Poison Control aims to be funny and yet a somehow serious title that combines its dark story with a sense of humor that ties together into its action-RPG elements with light-novel storytelling.
+A funny, yet somehow enjoyable story that evolves over time
+Character development leads the way through contextual choices
+Graphics and animations are as good as one can expect
-Level designs lack variety and identity outside of palette swaps
-Character choices, at times, seem superficial
Poison Control isn’t what I would call overly inspired. It’s fun, it’s silly, but we’ve experienced the kind of game we’ve been given once before. It’s silly, it’s awkward, and as far as a light novel would be concerned? It’s actually pretty damn charming. Except, that’s about as far as it actually ever manages to go.
After two playthroughs, and a recent third on the way, Nippon Ichi Software’s latest single-player action-RPG turned shooter-filled delight, also comes at a cost of being completely and totally unique. However, there are a few things that actually stand out from the rest of the other mechanics.
While each level in the game does aim to offer something completely unique, charming, and fun to explore, there’s a bit of an identity crisis with what the game actually has to offer. So now, let’s dig deep into what Poison Control has to offer.
A charming game, that is somewhat lacking an identity in the long run
I’ll be straightforward – this review has taken a lot longer than I would have liked it to take. We’re talking months, to be honest, and all that is on me and the difficulty I had with what the game actually has to offer.
You see, I’m torn. I loved the light-novel elements, how each character had their own quirks, how they acted, interacted, and even the personalities each of them actually had. Deep down, however, there’s a deeply troubling sense of identity, which honestly, the game seemed to lack.
Each level didn’t seem to change, enemies themselves were minor reskins depending on where you were in the game, and each level – well – they were basically just texture changes, slightly different layout grids, and that was about it for what Poison Control actually offered. It’s a damn shame too as the game does have a lot of room for growth and potential with a new title or even an expansion.
Poison Control does try to have a sense of identity and a sense of depth. It’s all beautifully designed in the sense that your choices actually do matter. His or her choices reflect back at you in how other characters respond to your character’s actions and choices they make. While the game does lack further depth than that, it still feels like the depth is there and they do seem, to some extent, to reflect on your actions throughout the game.
Your trip through Hell isn’t going to be as fun as some of you might expect. It’s not going to have the depth of a Disgaea or Shin Megami Tensei title. Trust me when I say that because it matters. Every ounce of that knowledge does matter in the long run. Whether it’s choosing a male or female protagonist then choosing the voice they have.
The game doesn’t hold back either: You die at the start and you are in Hell almost immediately and your entire goal is to earn your way to Heaven. Kinda lame sounding, right? Not really. It’s a wacky adventure and how you get it is just as wacky.
The Soul Mates are here to help you and they are going to help you out
Part of your experience will be fighting against the Klesha along the way while working with your Soul Mate(s), which is a huge bulk of the game. You’ll first meet Poisonette, your character’s Soul Mate who hares the same body as your character does. Their relationship is a symbiotic one, which allows them to work together and split the benefits of aiding one another.
The relationship allows for Poisonette to share her ability to shoot poison ‘bullets’ at their enemies and to clear out the poison that fills each and every part of the map to ensure that the area is cleared. As you might imagine, this is a large bulk of your gameplay and you’ll find that you’ll be working through these types of situations quite frequently.
You can swap in and out of using Poisonette on the fly, allowing you to clear the mire areas, heal up, and restock your ammunition after clearing out the poison on the maps. You’ll find in the earliest portions of the game as you explore a Belle’s Hell (level), that you’ll find that the toxic emotions, self-doubt, etc, motivate the characters and why they do what they do.
You’ll purify their souls, making it so they’re “whole” again and that they can help you along the way once you cleanse them and help them find their way to the “light” once more. It’s a brilliant idea and it’s quite creative, but again, their maps feel uninspired and lacking when said and done.
You’ll end up fighting the Klesha to help clear the areas and some will be even stronger than the ones you typically encounter, however, some may be more susceptible to the type of ammo you are using based on what weapon you opt to use.
The story explores the journey to Heaven from Hell and also Poisonette’s true motives
As you might expect, the story does evolve as you play through it. You’ll find that every character you encounter has their own motives – Poisonette included. Your character will level up through the completion of each level and dialogue options can also allow your character to evolve their relationship with your Soul Mate too.
Each option comes with its own point of growth and it will help decide how fast or easy you can complete the game. A real surprise as you might imagine. This is where the onscreen text becomes the mainstay experience for the game, as it’s almost as consistent as the Belle’s Hells is, even though each level will be explored in 5 to 10-minute segments.
The writing itself is charming, it’s even funny and overall quirky. It’s a real charm and it doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously. It’s a nice charm after how far games such as Senran Kagura or Hyperdimension Neptunia can go. The writers stayed with one idea and went with it, which is rather a nice example of how a story should be done.
The catch to this approach, in how a story should be written, is ultimately let down by the overall approach to gameplay. The game ultimately comes down to a “use all of Poisonette’s ammo and then have her clear out the poison in the area to reload” or just run around while you can. The story itself is the redeeming factor due to this since each level ultimately finds itself segmented into story-driven experiences.
It’s just a shame that there isn’t more to discuss outside of a few loadouts you can make, using things such as a “machine-gun” like weapon, shotgun-like attack, melee-like gun, or even a more powerful single-shot attack that can stun some enemies into submission.
Poison Control is not a game you’ll be writing home about. It’s instead, a game that you’ll talk to your friends about in passing. It’s silly, it’s goofy, and it should be approached as a light novel that does have its moments of shooter-based gameplay. The biggest change that needs to happen is more depth to the gameplay and more depth to the game’s overall level design.
Platforms: Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4
Version Reviewed: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software
Release Date: Available Now
If you’re a fan of visual novels, well, you’ll enjoy this and the idea of each level is an “intermission” is a rather good approach. That aside, the game ultimately suffers due to the level design and it’s one of those elements that only so much of the light-novel elements and gunplay can actually redeem before it becomes a bit too much.
Our review is based upon a retail version of the game that was provided to us by the publisher for the review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native video game reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook today.