It is undeniable that the game series Metroid and Castlevania have had a significant impact on the gaming industry, so much so that the sub-genre Metroidvania is named after them. Their influence is apparent in games across the industry, including some of the biggest titles. In recent years, games like Rogue Legacy and Dead Cells have utilised this style to great effect, and while it’s not your typical Metroidvania game, Curse of the Sea Rats manages to create a unique game that defines itself within the genre.
When Curse of the Sea Rats was initially announced, it was described as a distinct Metroidvania entry. Developer Petoons Studio and publisher PQube coined it a “ratoidvania” and made a bold choice by incorporating a pirate theme. Typically, games in this sub-genre mimic the Sci-Fi aesthetic of Metroid or the Gothic Fantasy feel of Castlevania, which can lead to being too similar to their namesakes and other games released at the same time.
However, Curse of the Sea Rats manages to blend the inspiration from the aforementioned games and create an intriguing and unique experience. Mechanically, it plays exactly as one would expect. The gameplay mechanics are standard, but there is a sense of comfort and ease in controlling the characters and executing moves. This can be helpful for players new to the genre, but the game never truly challenges the player.
“I’m always a sucker for a good narrative in a game, and this one did not disappoint.”
The difficulty level and gameplay both feel safe and do not present much of a challenge compared to other metroidvania games. While I did experience a few deadly mishaps against bosses, there was no point where I felt I was struggling to defeat a boss. As someone who enjoys games that are brutally unforgiving, Curse of the Sea Rats felt it was lacking in this department.
Furthermore, the game includes a currency system to level up the characters and ensure they remain on par with the enemies in each biome. This adds a lot to the game, but it builds on to the hand-holding venture. It would be useful to have a difficulty selector in the future for players who want a more challenging experience.
For me, the story and characters are the game’s strongest points. I’m always a sucker for a good narrative in a game, and this one did not disappoint. Set somewhere off the Irish coast in 1777, the game follows the story of a British navy ship attacked by pirates on its way back to the mainland. Flora Burn, the leader of the pirates, turns the crew into rats and kidnaps the Admiral’s son, setting off a chain of events that tasks four prisoners with finding the boy, capturing Burn, and breaking the spell that turned everyone into rats.
“The game’s overall aesthetic is undeniably breathtaking.”
The game begins when you choose one of four playable characters: David Douglas, Buffalo Calf, Bussa, and Akane Yamakawa. Each character has unique skills and physical and magic skill trees, which makes it hard not to try them all out. Plus, each playable character portrays a different culture from history. Personally, Buffalo was my favourite, who felt like a rogue character in an RPG.
The playable characters are well-rounded, which made it easy to switch between them and enjoy playing as each one. Even the side characters, including the big, bad Flora Burn, her lackeys, and side-quest givers, are given depth and don’t feel one-dimensional. For instance, I loved Wu Yun, the spirit who helps you upgrade characters and switch between them. The well-rounded characters show how well-written the game is. It even had me laughing out loud a few times.
The game’s overall aesthetic is undeniably breathtaking. With its expertly crafted 3D environments and exquisitely drawn character models, it’s a visual feast. I was continually awed by not only the quality of the game’s animation but also by how seamlessly everything flowed together. Even as you explore the vast, non-linear world, each biome is uniquely designed to captivate and keep you engaged, ensuring you never tire of the stunning visuals.
“Curse of the Sea Rats would be a regrettable miss for anyone.”
Rest assured, the game has got you covered if you are concerned about multiplayer. With four playable characters, the option for up to four-player couch co-op is available. This feature enhances the already enjoyable gameplay, bringing a cooperative experience to a genre that is typically dominated by single-player modes.
Despite not reaching the levels of some of the top Metroidvania games, Curse of the Sea Rats stands out with its unique features and would be a regrettable miss for anyone. The game is priced at £34.99 / US$39.99 on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch, while pricing for Xbox and PC via Steam is currently unavailable. However, Amazon has a discounted offer for the PlayStation 4 version, available for £24.99 / $29.99.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PlayStation 4; code was provided by the Publisher.