Action Indie Platformer Review

Curse of the Sea Rats – Review

Both Disney and Don Bluth were staples of my childhood, so when I heard about Curse of the Sea Rats, a “ratroidvania” game in the style of these classic animated films, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. Curse of the Sea Rats certainly looks the part and talks the talk, but how does it play? Let’s dive into this rodent adventure.

Curse of the Sea Rats - Four Players

A Tale of Witchcraft and Woe

Curse of the Sea Rats will draw people in with its art and animation. The developers list classic movies like The Great Mouse Detective and An American Tale as inspirations, and Curse of the Sea Rats fits right in with that aesthetic. The detail, polish, and character that suffuse the visuals are spectacular. It’s particularly stunning how smooth and natural the character sprites look in motion during gameplay, and this gives both the protagonists and enemies a sense of personality through their movements, even when they don’t have much screen time or dialogue.

The story begins with a beautiful animated cutscene–the year is 1777 and a British vessel sails for home port, carrying prisoners destined for the hangman’s noose. That is, until pirate witch Flora Burn uses her magic to transform everyone aboard into rats and absconds with the admiral’s son. Stranded and short of manpower, the admiral strikes a deal with four prisoners: rescue his son in exchange for a full pardon. The lavish opening and supernatural hook got me excited at the prospect of playing through the swashbuckling adventure of a classic animated film in game form.

Unfortunately, the writing and acting quickly burst this bubble. The voicing is hammy and plays up ridiculous accents to such a degree that it’s hard to take anyone seriously. Dialogue is limited to barebones exposition and quippy non-sequiturs. The plot is more nonexistent than bad. Outside the setup I described, Curse of the Sea Rats intersperses cutscenes showing the machinations of Flora and her crew as you progress. However, these focus on comic relief, casting Flora as a cartoonish villain fit for Saturday morning TV and her crew as a gang of buffoons. While this can give Curse of the Sea Rats some moment-to-moment charm, the story never develops beyond an outline.

Curse of the Sea Rats - Story

Rat Pack

Once the action kicks off, Curse of the Sea Rats offers you a choice of the four playable prisoners. American colonist David Douglas is the all-rounder. He sports a standard arsenal of sword attacks alongside a basic fire projectile and balanced stats. Cheyenne hunter Buffalo Calf emphasizes movement and ranged attacks. She can throw knives and has the best suite of evasion abilities but also the smallest health pool. At the other extreme, fugitive slave Bussa is the tank. He’s plodding and his fists don’t have much reach, but he can block most attacks and has the health to take some hits. Lastly, Japanese warrior Akane Yamakawa excels at aerial combat and has some unusual movement techniques, such as a dash that goes backwards instead of forwards.

Each character has an accompanying skill tree you can develop by spending spiritual energy gained from defeated foes. Most of the unlocks are small passive buffs that you won’t notice immediately but accumulate over time. Active abilities tend to be situational, more generic percent buffs, or fire-and-forget sinks for your energy orbs. While the skills do make you stronger, I never found the system especially interesting or got excited about unlocking new skills. It’s also annoying that each character’s skill tree must be developed separately, so if you want to change characters mid-run, you have to start again from zero, at least when it comes to skills. You simultaneously gain experience and levels as you progress that increase your health and stats, which unlike the skill trees are shared across characters.

Notably, Curse of the Sea Rats offers up to four player local co-op, which is not a feature I’ve seen in similar games. I didn’t have a chance to try this myself, but it’s a cool addition that I imagine makes things both more fun and more chaotic. It’s easy to see how having friends along for the ride would help in fights but might get messy when navigating the platforming sections.

Curse of the Sea Rats - Skill Tree

These Old Bones

Regardless of who you choose, your character handles stiffly in both the combat and platforming. The parry animation in particular is glacial, making parries awkward to time correctly. Add in slow (albeit cool-looking) attack animations plus the ability to stunlock most non-boss enemies, and you feel less like a suave swashbuckler and more like a brawling brute bashing baddies into submission by mashing the attack button. Things get a bit better once you unlock the dash and double jump, but neither movement nor combat ever feel as sharp or smooth as you would like.

Bosses require more care since you can’t mindlessly stunlock them into submission. That said, I didn’t find them especially challenging. The attack patterns tend to be straightforward to learn, and it’s not hard to find the openings to attack. While it makes sense for the early bosses to be simple, the complexity doesn’t ramp up as much as I expected. Bosses mostly just do their thing on loop, generally becoming a bit more aggressive or gaining some small twist on their abilities once you get them to low health. The one boss that took me a handful of tries did so because of instakill attacks, which was more frustrating than fun.

That said, Curse of the Sea Rats isn’t necessarily an easy game. Rather, it creates challenge in the wrong places with an inverted difficulty curve. Early on, the generic mook can take off half your health and healing is scarce. Combine this with feeling out the game, and you’ll likely rack up some deaths in the first zone. However, you quickly level to the point where the numbers are much more forgiving and new abilities and items give you more flexibility in managing your resources. Once you slog through the opening, the midgame is breezy in comparison. Even if you can’t avoid boss attacks, they don’t hit that hard relative to your health pool. Challenge picks up again in the endgame, with enemies receiving a large increase to their damage, but by then you have lots of options to respond and a good feel for what works (stunlocking).

What Shall We Do with the Drunken Rat?

Curse of the Sea Rats features a number of small design choices that make the experience unnecessarily tedious and annoying. To give an example: Curse of the Sea Rats goes the Souls route with health potions; you can only carry a small number at any one time. While this system usually includes free restocks at save points, Curse of the Sea Rats makes you walk back to the shop and spend money if you want more. Now imagine you’re trying to take down a tricky boss, and you see how this wastes your time, forcing you to spend a few extra minutes farming gold (if you don’t have enough) and walking to and from the shop if you want to give yourself the best chance in the upcoming fight. Another frustrating moment comes when, late in the game, Curse of the Sea Rats removes your ability to fast travel and arbitrarily blocks off large portions of the map.

At least with the above examples, you can see how Curse of the Sea Rats was trying to build challenge and tension, even if the execution was poor. The same can’t be said for the choice to have Wu Yun, the spirit of a magic amulet that provides save points, insult you every time you die. I suppose the developers must have thought they were being clever, but it’s obnoxious and grating. This is ultimately a small detail, but it feels like an apt metaphor for Curse of the Sea Rats’ problems. The developers wanted to show off their clever ideas and the cool things they could do but failed to put much thought into how or whether these ideas would come together to create a cohesive and enjoyable experience for the player.


Aside from its impressive hand-drawn animation, Curse of the Sea Rats is at its best a mediocre game that does little to stand out from the innumerable alternatives. At its worst, it’s tedious, grating, and unfun. Maybe if you love traditional animation and rats you’ll find something to enjoy here, but I’d wait for a discount before considering Curse of the Sea Rats.


Platforms: PC, PlayStation, XBox, Nintendo Switch

If you enjoy platformers, then perhaps you’d like our review for Kirby and the Forgotten Land or Metroid Dread.

Many thanks go to PQube for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.

If you’d like to see more articles from us, please remember to follow us on Twitter🐦 and consider turning notifications on. Or type in your E-mail address and click the button for free email updates. You can also come chat with us on Discord.

Support High-Quality And Detailed Coverage

Want to support the cost of us bringing you these articles or just buy us a coffee for a job well done? Click the Ko-fi button below. You can even find some digital goodies in our shop~!