Title: Poison Control
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Release Date: April 13, 2021
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: NIS America
Genre: Third-Person Shooter
The shooter genre is not my forte. Still, Poison Control from NISA grabbed attention from early trailers regardless of its FPS mechanics. No, it wasn’t only because there’s an attractive anime girl on the box art. No siree. But besides that, the art style and general premise is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. After playing, Poison Control is definitely one of the most unexpected sleeper hits of the year.
Poison Control takes place in Hell, where the protagonist wakes up and seeks to return to the Mortal Realm. Soon after awakening, we encounter a being named Poisonette, a former Klesha, which is an existence born out of humanity’s delusions, regardless of if the originator of those delusions is dead or alive.
While Poisonette hijacks the Protagonist’s body with her soul and ultimately seeks to take it over for good, the two work in tandem to purify Belles’ Hells and collect tickets meant for reaching Heaven. Those who manage to reach Heaven are allowed a wish to be granted, a convenient end-goal for the main characters to fulfill their desires.
The premise of Poison Control is compelling and kept me invested from beginning to end. There are some entertaining characterization and banter, especially from Poisonette, who is animated in a simultaneously cutesy and endearing manner. Speaking of animations, the character portraits are top-notch. There’s a myriad of attractive female characters met throughout this adventure, though Poisonette’s portraits were clearly given the most attention.
The narrative is worthwhile, though its pacing can be a bit of a turn-off for a chunk of its mid-game. Purifying the Belles’ Hells is what most of the gameplay consists of, as players are tasked with saving the souls of those who have submitted to their own delusions. Each Belles Hell has its own unique character with its own plights that you learn about, and they ultimately result in Poisonette reflecting on who she is and what she wants to do.
The main story only has a handful of characters, who are each amusing and delightful. They greatly aid in contributing towards the tone of the title, which is often light-hearted, witty, and humorous despite the context. That is not to say the game never takes itself seriously, though, as some legitimately dark moments push the characters forward, especially near the conclusion.
Poison Control is a third-person shooter. However, it is more than approachable for any individual who has little to no experience with the genre, such as myself. Aiming is rarely ever cumbersome, and the gameplay loop becomes readily apparent and easily digestible. Players will combat Kleshas by shooting them with the ‘guns’ they have equipped, known as Toxicants and Deliriants. Each has its own stats and varying degrees of practical usage.
There are also Antidotes and Catalysts that players can equip. The former offers defense against particular harmful effects players will have to contend with, and the latter are buffs that each increase a specific attribute of the player’s stats.
Additionally, Toxicants, Antidotes, and Catalysts can be upgraded with the currency found across the stages. An impressive degree of customization players can partake in thanks to all of the choices and upgradable elements, though one can also just stick to their favorite guns if they desire.
It is never essential for a player to alter their loadout since the entirety of the game can be tackled by whatever is equipped. While that can certainly be seen as a negative, I find that design choice offers a far less stress-inducing gameplay environment. It offers players more free-form experimentation rather than forced contrivances.
Aside from shooting, players can switch to Poisonette. In this mode, players can clear the field of several poison mires that cause damage if walked on by the protagonist. As bizarre as this may sound, the act of clearing out the poison is absurdly addicting, and I found myself enjoying it more than shooting. It draws loose comparisons to Viscera Cleanup Detail, just in a sometimes more haphazardly chaotic environment. Clearing the poison mires around enemies in specific ways also causes damage which is a neat second-hand benefit aside from just making the terrain more feasible to cross.
There are choices players can make when interacting with Poisonette to enhance a specific stat. Enhancing these stats gives eventual passive gameplay benefits, which is a neat lite gameplay element. However, I felt as if there were too few choices throughout the game’s duration. More instances of choice-making would have not only granted further gameplay benefits, but it would have also provided more intimate moments between the player and Poisonette.
When it comes down to it, Poison Control has a supremely addicting gameplay loop, but there are several critiques I have that could potentially be addressed in a sequel. For instance, there is a sincere lack of enemy variety. There only a handful of types of Klesha, and as gratifying as it was to rid the screen of them, they gradually became less and less threatening due to their frequent repetitiveness.
Area design is certainly passable thanks to the number of treasures and occasional diverging paths players can find, but a large chunk of them felt similar to each other. There was a similar coloration for most of them, and a fair amount of the areas themselves felt like boxes. There is also a world map where players can move around to select which stage they would like to play, but the proximity of each stage’s location and the general diminutive size of the world map made me question its incorporation at all.
Additionally, in regards to bugs, the title was near flawless. There was, however, one odd glitch I experienced. When facing off against one of the last bosses, it glitched and somehow became invulnerable to all types of damage. The boss is supposed to have numerous sprouting heads that each act as a weak point, but none of the heads were present during this glitched encounter, and only the bottom of the boss that held the heads together was there, making it impossible to hit. Thankfully, resetting the mission fixed this issue, but it was a jarring occurrence that stood out to me, so it is best to save after each mission just in case a similar issue of this nature potentially crops up.
Poison Control’s soundtrack is just as addicting to listen to as the gameplay sequences are, but, similarly to the enemy and area design, I personally felt as if there simply wasn’t enough. The tracks themselves were fitting for the areas they were present in, but they did grow a bit weary after constant use, so more tracks, in general, could have fixed this critique I have.
Poison Control is an unexpected enjoyable gaming experience. The result is a game that only lacks in areas where I wanted more, including enemy variety and stage layout. However, that doesn’t hinder just how addicting this adventure is, which I hope acts as a foundation for a sequel.
I may not be the biggest fan of shooters, but Poison Control takes the genre and presents it in a way that could expand the fanbase. If you can’t get behind that, well, the cleaning aspect is just as satisfying.
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