Usually once a developer finds their flagship franchise they rarely deviate from that course. For Nippon Ichi Software this couldn’t be further from the truth however as the developer, who may primarily be known for their Disgaea series, has been constantly experimenting with new and different titles throughout the years. These can range from different styles of RPGs, horror games, and more as the company constantly keeps players wondering what they will be working on next. Well this time around we have Poison Control, a third-person shooter that once again steps outside the box for the company and now that it has been brought to the West, was it a worthwhile experiment?
Players begin with choosing to play as either a boy or a girl and find themselves waking up in a pink hellscape only to be immediately attacked viciously by a strange creature known as a Klesha. While this demonic looking being may have wanted to kill the player, it has instead fused with the player’s body restoring their life-force and transforming the monster into a being known as a “Poisonette.” Poisonette, who has forgotten her name, now shares your body as what is known as a Soul Mate bond, giving the player who should be dead the ability to keep surviving in hell while also allowing the Poisonette to purify the various “Belle’s Hells” of the poison that they create.
Should the Poisonette manage to purify enough of these hells, they will be given a chance to head to heaven and have a wish granted. With the hopes of being revived on the line, Poisonette becomes the player’s best chance and closest bond in the strange new world as they compete against other groups and more. Poison Control tells a fairly unique storyline with a colorful cast of main characters, with Poisonette’s interactions being a great part of the game even if they are limited to dialog prompts.
That being said, the story never feels like it is truly hitting its stride even towards the end of the game. It is also worth noting that every “Belle’s Hell” that the player explores has their own storyline that features a woman, either still alive or already dead, who has suffered some form of trauma that the player must uncover and “purify.” These traumas range from being fairly simple to incredibly dark in nature and unfortunately the game really doesn’t treat most of these any differently from one another, nor are they explored beyond a base surface level which can be rather frustrating especially during a few specific dungeons. This means that while the core storyline may be fairly unique and decent thanks to the core characters, nearly all of the substories that players must go through can be incredibly unsatisfying.
As a third-person shooter Poison Control is about as straightforward as they come with only a few light RPG elements and clean-up management mixed in to vary things up. Players will enter every Belle’s Hell level individually and will find themselves facing off against all manner of enemies that can be taken down with some running and gunning using a small variety of weapons that don’t really come with any surprises. Ammo management is a bit unique here as players will recover ammo over time, either swapping to another weapon in the mean-time or cleaning poison to boost the recovery rate. Players will need to dodge incoming fire, melee attacks, and more in an effort to make sure they complete a stage successfully by cleaning enough of the poison in the Belle’s Hell to complete it.
Cleaning this poison is done by swapping with Poisonette who cannot directly damage enemies and can only run for a limited time outside of the player’s body. Running over the various pools of poison will clear them when Poisonette returns to the player’s body though making complete circles can completely clear an area and deal massive damage to enemies within the circle. As mentioned before, ammo will be recharged while cleaning poison but also health will slowly be restored and money, used to upgrade weapons, can also be obtained this way.
While playing through the game players will gain levels but it quickly becomes clear that there is very little improvement to their ability as a whole as the bigger RPG elements instead come from the aforementioned interactions with Poisonette. Generally when exploring a Belle’s Hell or completing a location players will have a “Heart-to-Heart” with their Soul Mate partner where they can choose from three statements that will raise certain skill ranks. These can help the team’s Synergy, Empathy, Insight, Toxicity, and Trust with there being various skills and bonuses that can be obtained when certain levels are reached. These remain fun overall as they give players a chance to interact with the best part of the game but it is a bit limiting that, sometimes the choices you want to make won’t work the best when certain skills are instead locked behind unfortunate dialogue choices.
Unfortunately for Poison Control, the shooting mechanics as a whole can be incredibly rough to handle. Not only does this Switch version not offer any form of gyroscopic aiming but enemies often fall to the ground before actually being defeated, forcing players to waste shots or rely heavily on auto-aim to fix the clunky aiming mechanics. It is also worth noting that while players are given an “ultimate” radio skill it plays almost no role in combat as the recharge time and lack of range makes it fairly useless in most instances.
Visuals & Audio
The design of Poison Control is rather interesting in the fact that while the 3D models of the enemies and bosses are rather interesting to look at, they are eventually repeated ad nauseum and while the dungeon layouts of a few Belle’s Hell have some elements related to that girl’s regret that element isn’t explored nearly enough nor are they exceptionally well-designed in the first place. On the other side of things however we have some absolutely gorgeous looking character portraits and a stylish menu system that easily outshine the 3D aspects of the game.
The soundtrack features some unique sounding tracks that help fit the odd feeling that the game can take at times though there are very few that truly stand out, instead settling as rather simple background music. The game also features only the original Japanese voice track accompanied by English subtitles that cover every aspect of spoken dialogue, even when Poisonette chimes in during menu navigation or while running on the field.
Poison Control quickly shows players almost everything it has to offer within the first couple of hours of starting the game and does little to actually evolve from there. The storyline can be rather interesting at times and rather fun, helping to alleviate the rough gameplay mechanics but its mishandling of the Belle’s Hells is a real loss. As a whole, Poison Control may be Nippon Ichi Software trying something new but unfortunately it fails to really stand out as an actual shooter.
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