- Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
- Publisher: NIS America, Inc.
- Genre: Adventure, Action, Shooter
- Released: 13th April 2021
Fun-fact: Googling for ‘Poison Control’ did not give me the search results I needed to write this review up with.
On the 18th of September 2020, a trailer burst forth from the void of the inter webs. It was stylish, dark, mysterious, and very pink. It also turned out to the the announcement trailer for Poison Control, and I was quite intrigued by it.
Fast forward a little over half a year and I finally am able to play it. Apart from the initial announcement and a few articles not long after, I didn’t really follow up on this game’s news. With that in mind, does this live up to the expectation I built for myself?
Created by the talents behind Penny-Punching Princess and The Princess Guide comes a tale where the ‘princesses’ this time around need some soul-searching help to deal with their issues and traumas… and here’s where you come in. You play the role of a person who oddly finds themself in hell. Before you can do anything, an odd creature appears and effectively kills you. The end? Well, you then find yourself awake again, this time with newfound powers and a tag-along companion, who you find out was that creature that attacked you.
Alongside the main mystery arc, you’re also burdened with the task of clearing hell from poison mires that crop up from the delusions or problems of the souls of various maidens (or belles as the game calls them) dead or alive. Mileage may vary depending on the stories, but overall it’s an intriguing system that I feel could have been explored more had the genre of this game been different. But alas, we’re left with the work of ‘solving’ the various belle’s issues relegated to a visual novel format.
The main core of the game would be delving into the various hells each belle creates. Here, the game takes a third-person perspective view and sets you up with an arm cannon. Ostensibly, the game is meant to be a shooter game. You power through levels collecting bennies (I dunno what else to call them, they’re coins with a B on them after all), which you use to power up your guns and equipment. Also in each belle’s hell there are 3 purple poison gems hidden away in gold chests. Collecting all 3 will allow you to use the belle’s soul as a gun or equipment. It’s a nice way to add a collectible element into the game. One can find oneself tearing up the place just to find that one elusive golden chest.
Additionally there is another aspect to the game beside shooting up your foes. All throughout each hell lay pools of poison. You can switch forms to allow your companion to possess your body while you crumple down into a heap of bones. In this form you can run around the poison pools without taking damage. While you do so, you clear up the areas you run through. If you manage to loop all the way back to your start (there is a limit how much you can run in this form), you clear all the areas you encircle making this a much needed strategy to have under your belt.
I’m sure you don’t need me to point it out, but this game oozes style. Slight blurriness on the visuals aside, the art style and direction is on point most of the time. The game is colourful and bold, making every plunge into hell a visual feast. It’s quite unfortunate then that the level design is a little basic with no interaction from the player apart from destructible blocks. It is also a shame that despite the striking props and designs, the levels feel empty barren. It all gives a feel of a game made on a budget I guess. It has potential to be so much more though.
Music choice in this game is a sweet mix of catchy synth tunes. A few in particular had me bobbing along as I went about purifying the different hells. For some of the more sombre levels there is appropriately softer music, which is then interrupted by high octane rock that accompanies forced encounters. This juxtaposition of wildly different styles made me laugh out loud, which is something I’m not sure the developers intended for some of the more ‘serious’ moments.
Ultimately this game wasn’t fun to play through. At the start it was alright, but derivative and sometimes cheap enemies, coupled with controls that feel imprecise sours the experience somewhat. There aren’t too many boss fights, but they are all variations on 3 different kinds of bosses making each encounter feel like a chore. The auto aim function is also a bit pants when it comes to targeting enemies close to you. Some foes will take ages to beat if you don’t have the right weapon type equipped (it’s bombs). It really feels like I’m ranting here.
The game’s premise really saves this title as it really has potential to be something amazingly unique like Killer7 or No More Heroes. But it stumbles and fails to stick the landing, making me wish ultimately that NIS would get an animation studio to make an Anime adaptation out of the story.
The game also has issues with performance later as you progress. In particular when spawning new enemies in frantic encounters. It was so bad, the game crashed on me. While it was only one time, it was in the middle of a boss fight and it really sapped any drive I had to play the game away. I managed to return for a rematch, but it’s still not a good look for this game with all its existing issues.
Oh, and the game has no autosave function. So I hope you’re the type to remember to save frequently after finishing dungeons. Not that it matters if the game happens to crash in the middle of one…
In the end, what was once something intriguing and full of mystery turns up to not fulfill expectations brought about by the imagination. An intriguing premise, interesting characters and eye candy are all hampered by gameplay that feels cheap and unpolished, built alongside a system that feels incomplete. Visuals are eye-popping and the art direction amazing, but neither really pulls this title from the feelings of mediocrity. At best, it’s a budget Anime game with a not-so-friendly price tag that’ll go over many people’s budgets.
I’ll let the game sign this piece off:
2.5/5 – give or take 0.5 stars depending on your tastes, this poison pill is unfortunately not something
I can heartily recommend people take unless absolutely necessary (and if on sale)
Available now: $39.99
Follow Nippon Ichi Software:
Follow NIS America Inc:
*a review copy has been generously provided for this review