Curse of the Sea Rats Review – Pieces of Great

Curse of The Sea Rats key art
Curse of The Sea Rats key art

Gather round me, hearties, and let me spin you a tale of some salty sea dogs. Well, salty sea rats. Curse of The Sea Rats is a side-scrolling platformer where you can play as one of four heroes on a mission to save the Admiral’s son and win their freedom.

Set in 1777 on the Irish coast, a witch called Flora Burn curses everyone aboard your vessel to turn into rats. Tiny, adorable rats dressed as sailors. Not only that, but she also kidnaps the Admiral’s son for…reasons. You can play as one of four characters, all prisoners being transported back to England from the Caribbean.

Because, you know… Colonialism and Imperialism.

Setting Sail with Curse of the Sea Rats 

Former American soldier David Douglas, Japanese shogun warrior Akane Yamakawa, Cheyenne hunter Buffalo Calf, and fugitive slave from Barbados Brussa are your four potential protagonists with different backgrounds and specialties. They also all have different elemental powers. David is tied to fire, Buffalo Calf to air, Bussa is Earth, and Akane is water. It’s like Captain Planet but with rats. Or a more up-to-date reference like Avatar: The Last Air Bender. Whichever you prefer.

curse of the sea rats screenshot
Photo Credit: Petoon Studios

After being given your task, you also acquire half of an ancient amulet called The Eye of The Serpent. Inside the amulet is Wu Yun’s spiritual energy, emissary of the Shen who will help you unlock your inner strength and magical power. To upgrade your abilities, you have to collect spiritual energy, which comes from defeating enemies. Once you store up enough, you can return to Wu Yun and unlock new abilities on either your regular strength tree or your magical power tree.

Returning to Wu Yun also allows you to change your character anytime. Whichever hero you choose will be at the same level but won’t have the same level of abilities unlocked. It’s up to you to decide whom to level up when and which situation needs which skillset. I initially chose Bussa to play because he is the close-up, tanky melee fighter, and my childhood playing Tekken games means I often default to those.

This was a mistake.

It’s Vital To Choose The Right Character in Curse of the Sea Rats 

I highly recommend choosing someone with a more ranged attack for the first section, mainly because being close to the first boss is not ideal.

I struggled with Bussa for a while, but after continually getting destroyed by the first boss, I switched to Daniel. Daniel has a gun and a sword. Daniel was a better choice.

Bussa character sheet Curse of the sea rats
Photo Credit: Petoon Studios

I grew frustrated with my lack of progress until I realized that you must tailor your character to the situation unless you want to die repeatedly. This was clearly a gamer error because I took down the first boss in one go after switching to Daniel. Learn from my mistakes. The game also features the Dark Souls mechanic of reclaiming your dropped spiritual energy after you die. When you respawn at Wu Yun’s checkpoint, you must return to where you died to recover the precious power-up points. Or, leave them if it isn’t worth the effort.

The Best and Worst of Old-school 2D Platforming

As a 2D platformer, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that looks as good as Curse of The Sea Rats. The animation is hand drawn and echoes the classic style of Don Bluth, including the arcade cult hit Dragon’s Lair. It is truly beautiful to look at. The detail is lovely, the landscapes are nostalgic, and the character design is cutesy and unique. It often reminded me of the Disney film The Rescuers, but that could just be the rodent quotient.

There’s a great variety of enemies in each area, and the same goes for bosses. There are rock-throwing giant rats and even the King of the Crabs and his massive son that he rides around. Additionally, you’ll encounter a big Toucan called Banana. Whether you will encounter all of the bosses in your first go around in each area is another matter. Each area is filled with upper and lower sections, some of which are easy to miss. You don’t need to find everything to progress, but it’s fun. For example, you also collect treasures on your quest. The first treasure I found was a blonde wig that, when examined, says it grants you the power of Greyskull. There are a ton of fun little references to be found beyond this one example.

wu yun curse of the sea rats
Photo Credit: Petoon Studios

Of course, it all can’t be sea shanties and grog. I played Curse of The Sea Rats on Steam. Initially, I tried to play with keyboard control, but the key bindings couldn’t be changed, so I switched to the controller. I’ve mentioned that I have mobility/dexterity issues, and coordinating the space bar, J, U, and arrows was too much for my inflexible fingers.

Switching to the controller helped with that issue. However, it didn’t fix the distance of my character’s hit range, which seemed to vary at will. Sometimes I could strike at an enemy in the middle of a platform from the edge. Other times I would have to be much closer. The same went for jumping. Sometimes I would be able to reach a ledge to pull up. Other times, I wouldn’t be able to reach the same ledge. These are pretty minor gripes in the grand scheme of things, and I can’t be sure it isn’t an input lag issue. Still, whether playing on the keyboard or controller, it did seem to happen. Of course, these things make it a pretty authentic retro platformer experience.

We Can’t Ignore This Issue

There is another issue I would like to highlight. The development team at Petoon Studios has made a concerted effort to cast actors representing the cultures displayed on the screen. This is, of course, fantastic and should just be how things are done.

On the flip side is the continuation of the Mystical Asian trope that won’t go away. Wu Yun is designed like The Mandarin from Marvel or Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon. Along with that, he’s also a magical, mystical man. This stereotype is often perpetuated in media when it comes to Asian culture. In a separate but similar issue, two minor bosses in the game are fat. These characters are called Fatso and Fatsie. Surely we’re past this kind of thing now. 

Wrapping Up

Overall, Curse of The Sea Rats is a good game. It looks fantastic, and the voice acting, script, and character design, in general, are exciting and nostalgic. Unfortunately, however, chasing that nostalgia has also dragged in some less-than-desirable aspects that create a retro feel for the wrong reasons. Couple these issues with an occasionally frustrating gameplay/control experience, and the game is considerably less enjoyable than it has the potential to be.

Curse of The Sea Rats is out on April 6 for PC, PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch.


Curse of The Sea Rats key art
Curse of the Sea Rats Review – Pieces of Great
Curse of The Sea Rats is a beautiful game with retro-inspired gameplay. Unfortunately, it also features tropes better left in the past. Its frustrations lead to an uneven experience where the lows sometimes outweigh the highs.
Beautiful animation.
Fun, retro gameplay.
Wide range of characters and locations.
Some stereotypes/tropes have made it into the game when they should be left behind.
Gameplay can be frustrating.
Occasionally unresponsive controls.
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Written by Emma Oakman

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