Curse of the Sea Rats

I backed this game when it first hit Kickstarter, because it looked like it would be exactly the kind of game I like: a metroidvania with an absolutely gorgeous art style. I got my key right on release day along with everyone else, and for that first day of playing the majority of the game, I absolutely loved my experience.

There are certainly bugs and issues. Quite frequently the voice acting (which was middling at best) didn’t match up with the dialogue boxes. There were occasional issues with item descriptions and the like. But it was all what happens with a game that’s first released, until I got to that second day of playing.

The last 10% of this game ruined the whole experience for me.

For some reason, the developers decided to unnecessarily pad the last section of the game. After you confront the main villain, you are told that you have to go all the way back to the start of the game. Being a metroidvania, this should actually be almost fun: you’ve gained all your movement abilities and should be strong enough to just deal with anything along the way.

First off, the game tells you that your fast travel is sealed for some contrived plot reason. This immediately feels like padding and put me off, but I figured that they would be perhaps adding something or tweaking it so that the walk would be something new and interesting itself. The game might have been buggy, but it had bought a lot of good will at that point.

Introducing… the f**k you rock

That was until I hit the first of these. For some reason, they decided to block certain paths back to the first area. These would not appear on the mini map to let me know. Not that this was a huge surprise: the map isn’t all that great for a metroidvania game. Yes, it provides the mini-map you can see in the screenshot, which is nice. But areas are all colored the same, and there’s no markings for major NPCs. This means that you have to more or less guess where certain people you need to visit or revisit are. There’s no marking system, so you can’t just mark it for later.

I navigated the f**k you rocks, though it made me increasingly disgruntled. Now I was dealing with padding on top of padding, and it felt like it was preventing me from my hard won victory. There really wasn’t anything all that interesting in the way either.

Cue not that interesting

The design of the above surprise boss is actually pretty cool. It’s a crazed Italian mother rat atop a dinosaur made of barrels! How cool is that!? I was imagining that it would hop into place and I’d get to jump around and fight it. Sure, most of the bosses hadn’t been that difficult up until this point: I only died to the first boss because I was figuring out controls and later to a boss that introduced instant death pits out of no where, but this looked really cool. It looked like a uniquely designed boss.

It sure was.

This is how the boss fight plays out. Barrels shoot across the screen in set patterns. You jump over them until a red barrel sticks in the ground. You whack the barrel and it careens back to hit Mamma in the background. That’s it. It plays out incredibly slowly with absolutely no challenge once you’ve figured out the patterns (unless your controller is messed up like mine and would occasionally hit down on the joystick for no reason). I literally almost fell asleep during this boss; it was that boring.

Okay, so now I’ve been forced to backtrack through the whole game, stopped by rocks that aren’t on the map, faced a boss that came out of no where and was boring, but surely that’s the—

—no, no, they’re making me go through the Valley of Wind again! This is a section that relies on blowing wind to move your character around, which is always a bit frustrating to deal with. But adding on to that, there are platforms which are hard to make out from the background (because everything is so elaborately done), and Buffalo Calf, my hot First Nations protagonist (I know what I like, okay?) has a weird dashing jump that sends her rolling in a downward arc.

Falling in one of these pits is instant death. It will send you all the way back to the last save point, regardless of how much life you had or how you fell into the pit. Making matters worse, if you hit an enemy, you enter a stunned state where you fall backwards until you hit the ground, like this is a game on the original Nintendo console. This resulted in at least three deaths in that area alone (having a gimpy controller didn’t help).

Are you seeing the pattern here? Curse of the Sea Rats has a lot of little flaws, the sort of things you can overlook in a game that looks as good as this game looks. the setup is kind of fun, and I absolutely loved my choice of protagonist. Playing as a character that fits the sort of build I go for in games overall (nimble with an emphasis on critical hits and stunning) is just amazing, and that her design is great added onto things.

So, yes, I’m willing to overlook flaws if a game’s whole experience is to my liking. And that entire first section, which contained 7-8 hours of gameplay, was quite enjoyable. Yes, the bosses were easy; the glitches frequent; the instant death pits annoying; the map needed help; and a lot of easy issues, but the package was still a pretty good metroidvania overall.

Then that last two hours hit me like a truck.

Remember that bit about glitches? Here’s the final cutscene of the game:


That isn’t all, by the way. By the time I hit the last area, my game had glitched in menu. I lost the stupid laughing skull that’s supposed to help you, and my backpack upgrade just went away. I was no longer allowed to carry double the items I could, which meant going into the last section of the game without a full load.

Oh, and the game locks you next to the final boss, so no going back to buy more supplies or farm. You’re stuck.

Just like here, where my character select screen got stuck over the name of a boss.

I really, really wanted to like this game. I backed it on Kickstarter, and I was wholly against those that were saying it’s a middling game through most of it. The game just looked great and played way better than most middling metroidvanias. However, the game absolutely killed me with its last stretch, making it so I will never replay the game. I don’t want to face Mamma Ratelli again in combat; I don’t want to deal with frustrating backtracking; and I don’t want to be glitched in the last bit of the game.

6 in its current state it’s still a slightly above average game, with a dismal ending and game breaking glitches. With the glitches fixed, I’d be willing to bump it a point or so, but unfortunately that’s not the game we have.

Lies and slander!

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