Curse of the Sea Rats

A game by Petoons Studio for PC, Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox X/S, originally released in 2023.
Curse of the Sea Rats is an open world action-adventure that takes place in the year 1777. A British navy vessel is returning home from the Caribbean with a brig full of pirates who have been charged with treason. But along the way, the ship runs into some unusual trouble… One of the captured pirates is a witch named Flora Burn, and she uses a magical amulet to transform everyone on the ship into rats (including herself). The ship runs aground along the coast of Ireland, and most of the pirates escape with the witch, kidnapping the admiral’s son in the process.
Four prisoners are left behind, and they strike a deal with the admiral (who is confusingly named Blacksmith) to rescue his son and bring the witch back – dead or alive – in exchange for their freedom. They also hope to find a means of breaking the witch’s curse… although the ship's transmogrified crew generally seem to be taking their transformations in stride. The player may select one of these four playable characters, or select multiple characters for 1P-4P local co-op.
The playable characters include David Douglas, a former member of the American Continental Army; Buffalo Calf, a Cheyenne hunter; Bussa, the leader of a slave revolt in Barbados; and Akane Yamakawa, a Japanese onna-bugeisha (a female samurai warrior) who had been on some kind of mission in the Americas. Each character has unique attacks and magical abilities, but they share a basic moveset that includes a 2x variable jump, a block and parry, a ledge grab, the ability to duck and scamper forward to pass under low overhangs, and the ability to wall jump and wall slide along wooden surfaces.
David uses a sword with a 3-hit combo consisting of two swipes followed by an overhead slash, with a short cooldown in between. He can perform an upward sword strike while standing, or a low strike while ducking, and he can swing his sword to the left, right, or downward while jumping. His elemental affinity is fire, and his default magic ability allows him to fire a powerful pistol blast to the left or right.
Buffalo has a quick 2-hit combo. She can perform an upward kick while standing or toss a projectile while ducking. Her jumping attack allows her to toss a trio of stone blades, with one travelling straight ahead and the others moving at upward and downward angles, or she can toss them all at a downward angle. Her magical affinity is air, and her default ability allows her to fire off 3 projectiles in a straight line.
Bussa is the bruiser of the bunch, as he fights with his fists and can take a lot of damage, but he doesn’t have the strongest attack strength of the four characters. Bussa has a slow 3-hit combo with a left and right punch followed by an uppercut, and he can perform a bigger uppercut while standing still and attacking upward, while he uses a leg sweep to attack downward. When jumping and attacking downward, he performs a body slam. His magic is earth-based and his default ability allows him to perform a ground strike that sends a shockwave along the ground, but it takes a second or two to initiate.
Akane attacks using a spear with two swipes followed by a repeated jutting attack that does multiple hits of damage, making her a particularly effective combatant in the early going. The tradeoff for such a powerful combo is that there is a pause before and after the repeated strikes, potentially leaving her open to attack. She can also perform an upward swipe, a low strike, and a downward diving spear attack. Her magical affinity is water, and she can actually transform her body into water for a moment as she lunges forward to damage enemies in front of her.
When playing solo, you aren’t given any indication of the various characters’ stats and abilities, but you can swap between them at any checkpoint. Characters share inventory and level up together, but they are upgraded independently, so it’s a good idea to figure out which character you wish to use early on and focus your upgrades on them.
Until you’ve upgraded your character a bit, you’ll likely find combat to be pretty tough, as enemies take multiple hits to kill and require you to be mindful of incoming attacks so you can block or parry. This may lead you toward selecting Bussa for his increased defense, or Akane for her ability to deal out multiple strikes, but you can eventually level up any of these characters to the point where they can take down most enemies quickly. It’s also worth taking a look at each character’s upgrade tree to see if there are any skills that interest you.
Each character has two separate skill trees, which are accessible from any checkpoint, with one focused on physical attacks and defense, and the other focused on magic. By upgrading your physical abilities, you can increase your damage output, chances for a critical hit, critical hit damage, and your health and defense, and there are a few character-specific offensive abilities that can be unlocked further along the tree. The magical upgrade tree lets you unlock new spells and increase your magic meter, which start out at a single unit.
While combat is tough in the early going, you can eventually become overpowered by unlocking all of the available upgrades. For instance, David has an ability that allows him to restore a small amount of health when attacking enemies, and another ability grants him increased strength for a limited time. Since your magic meter is refilled by attacking enemies, you can spend magic points to buff your strength, then unleash attacks on enemies that refill your health and magic, and then buff your strength again. This make most boss encounters quite easy.
Upgrades are purchased using spirit energy, which is dropped from killed enemies, with larger amounts dropped from tougher foes. You won’t have much energy to spend in the early going, but you’ll be overflowing with spirit energy by the game’s midpoint. This energy is collected in a piece of the amulet that the pirate witch left behind when she fled the ship, and you’ll lose half of your accumulated energy when you are killed, but you can recollect it if you return to the spot where you died.
This magical artifact also lets you summon the spirit of an ancient warrior who is trapped within. This can be done at certain designated areas, which act as the game’s checkpoints. The spirit warrior explains that the unbreakable Ancestral Amulet has been around for centuries, passed from one person to the next, and the spirit within is bound to serve its master. Flora stole the amulet and has been using its powers to grow stronger… but this comes at a price, and the spirit intends to collect.
The game world is open, with access to a large portion of the map available with your default abilities… and you can access most of the map with just the double jump, which is the first new ability you gain. You are given no direction as to where to go next, and most NPC’s challenge you to seek out optional items. Even boss encounters may be bypassed in favor of exploration, at least for a while. This leads to a lot of wandering around as you spend hours trekking around the world, finding new themed areas, and filling out the map, with very few narrative interjections along the way.
At a fork in the road, you could easily take one path and find an hour of exploration that’s entirely different than the hour you would have spent on the other route. It’s an unusual amount of freedom, even for a metroidvania, and finding your way forward mostly comes down to taking every branch you see until you fill out the map. Unfortunately, a lot of exploration is rewarded in treasure chests filled with health restoratives, which could just as easily be purchased since you’ll usually have more money than you can spend. It can be somewhat disappointing to risk your life jumping between rocky outcroppings over bottomless pits only to find a treasure chest containing a single apple.
Using the map to navigate is also slightly troublesome, as it’s themed to look like a pirate’s treasure map – complete with an “X” that marks your position – but the game uses a dark brown color to outline the rooms instead of the traditional white outlines seen in other metroidvania titles. The low contrast between the background and the edge of the map can make it difficult to tell whether you're looking at a dead end or a room that you haven’t fully explored, which makes it hard to determine where you should go next.
Further impacting the pace of the experience is the fact that many rooms are very small. This can really slow things down as you retrace your steps, since you must sit through a loading screen every time you move from one room to another, and enemies respawn when you leave a room and return. Some rooms are only the size of a single screen and contain no enemies or obstacles, so there’s no challenge other than the amount of time it takes you to walk from one side of the room to the other. This is offset by the fact that you slowly open up warp points around the map that let you quickly return to previous areas.
In the early going, you must be mindful of enemy strikes so you can block or parry, but eventually you’ll be able to smash most enemies in the face with repeated up-close strikes, preventing most of them from being able to retaliate. That said, there are some challenges where you must face brutes, flying enemies, or enemies that can cause others to spawn – sometimes all at once – forcing you to prioritize your targets and fight more strategically. There are also a few areas where you get locked in a room and must defeat multiple powerful enemies before you can move forward.
Bosses have a lot of personality, and each one engages you in conversation before and after combat, and they have a wide array of moves as well. Bosses occasionally unleash heavy attacks that leads to lots of downtime where you can get in multiple hits, but you can’t rely solely on this… you’ll need to get in and deal steady damage throughout each encounter if you hope to emerge victorious. As mentioned, you can generally hold off on facing bosses until you’ve thoroughly explored the area, but some bosses grant new abilities once they’re defeated, so you’ll need to take most of them down if you want to move forward.
Visually, the game is quite lovely, mixing traditionally animated 2D characters with simpler 3D backgrounds, but the two styles complement each other well. This visual style also allows for some nice environmental moments where the camera pulls in tight as you explore narrow passages, or zooms way out as you traverse the open countryside or jump between platforms on windy cliffsides, and there are different visual styles for each themed area. The soundtrack is mostly laid back, which supports the generally explorative nature of the game. Most NPC’s have character portraits and are fully voiced, with a variety of accents, although a lot of these encounters center around retrieving a certain object and bringing it back, rather than delving much into the overarching story.

Curse of the Sea Rats was developed by Petoons Studio, which was founded in 2016 by Sergio García and Daniel del Amor, and based in Barcelona, Spain. Music for the game was composed by Màxim Ballet. The studio previously developed My Friend Peppa Pig, PJ Masks: Heroes of the Night, Bratz: Flaunt your Fashion and Petoons Party.
The game was published by PQube, which also published Aggelos and numerous other games.