I knew it was time for NISA to release a title that departs from their more well-known series, Disgaea. Poison Control is the latest game to join NISA’s unique lineup of quirky titles with vibrant character art, a Persona-esque soundtrack, and a supernatural theme. Unlike their previous quirky titles, such as Penny Punching Princess and The Princess Guide, Poison Control combines various gameplay elements.
You wake up confused and realize you’re in a different place. As you take a look around you, you see a strange creature known as a Klesha that attacks you and steals your body. The Klesha and your soulmate, now known as Poisonette, bluntly informs you that you’re in Hell. The worldly desires of humankind birth delusions and clutters hell with toxic manifestations. If you work with Poisonette to help her purify areas in Hell known as Belles’ Hells, you can get the chance to go to Heaven.
For a game with vibrant art and some musical bops, Poison Control has many dark situations. Each Hell has a “Belle” or woman from the living or dead world that has let their despair or desires turn a specific area into a poisonous manifestation. Each “Belle” who finds themselves in hell all has some form of suffering or trauma. Some heartbreaking situations often forced me to take a step back away from my gameplay and continue later. You also learn early on that even if you help deter someone from a path from hurting innocent people, other influences are still a possibility that they’ll be back with even more vile manifestations.
Like Penny Punching Princess, Poison Control has a collection of quick stages with objectives that fall into various categories. Purifying the poison to a certain percentage, for example, is a recurring objective across many of the stages. As you enter various areas in a stage, enemies, also know as Kleshas, spawn. There are moments where you must fulfill an objective of defeating a specific amount of Kleshas before moving on to the next section. Throughout each stage and after completing objectives, you’ll find the memories of that hell’s Belle or people that knew them. Each Belle is unique in character, and not one has similar plights as you come to learn about each of them.
After learning about each Belle, we are introduced to Posionette’s reflection. Poisonette’s reflection triggers an interaction that allows the players to make choices to enhance a specific stat. Synergy, Empathy, Insight, Toxicity, and Trust are the five stats that give passive gameplay abilities based on how much you’ve enhanced them. I felt that this was a neat element to the gameplay and was reminiscent of the choices one has to make to increase personality stats in Yakuza: Like a Dragon. Although, there were a few moments where I felt as if there were too few choices. For instance, I would get back-to-back interactions that would all help enhance my empathy when I hope to increase other stats for the passive abilities they provide.
Poison Control is a third-person shooter, but it is an approachable game for anyone who has little to no experience with the shooter genre. As someone who has experience with shooters such as Apex and Rogue Company, I did not find aiming difficult. In fact, the gameplay is readily accessible and digestible. The “guns” you have equipped are known as Deliriants and Toxicants, which have their own stats and degrees of use. There are also various antidotes and catalysts you can equip as you traverse through each stage. Antidotes offer defense against harmful effects, while Catalysts provide buffs to increase your stats’ specific attributes.
You can also upgrade Antidotes, Catalysts, and Toxicants with the in-game currency. I was pleased with the degree of customization provided, given the vast amount of choices and other upgradable elements. Another thing to note is that it is not necessary to alter your loadout. The game can be completed with whatever weapon you have equipped and properly upgraded. Although some may see this as a negative, this provides a less stress-inducing gameplay environment. In fact, it balances out the stress one might get from hearing and reading about all the dark situations in each stage. I, personally, prefer free-form experimentation with in-game customization.
You can’t use your guns to clear the pools of poison mires clogging up the paths in these Belles’ Hells. This is where Poisonette comes in. Players have the ability to switch to Poisonettee and clear the poison mires that would otherwise damage or kill the protagonist if they walked on it. I found clearing the poison mires to be an interesting mechanic to deal damage to the surrounding Kleshas. This came in handy when I needed to clear hordes and hordes of Kleshas and make the terrain open to cross again.
I did not experience any glitches but did notice a few stutters and frame drops from prolonged gameplay. There was one moment where I thought the game would crash while loading in a mission, but it was fine after. I suggest saving before and after each mission to avoid any data loss from potential glitches and crashes from frame drops. Poison Control’s soundtrack, on the other hand, is as entertaining as its narrative. However, I did feel that certain tracks were overused for the missions. This made the redundancy of each level more and more apparent.
I typically don’t play titles filled with a lot of dark and heartbreaking stories. Poison Control brought an enjoyable gaming experience for me as its narrative unfolded. The quick and clever clapbacks of each character and lighthearted moments made the game feel like its own anime series. Even with the lack of variety in Kleshas and stages, the story of Poison Control quickly draws you in and keeps you on a hook as you try to clean your way from Hell on a journey to Heaven.