Poison Control from NIS America is a hidden gem of a game. It was released on April 16 2021 and tells a tale that’s filled with some really intriguing ideas. It’s also a brand new IP from NIS America and one that’s vastly different to some of their other titles yet still familiar enough with the visual novel aspects keeping players entertained.
In Poison Control, players are thrust into an unfamiliar environment. A mysterious world filled with pink, red and purple colours, toxic poison and nasty monsters. Upon waking up, your playable character is attacked by a monster known as a “Klesha”. This Klesha however fuses with you and becomes your “Soul Mate”. The fused form bound to you is known as Poisonette and she’s incredibly useful for a couple of reasons.
Poisonette you see, can purify poison. In the hell world you inhabit, there are patches of poison known as mires and it’s up to you and Poisonette to purify the world, save the soul thoughtform within, and yourself in the process. Clear enough poison from these “Belle’s Hell” worlds and you’ll be given a silver ticket. Stack up enough tickets and you’ll be granted a wish and can make it to Heaven. Sounds promising right?
Gameplay in Poison Control is slightly unconventional. Players will start off choosing between either a male or female character and then selecting from 3 preset voices. This will be your playable character. In the game world, you’ll control your character from a third-person perspective and will be able to fire a weapon at your foes. These foes are Klesha monsters. Your weapon will however need to recharge and this is where Poisonette comes into play.
Players will be able to send out Poisonette a short distance and she can clean up poison mires by running over them. You’ll be able to control Poisonette for a short time before she’s returned back to you. Cleaning up the poison mires gives you energy for your weapon, health boosts and other benefits which really assist with defeating Kleshas. Players will be able to zoom in closer to their character when aiming and shooting at Kleshas and can also throw out bombs to defeat them. Unfortunately, there isn’t much variation to the enemies you’re fighting off.
Poison Control follows a simple formula of entering a Belle’s Hell from the world map, exploring the hell, cleaning up the poison using Poisonette while discovering story segments and facing off against Klesha monsters. It’s not exactly revolutionary game design but it works surprisingly well as the core gameplay loop. Fighting off Kleshas is thankfully, quite fun, though some fatigue does set in given the very basic third person shooting that becomes repetitive. Using Poisonette to clean up poison can be more fun than shooting at some points to be quite honest, especially since encircling Kleshas within poison causes them to take damage.
Levelling up in Poison Control involves having a “Heart to Heart” conversation with Poisonette and putting in points into 1 of 5 different stats, Synergy, Empathy, Insight, Toxicity and Trust. Each of these categories impart a special skill bonus to your character which helps them out in the Belle’s Hells.
Poison Control excels in its story related aspects. Players will encounter a radio show known as Hidan Radio where the two host characters talk quite a lot about the hells that you traverse and explain further aspects of the story. These conversations along with the actual stories involving girls who have lived through some terrible hardships in life, can be quite dark. Each of the Belle’s Hells features their own story and these push you to play more and get to hear them all.
With that said though, Poison Control also features a lot of jokes and overall, the story’s visual novel aspects are handled in a very NIS America manner. If you’ve played titles like Disgaea before, you’ll understand this.
Speaking of the visual novel segments, the character portraits in Poison Control are great and Poisonette’s design is visually pleasing. Enemy designs are great too but alas as mentioned above, there aren’t that many of them and you’ll be fighting off some very samey Kleshas throughout the game. The Belle’s Hells also seem very similar to each other, with the colour palette changing between dungeons primarily being the most striking difference. Poison Control heavily features red, pink, purple, yellow and blue as its colour scheme and this gives the game an extremely distinct look which is rather refreshing to see.
The voice acting in Poison Control is limited to Japanese but the voice actors are seasoned veterans so you’ll be in for a treat here. In what came as a completely unexpected surprise, the soundtrack of Poison Control is outstandingly good. There’s plenty of tracks in this game which will keep you bopping your head while you’re cleaning up poison in the Belle’s Hells. It really is worth listening to and deserves a special mention.
Graphically, Poison Control looks great with character designs being visually appealing, the effects being flashy and the game running flawlessly without any hiccups on Nintendo Switch. There could have been a bit more variation in the environments within the Belle’s Hells but alas, this isn’t the case. The entire game will take you around 15 hours or more to complete depending on player skill and pace. The game also benefits from being on Nintendo Switch because players can play through the game in bite sized chunks while on the go which would help with the repetition.
Overall, Poison Control is a great new title in NIS America’s library. The story’s mixture of dark serious business themes interspersed with light-hearted humour and strangely compelling third person shooting gameplay is well done. The fantastic soundtrack is a major plus point and one that seals the deal. If you’re looking for a fresh, slightly different game, Poison Control is definitely worth checking out.
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
Poison Control was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch which can be purchased here for £35.99
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