $19.99 | EU € 19,99
Release Date: April 6th, 2023

Review code provided with many thanks to PQube. 

A Very Bad Case of Sea Sickness 

Curse of the Sea Rats is a 2D adventure game or a ‘ratovania’ as it’s described on the eShop. The vast majority of 2D adventure games I have covered on this wonderful site are single-player experiences. But Curse of the Sea Rats allows you to play locally with up to four players. A welcome feature indeed; however, for this review, I will be focusing mostly on the single-player experience.

It’s a hard life being at sea; set in 1777 on the Irish Sea on a ship heading back to the British Empire, the crew has become cursed by the pirate witch, Flora Burn, turning everyone into humanoid rats. Also, the ship’s Captain’s son has been kidnapped by her pirate minions. Playing as one of four prisoners on the ship to be sentenced to death, you are given a chance at redemption by saving the Captain’s son and lifting the curse.

The subject matter may seem quite serious, but the story presentation is light-hearted, somewhat like a children’s cartoon. Chatting to bosses and NPCs often results in plenty of witty banter, a lot of which didn’t really hit the mark for me. Many of the jokes just felt forced and unnecessary, but that will be up to the player’s own interpretation. Generally, the tone is suitable for all audiences with mild alcohol references. I did really like how the game portrayed rats in a more positive light, unlike the common interpretation in video games as a basic enemy in the first dungeon.

LadiesGamers: Curse of the Sea Rats
A crew of rat misfits

Fight and Explore

Curse of the Sea Rats is another 2D adventure that follows the familiar template. Starting to think I need to start copying and pasting this script but not today, as this game is pretty good at delivering a balance of exploration and combat. You can choose between four rat-like characters, all of which have their own combat play style. You have to commit to one to begin the game, but once you hit a save point, you are able to switch to another if the style of one doesn’t suit you.

When you begin the controls, combat mechanics are introduced with a simple tutorial that is easy for most gamers to pick up. From there, you are given free rein to explore the map to seek out the pirate bosses, take on side quests and find hidden chests and secrets. Something that stood out was the game doesn’t present a linear design. Sure, areas are locked off till you unlock a new ability, but often there are two branching paths for you to explore, making the world pretty expansive. Your map will keep track of the areas visited and will even highlight any chests you may have missed or can’t access.

What was a little odd is that side quests and locked doors are not tracked on the map. You either need to have a pretty good memory of where the NPC was hidden or you can examine important items in the options menu to give you a vague hint of where you’re supposed to go. I guess if all else fails, you can always get the old notepad out. 

LadiesGamers: Curse of the Sea Rats
Just hanging out

Cursed Difficulty 

The difficulty felt all over the place in the game. Everything seemed to be going pretty well at the start. The tutorials were useful, and the enemies were manageable. Then I hit the first boss fight, and everything just fell apart. The first boss dealt horrific damage leaving little room for error. Hit detection was messy, with it not being clear where to damage enemies. Since you take damage by touching them or being hit, this made things all the more tricky. This also extended to hazards like spikes which protrude out of the environment, making it unclear to the player if you come into contact with them or not. Pitfalls were also inconsistent.

Sometimes you fall down, take a little damage and get zapped back to the platform you last landed on. Other times you die in a single hit. Since there are no difficulty options, this is not a game that welcomes casual players. I was very tempted to throw in the towel early on this one, but there is a design element that held me onto the experience. When enemies are defeated, they drop money and spirit orbs. Money is used at the vendor to buy useful potions to heal up or even buff your stats. The orbs can be used to upgrade your character through a skill tree found at the save spot.

Accumulate Experience

Experience is accumulated quite easily, even in the early stages, so you can grind a few levels up to the extent you can practically force your way through some of the bosses. This was pretty much what got me through boss fights. Even after the initial hurdle, I just tolerated the boss rather than enjoying them. You will level up naturally as you progress through the game and these increased levels will transfer even if you switch your character. Perks in the skills trees, however, do not. 

LadiesGamers: Curse of the Sea Rats
No need to be crabby

Fine Looking Vermin

The graphics are eye-catching. The characters and world are presented with detailed hand-drawn sprites with smooth animations. It absolutely nails the classic cartoon look it’s going for. Each main playable character and the NPCs feel unique in personality with brilliant complimentary voice acting. The game’s environments come in various biomes to explore, such as spider-infested caverns covered in webs and eggs enough to give the player the heebie-jeebies. This is then balanced with autumn-like woodlands with orange leaves falling from the trees, giving a sense of calm and serenity. Then you discover more unusual locations like an old granny’s barn, including the granny herself.

It’s a bit of an odd interconnected world, but seeing what the game would throw at you next was enjoyable. The soundtrack compliments each of these biomes nicely. It doesn’t shy away from adding a pirate melody here or there to remind you of your scoundrel roots. Performance for the game was good on TV and handheld. I encountered one odd glitch where the enemies in one area all turned into black shadows, but this seemed to clear up by reloading the game.

LadiesGamers: Curse of the Sea Rats
Careful of those treasure chests

Conclusion: Ratdemption

I initially disliked Curse of the Sea Rats, but the more I kept at the game, the more it hooked me, and I ended up enjoying myself. The barrier to entry may be a little high for some players with difficult combat and messy hit detection. But once you level up a few times and play around with the characters, you should be able to settle in a style that suits you. This is made all the more enticing by being able to pay with three other loved ones locally. Something rarely seen in adventure games.

The design and animations are excellent and make for a nice cherry on top of the experience. If you’re looking for a solid 2D adventure to play alone or with loved ones, this pirate trip will surely keep you busy for a few game nights. Wearing a pirate outfit for the experience is optional. 

Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot 

I like it a lot

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