Curse of the Sea Rats Review – Formulaic to a fault

Despite its appealing art and unique story, Curse of the Sea Rats suffers from a lack of ambition that holds the game back.
Sea Rats Review
Image: Petoons Studio

Curse of the Sea Rats is a title that I really wish I could like more. While the game is filled with phenomenal art, a cute story, and an overall feeling that a ton of passion went into the development, it suffers from the typical problems that most games in the “Metroidvania” genre do. These problems, while not game-breaking, are really hard for me to excuse, which makes much of the genre a pass for me.

If you’ve never heard of a “Metroidvania” title, you’ve probably seen plenty of them. Owing its namesake to the classic Metroid and Castlevania games (the “Metroid” and “Vania” respectively), these games take inspiration from the aforementioned games when it comes to gameplay design. Namely, the Metroidvania design model involves putting the player in a 2D side-scrolling map full of enemies and platforming puzzles, often with very little guidance and the simple objective of moving forward.

As far as indie titles go, no genre is more jam-packed with games than Metroidvania. While these games are more often than not artistically unique, that usually seems to be the only thing that separates them from each other, with very little (if any) on the genre’s iconic and, in my opinion, stale gameplay.

While I always applaud the art direction in these games, a game has to be more than just a slideshow of fantastic artwork. Without taking risks or innovating on the genre’s core mechanics, a lot of these games just kind of blend together for me.

With such little desire or means to innovate in an absolutely massive genre, I find myself skeptical when a new Metroidvania title drops. With Curse of the Sea Rats, I was unfortunately correct in my skepticism.

Curse of the Sea Rats is a 2D action platformer set in the age of Mouse Piracy. After you and your pirate crew are transformed into rodents by a pirate witch, it’s up to you to battle other rodent pirates and engage in other such mouse-capades in an attempt to reverse the curse.

Curse Of The Sea Rats 2
Image: Petoons Studio

As far as the story is concerned, the game is a perfectly serviceable experience that people may enjoy. It has unique vibes that remind me of old-school kid-centric PC games and is overall very cute.

This cuteness is complemented by the incredible hand-drawn art style that gives so much personality to every character on the screen. Frankly, at times, I thought the game was made only to show off the great art, and it could have been anything else besides what it is. I would have far preferred it to be a sort of visual novel instead.

The character art is phenomenal. However, it’s pretty disappointing when this art isn’t consistent with the game’s backgrounds, which are super flat and generally uninteresting. The contrast between the two is unsettling, and at times, I felt a sort of uncanny valley looking at the character sprites walking across the screen. It almost felt like everything in the background was stretched out to fit a higher resolution than it was meant to, and I had a few moments of uncanny valley.

Earlier in this review, I mentioned that the game suffers from the oh-so-common curse of failing to innovate on the gameplay of its genre. Because this is true, there really isn’t a whole lot to say about the gameplay. You battle numerous enemies on a 2D plane, do some platforming, and unlock some special moves.

The game does a lot of these formulaic mechanics very well. Combat feels good, with both regular combo attacks and magic at your disposal, and platforming is pretty responsive and smooth. However, I felt the characters kept too much momentum when jumping, which could put me in places I really didn’t want to be at times. The game makes plentiful use of backtracking, and there are a number of bosses with unique move-sets that you must learn in order to defeat them.

Overall, the gameplay is really run-of-the-mill, and that is perhaps the biggest thing holding it back, in my opinion.

Curse Of The Sea Rats 1
Image: Petoons Studio

Because Curse of the Sea Rats has no special mechanics to really sell you on, you’re basically paying for another Metroidvania game that you may already own. Curse of the Sea Rats needs to really sell you on the premise of being a funny little pirate mouse because that’s really the only thing that separates it from other titles in the genre: the setting.

Curse of the Sea Rats drags its formulaic gameplay on for just over ten hours if you play the levels fast enough and don’t try to collect everything in sight. Long before this point, the charm of the sea-faring mouse adventure had already passed, and I was quickly losing interest in the story and characters.

I don’t want to be mean to the writers of Curse of the Sea Rats; the characters are fine, and the story is fine, but it just wasn’t something that I was into. I kept thinking to myself that while this wasn’t something I was personally into, I could imagine someone else being a fan of it.

That’s sort of a problem, though, because I can’t imagine who to suggest Curse of the Sea Rats to. Fans of Metroidvania games are likely going to skip this in favor of other titles that have more ambition in the game design, and those who are interested in the unique setting and fantastic art would probably have a better time watching someone else play than trying to slog through a passable but unambitious action platformer.

The Final Word

Curse of the Sea Rats is a game that fails to justify itself. For all the work that went into the beautiful art and the concept of mouse pirates, the game would very likely have been better off as a visual novel instead of an action-platformer with unambitious gameplay.

4

Curse of the Sea Rats was reviewed on the PC. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website! Curse of the Sea Rats is available on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox OnePlayStation 5, Nintendo SwitchPlayStation 4, and Steam.

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges is a hobby writer and a professional gamer, at least if you asked him. He has been writing fiction for over 12 years and gaming practically since birth, so he knows exactly what to nitpick when dissecting a game's story. When he isn't reviewing games, he's probably playing them.

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