Curse of the Sea Rats Review
- Story And Setting
- Visuals And Performance
Curse of the Sea Rats Review is a visually attractive game, but that cannot distract from a flawed gameplay system and a mediocre narrative.
- Developers: Petoons Studio
- Publishers: PQube
- Release Date: April 6, 2023
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Xbox Series X & Series S
- The Beautiful Art Style
- Character Designs
- Flawed Gameplay Mechanics
- No Fulfilling Rewards
- Same Skill Tree For Each Protagonist
- Technical Issues
The Metroidvania genre has no shortage of games, and yet it still possesses significant traction in the modern gaming market. So Petoons Studio has set out to carve its own niche with “Curse of the Sea Rats”, a mix of elegant hand-drawn art style, simplistic gameplay, and a squad of anthropomorphic mice since the setting is a nod to a bygone era where anthropomorphic rodents dominated cartoon shows.
And in this Curse of the Sea Rats Review, we will navigate through the ingredients that have been used to craft this game. And at the end, we will assess whether it has managed to stand out in the highly competitive market it is competing in, or is it forever doomed it to the depths of the high seas.
Story And Setting
Curse of the Sea Rats revolves around four individuals imprisoned on a British Ship. Due to a stroke of bad luck, the ship has an unfortunate run-in with a pirate witch who turns all the crew onboard into mice and kidnaps the captain’s son. Bending his knee before fate, the captain requests the four prisoners to free his son from the clutches of the witch, and in return promises them their freedom. Thus begins the adventure of our four heroes who must fulfill their captain’s request and reverse the curse cast upon them all the while battling a host of animal villains.
You can either play co-op with up to four people or go in solo, but the latter will only allow you to play as one character at a time, which can be swapped with another whenever you want. And while the narrative starts off really strong, giving a distinct and detailed background to each one of our protagonists, it falls flat as the game progresses. Their backstory is thrown out of the window and has little to no effect on their interactions with NPCs and even the ending.
The NPCs you meet along the way can also offer interesting dialogue, but most of the quests you encounter are the dreaded ‘fetch quests’, which do not bode well with the already barebones narrative of this title. The setting is reminiscent of old-school cartoons and PC games which can evoke a sense of nostalgia for many, but relying solely on that can only get you so far in both the gaming market and our Curse of the Sea Rats Review.
The core gameplay is similar to other titles in this subgenre, as players engage in combat, unlock new abilities, and navigate through the world using different platforming techniques. However, it fails to add anything new to this tried and tested formula to stand out. The combat is simple and features a combination of melee and magical abilities, and each of the four protagonists possesses a mildly distinct fighting style, and switching between them can momentarily breathe some life into encounters.
But this wears off soon enough as the skills of each of them, except magical abilities, are almost the same and are limited in scope. There are barely any upgrades to the existing abilities, and the ones that do exist are spread out thinly throughout the game’s length. Even defeating bosses does not unlock new upgrades and only awards quest items for NPCs. This is not enough to keep the gameplay loop fresh. The developers might have implemented this to make the gameplay kid-friendly, but all this does is destroy any sort of sense of progression and kills the incentive to progress further into the game.
Apart from the lack of upgrades, another flaw in the combat is that its design breaks up the character’s movement as players often need to stop their motion to attack or use an ability. This means they cannot run-and-slice enemies to keep their momentum. The developers did allow players to jump and attack, but on the other hand, spells cannot be executed while in the air and require your character to be grounded. These questionable combat designs are only a detriment to the game and fail to add anything to compensate for the otherwise poor narrative of this title.
Another key part of Metroidvania games, the platforming, is also not without its issues here. It is responsive and allows for navigation through narrow pathways and tunnels, but the character’s momentum while jumping is not balanced. This can end the player up in an undesired location, which can sometimes be really frustrating. Although the issue is not very prevalent, and many might not even notice it, I did have some unpleasant experiences due to it.
One positive that I would like to mention in this Curse of the Sea Rats Review is good level design. Each area in the game is structured so that navigating through them is relatively simple. There are multiple branching pathways which all have a common endpoint, so if one path seems too difficult you can switch to the next. These forking paths allow you to easily backtrack so as to not miss out on any item.
But again, as mentioned previously, the items themselves do not offer any substantial upgrades and are only limited to the category of “fetch quest’ collectibles. As a result, any sense of progression is ruined making backtracking an unattractive endeavor. These, and the previously mentioned design choices, hurt the relevance of this title in the modern gaming landscape. While it may find its audience among casual fans of the genre, it won’t succeed in forging a lasting memory in their minds.
Visuals And Performance
Curse of the Sea Rats makes a sincere effort to stand out from the crowd with its hand-drawn art. This unique visual style is one of the strongest aspects of this game as it showcases a level of intricacy in the details that is captivating. Along with the world, each character, ranging from NPCs to enemies, has received the same treatment visually, breathing life into the world.
However, the background visuals can sometimes fall short when compared to the character designs, which create a stark contrast and can disrupt the overall aesthetic that the game wants to deliver. However, this is only limited to a few environments, so the overall visual quality remains mostly intact. This traditional hand-drawn art and animations make this game unique among the haystack of other Metroidvania games.
The performance, on the other hand, does not remain intact over all of the platforms and can result in a multitude of issues that can negatively impact the experience. On PC, the game suffers from occasional freezing which can sometimes require a restart, causing you to lose all your progress. Besides that, the PC port is also plagued by a number of bugs which, although not game-breaking, can disrupt the overall experience. Consoles on the other hand fare a little better.
If one can look past these technical shortcomings, they can relish the beautiful hand-drawn art style that is on offer here, but that is certainly a big “if” as the other aspects of the game aren’t too shiny to warrant it.
Curse of the Sea Rats Review is a visually attractive game with a very unique and charming aesthetic. The narrative starts off really strong, providing in-depth background for each of our main characters, but this build-up is wasted and is rarely used during the major story sections.
The gameplay is easy and accessible, but is marred by questionable design choices that fail to compensate for the poor narrative that is presented here. When the core game design is flawed, technical issues can get even more annoying.
Many people will pick the game up for its art style but will drop it midway due to the flawed gameplay mechanics, mediocre fetch quests, and essentially no sense of progression. That is, unfortunately, the real Curse of the Sea Rats.
This has been our Curse of the Sea Rats Review. While you’re here, consider checking out some of our other articles.
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