Curse of the Sea Rats – PS5 Review 1

Curse of the Sea Rats is a metroidvania type game and it comes to us by way of Barcelona-based coders, Petoons Studio, the team behind Petoons Party and part of Sony’s Spanish initiative PlayStation Talents.
The story focuses on a crew of British sailors who are raided by pirates under the leadership of a witch called Flora Burn.  She kidnaps the Admiral’s son and turns the entire crew into human-sized rats, leaving him with no choice but to offer four of his prisoners their freedom if they can rescue his son.

With the plot out of the way, the gameplay is pretty much what you’d expect.  A series of interlinked rooms that you’ll need to navigate through using your platforming abilities and a degree of combat.
Each of your four playable characters starts with a basic jump, a melee attack (this is your primary form of attack) and a magic ability (a ranged attack with a degree of cooldown).  With those basic abilities you are sent off into the world, albeit with a handful of requests from other crewmembers.  These act as sub-quests of sorts but pretty much you’ll need to explore every room as you go, so these won’t take you out of your way.
Aside from the obligatory merchant early on (who mostly sells food items), there’s no reason to stick around and so you’ll proceed through screen after screen of obstacles, gaps and one-on-one skirmishs.  None of this is particularly remarkable though and to be honest the combat feels a little bit slow, stiff and undeveloped.  There’s a parrying system in there but that feels a little hit and miss at times and there’s no real weight behind attacks.  Also, enemies respawn when you re-enter rooms which can make navigating large areas of the map a bit of a chore.
The platforming is very metroidvania-ish.  If there’s a jump you can’t make, that’s because you need the double-jump move that you’ll earn later on (followed by a dash and a higher jump).  So you’ll definitely be backtracking between areas, a task that isn’t aided by the in-game map which makes it quite hard to see if you’ve got areas unexplored.  Still, it’s useful aside from that and easily accessed from L1.
In terms of room types, you’ve got your quick travel rooms – which are maybe a little too far apart but certainly worth unlocking – and checkpoint rooms.  The latter allow you to level up your characters (adding points to damage, improving your magic attack and sureing up your defence), switch out your characters (not that there’s a reason to as the only difference between them is some of their combat stats) and as checkpoints.  Annoyingly, these rooms don’t include quick travel, which usually means extra backtracking when you die.
Initially, the game is a little tough to get into.  The first boss battle certainly did a bit of a number on us and the individual fights do add up in terms of putting damage on you.  Luckily, your ability to level up does help smooth this out although there are still plenty of difficult moments ahead, especially with some of the later boss encounters.  Also, some of the platforming sections can be frustrating occasionally (we’re mainly thinking of the horrible tree section about a third of the way into the game).
But generally speaking, this is an okay attempt at the genre.  We see a lot of metroidvanias on PSN and not many of them really innovate but this one feels very predictable and it would be quite average if it wasn’t for the game’s presentation which does elevate things a little.
Indeed when you look at the game’s credits, there are a handful of programming and game design credits but loads of them for animation and graphic design.  That’s because Curse of the Sea Rats goes with a very traditional cartoon-like aesthetic.  Every character is well-designed and the animation is far better than you’d expect from most indie games.  It is slightly at odds with the game’s difficulty though in that the visual style will appeal to young kids but the gameplay will likely be too much for them but then again all your kids are playing Fortnite or some nonsense, right?  And you beat those tricky Disney games when you were a kid and maybe your kids need to learn that things can be difficult sometimes, we don’t know.
So, yep, Curse of the Sea Rats is a very solid example of the genre and, animation chops aside, a little predictable and maybe a tad trickier than it needs to be but rarely in a way where lateral thinking will help.  We liked it but it’s not a game that we expect to live long in the memory but for six to ten hours you’ll likely be frustrated but reasonably entertained too.
Curse of the Sea Rats
6 Overall
+ nice visual style with good quality animation
+ world layout is reasonably well-designed
+ gets better as you level up
- doesn't add much to the genre
- combat and movement can feel stiff
- finding where to go next can be unclear
Aside from some decent presentation, Curse of the Sea Rats doesn't do much to innovate the crowded metroidvania genre but it's a solid example of the genre and provides a degree of fun to go with some of the frustration.

About Richie

Rich is the editor of PlayStation Country. He likes his games lemony and low-budget with a lot of charm. This isn't his photo. That'll be Rik Mayall.

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