Poison Control – Review
Follow Genre: Shooter, RPG
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: Switch, PS4
Tested on: Switch

Poison Control – Review

Site Score
6.3
Good: Gorgeous character artwork
Bad: Tedious and repetitive gameplay
User Score
8.5
(2 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.5/10 (2 votes cast)

To say that we were intrigued by Poison Control’s trailer would be an understatement. The game’s character designs, combined with the philosophical questions and unique-looking gameplay gave us the impression that NIS was bringing us a hybrid of a shooter and the Persona series. The wait is finally over though, as Poison Control is now available. We spent some time with the highly anticipated shooter, to find out whether it lives up to the hype. Is Poison Control poised for success or is it a toxic failure?

Story

The opening scenes of Poison Control are shrouded in confusion and mystery. The player character -whose name and gender you get to pick yourself- wakes up in what appears to be Hell. Upon awakening, the player is immediately attacked by a creature known as a Klesha. Kleshas are your typical run-of-the-mill minions that you’ll be killing by the dozens throughout Poison Control, but this first Klesha you encounter is different. Rather than killing you, the Klesha, hereafter known as Poisonette, merges with the player, inadvertently setting in motion the plot of Poison Control. By merging, the player and Poisonette have become Soul Mates, allowing them to cooperate and escape Hell. The pair must try to get to Heaven, solving the mystery of how the player ended up in Hell in the first place.

The story itself is told through on-screen dialogue for the most part, and although it is definitely a cliché affair, it’s also well written. Without delving too much into spoiler territory, the game actually deals with mental health issues and toxic thoughts -which is what the title refers to- but does so in a way that shouldn’t be too confrontational for most people. For the most part, the characters that feature in the story are likable and well written, even if there is little originality to be found here. The writers also attempt to inject the story with plenty of humor and although not every joke lands, we found ourselves chuckling at some of them. Poison Control’s narrative is a bit of a strange one: it’s not original, but what it delivers, it delivers well. There aren’t going to be any surprises, but playing your way through the story is satisfying because of the game’s excellent pacing, delivering exactly what you want when you want it.

Graphics

Poison Control features two distinct art styles. The levels you explore -and the characters that inhabit them- are rendered in 3D. The character models have a slightly cel-shaded look to them and although they are not overly detailed, they look decent enough. The environments are a different affair altogether, as they look and feel quite empty and generic. Backgrounds are often little more than skyline silhouettes and if it wasn’t for the changes in overall color scheme, the levels feel like carbon copies of one another. On the upside, this also means that the game isn’t too graphically taxing on the Switch, allowing for a smooth frame rate and ditto performance. The character illustrations featured in story scenes are gorgeous though, with designs that are reminiscent of the Persona series. These really help to emphasize character personalities, even if they are mostly still illustrations with virtually no animation present.

Sound

The game’s frantic and fast-paced music wouldn’t feel out of place in a cartoon and as such matches Poison Control’s overall aesthetics. It underlines the sense of chaos that ensues throughout the levels when you are being overwhelmed by the Kleshas. Poison Control also features full voice acting, although there is only a Japanese voice track present. This will undoubtedly appeal to purists. Although we generally prefer the original track, in this case, however, we felt that Poisonette’s voice was grating and annoying, though your mileage may vary, of course.

Gameplay

The core gameplay loop of Poison Control combines the classic shooter formula with light RPG elements and fast-paced action-oriented gameplay. Each level, named a “Belle’s Hell”, is the personification of the toxic and negative thoughts of a young woman. The goal is to clear a certain percentage of this toxic negativity, allowing you to progress onto the next level. This is done by clearing away the poison with Poisonette and shooting Kleshas with the player character. Poison is cleared by having Poisonette hover over the large puddles that litter the levels, but as she is linked to the player character, she can’t move too far away. She also has to avoid the Kleshas that wander around the levels.

The player character is able to shoot the Kleshas using a variety of weapons -which are collected as you progress through the game- but his ammo is limited. Ammo is converted from the poison puddles that Poisonette clears, so the key to beating a level is in switching between the characters at opportune times. As far as gameplay goes, this synergy between the paired characters works well in concept, although the execution does leave a lot to be desired. Aiming guns felt slow and inaccurate, although there is an auto-aim feature present, which becomes invaluable later on in the game.

Level exploration is encouraged, as you’ll occasionally run into money chests. Money can be used to upgrade your weapon loadouts and unlock new additions to your armory. Additionally, completing levels rewards you with stickers. These supposedly serve as your ticket to Heaven later on in the story, according to Poisonette, but it’s clear she’s not quite telling the truth – at least not early on in the game. As you progress through Poison Control, you’ll also expand your relationship with Poisonette, which allows you to unlock new abilities and even more weapons, as well as discover more about the story.

Poison Control’s second big issue lies in its lack of variety. The core gameplay loop never changes throughout the game, making the game feel tedious and repetitive. The basic layout of the levels remains the same for the most part, apart from the occasional cosmetic change and even the enemies you encounter don’t change enough to really keep the game interesting. Eventually, the levels begin to feel like a chore. It’s a bit of a shame because the characters themselves are just likable enough to motivate you to keep going, and the story is intriguing.

Conclusion

We’d use the term “mixed bag” here, but honestly, that doesn’t quite cut it. To put it frankly, these characters -and this story- deserved better. The core gameplay loop is fun for the first few levels but quickly devolves into a repetitive and tedious affair. The well-rounded cast and the intriguing -albeit predictable- plot don’t offer enough to salvage the game. Poison Control isn’t a bad game per se, but the gameplay element is so underwhelming that we can’t call it anything but mediocre at best.

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Rating: 8.5/10 (2 votes cast)
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Poison Control - Review, 8.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
SebastiaanRaats


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