Much can be said about hand drawn art. On one hand, any piece of visual art that was made by a human, regardless of medium, could be considered drawn by hand, after all. Then again, that term is most usually associated with actual drawings on paper, or at least, an emulation of that look by using a computer and a virtual canvas.
In Petoons Studio’s Curse of the Sea Rats’ case, a new action-platformer very much in the vein of old school 16-platformers, one could say it’s inspired by the brilliant hand drawn animation of the early 1980s and 1990s feature-length animations from the likes of Don Bluth and even Disney. It’s beautifully conceived in visual terms, and while its entirety isn’t 2D, what in fact is hand animated looks fantastic.
As a group of prisoners aboard a ship headed to England for your trial, your trip is cut short when an evil pirate queen curses herself and the whole crew, turning them into mice, shipwrecking everyone somewhere in the sea. Upon arriving, she kidnaps the captain’s son, who turns to you for his rescue in exchange for your freedom.
Early on into your adventure, you run into an ancient spirit who gives you part of a medallion that’s said to hold immense power and is coincidentally sought by the pirate queen, who holds the other half of that artifact. A number of her crewmates serve as bosses that you end up going up against on your way to find and hopefully save lil’ Timmy.
By defeating each of them, you gain a special power, and much in the way of the much reviled sub-genre in platformers whose portmanteau name I refuse to mention [editor’s note: metroidvania], you use these abilities to reach previously inaccessible parts of the map. In that regard, Curse of the Sea Rats works well – it offers teleport points for easy travel that can be unlocked as long as you have enough spirit coins, and checkpoints are distributed somewhere close to generously.
What might get in the way of your adventuring is the game’s not so excellent controls. Your rat has the tendency to inadvertently hold momentum when quickly pressing buttons, making your actions feel imprecise and the controls unresponsive. While in games like Dark Souls your character’s momentum is a gameplay feature that has to be taken into account when moving and, most importantly, fighting, in Curse of the Sea Rats it’s a nuisance.
In time, it’s possible to tailor your gameplay style to suit this control annoyance, but in the end, the game would’ve been much, MUCH more enjoyable if that didn’t have to be something you needed to get used to in the first place. This problem with unresponsiveness gets in the way of properly defending yourself, which in this game is a block button that only works if you’re completely stationary.
Other than that quibble, everything else about Curse of the Sea Rats is good to above average in terms of how it plays. There are items to pick up that can be used to complete sidequests, keys that you find in order to open up new paths, and plenty of healing buffs that are sadly not refilled when you die.
There are four characters to pick from and they each play very differently. They carry their own skill upgrade trees in which you can invest your hard-earned spirit coins, along with leveling them up through combat. Seeing that this is a multiplayer game, once you get three other folks to join you locally, there’s a lot of fun to be hand brawling with the help of your friends.
In single-player, Curse of the Sea Rats is your typical platformer that has you explore the map and find the way forward by using new skills you acquire along the way. It doesn’t go out of its way to provide anything particularly new. It does what it does decently, and it helps that it looks the way that it does.
If it weren’t for these issues with controls, Curse of the Sea Rats would be an easy recommendation. As it is, though, if you can handle the quirks that come with trying to navigate a game with as bad responsiveness as the one found in this one, there’s a serviceable action-platformer to be played.