‘Curse of the Sea Rats’ Offers Impressive Visuals Despite Certain Gameplay Issues – Review

Curse of the Sea Rats Game 2023 characters
Curse of the Sea Rats (Image: PR/PQube)

Curse of the Sea Rats is a visually appealing entry in the Metroidvania genre. However, the gameplay and story elements could have been a lot better.

I was provided with free digital codes for Curse of the Sea Rats on Steam/PC (demo) and Xbox for review. The opinions I have are my own.

I’ve been looking forward to trying my hand at Curse of the Sea Rats since August 2019. I really liked the concept of our heroes being cursed and turned into rats and trying to go back to their human forms while also seeking their freedom. And while I enjoyed the visuals and the premise (reminiscent of the ’90s cartoons I grew up watching), certain issues with the gameplay left me a bit disappointed.

The story is easy to understand. There’s a lot of comedy involved, which I appreciated. Essentially, we have a pirate witch named Flora Burn who manages to escape a prison ship. There’s a magical curse involving an ancient amulet, and everyone onboard gets transformed into different species of rats. While making her escape with her pirate crew, Flora also kidnaps the Admiral’s son. The ship has our four playable characters (David Douglas, Buffalo Calf, Bussa, and Akane Yamakawa) who are tasked with rescuing the kid to gain their freedom.

The backstory given to each character – revealing how they ended up being imprisoned by the British army – was okay. I get that the dev team wanted to make the cast diverse, but more thought needed to be put into how the backstories could impact the narrative, unique dialogue, and basically, making the characters feel like individual beings instead of a “skin” swap depending on what kind of fighting style you wanted to use during a particular mission. 

Talking about the fighting style and abilities: David has an affinity for fire, and his weapons are a cutlass and a pistol for close and long-range attacks.

Buffalo Calf uses daggers for long-range attacks and has an elemental affinity to air. Bussa is the brawler and is all about close-range fighting and utilizing his affinity to Earth. Akane Yamakawa has an affinity for water and uses a naginata for mid to long-range combat.

As someone who likes water as an element in games, I decided to play Curse of the Sea Rats as Akane. And I quickly found out that it was a mistake to do so. She looks good running around while wielding her weapon, but her fighting mechanic wasn’t for me.

So, I ended up playing as Buffalo Calf and found my experience to be much better. Her ability to throw daggers at her enemies from afar was very useful.

The good news is that you don’t have to stick with a particular character. You can swap characters at checkpoints. You can level up their abilities as you collect spiritual energy. The improvements include increasing the likelihood of landing critical hits, boosting overall damage, etc… you know, the usual stat upgrades you expect from such titles.

Kind of helping you along the way is a spirit named Wu Yun, who is housed inside the amulet your character carries. I found Wu Yun’s personality to be quite amusing. He’s old and tired of everything happening around him. And I don’t blame him.

As you progress through the game, be prepared for a lot of backtracking if you’re into exploring all of the hidden locations and completing certain side quests (which are mostly about item collection and retrieval). And while you do get a map and are able to open teleportation portals (by spending spiritual energy points), it isn’t the easiest to follow. I would have liked to have some kind of pointer to aid my trek or more legends, etc.

I found the Boss battles to be fun. I didn’t experience much difficulty defeating them once I got their attack pattern down. Items to replenish health and mana points made such encounters easier. Also, dying is a thing that will happen in this game. So, don’t feel bad about dying too much (but don’t overdo it if you want to keep most of your progress up to that point). You can always try to face an enemy again after you have collected more spiritual energy points and made yourself a bit stronger. 

Also, if you can, I would recommend playing this game in multiplayer mode. The solo mode is okay, but I found the game a lot easier to progress through with two players. Take note; I didn’t complete the entire game in 2-player mode. But the 3 hours I was able to play Curse of the Sea Rats with a friend (who also reviews video games) made me experience a sharp contrast when I compared that particular session to my solo play run. This game can support up to four players, but I wasn’t able to test that.

The visual department is where Curse of the Sea Rats really shines. The hand-drawn art is so good. From our heroes to the enemies to the locations, you can tell that a lot of thought went into designing this game’s aesthetic. The voicework for certain characters also adds to the appeal. One of the Boss fights is with a character who is essentially a Rat-Dracula. Which, yes!!!

Again, as I have said, the visuals, character design, and voicework really shine in Curse of the Sea Rats.

However, we are talking about a video game here, and that’s why, in my opinion, more weight should be given to gameplay. And that’s where this indie title lacks. Now, don’t get me wrong, the gameplay issues aren’t so serious that they make this title unplayable. It is a completely playable game that can give you around 10 hours of gameplay depending on how much exploring and leveling-up you do.

However, the current gameplay issues can be kind of frustrating. I found some of my attacks not landing properly on random enemies. The ‘Parry’ system isn’t the best. And there’s just an overall feel of clunkiness when it comes to the fighting mechanic, regardless of which character you choose to play as.

I do feel these issues can be fixed. So, here’s hoping the dev team listens to such complaints and releases a bunch of much-needed patches to improve this platformer. The story is there. The visuals deliver. And so do the voicework and music. It just needs better gameplay elements.  

Curse of the Sea Rats will be released on April 6, 2023, for PlayStation 4/5, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and Steam.

Are you interested in playing it?

Feel free to share your thoughts with us.

Author: Farid-ul-Haq

Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.

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