Oh, What The Hell?
HIGH A unique concept. Stylish visuals and writing.
LOW A lack of polish in combat. Repetition.
WTF There’s no autosave?
It’s usually best not to use one game to describe another in reviews — it’s easy for such a practice to become lazy shorthand that fails to properly serve readers. In the case of something like Poison Control I’ll make an exception and give the basic gist — what if players explored the emotionally-themed dungeons of Persona 5 as a shooter instead of a turn-based RPG?
Poison Control is an action-RPG that takes place in spiritual realms known as “Belles’ Hells.” These are manifestations of dark thoughts or desires of human girls in the real world. Within these labyrinths exist Klesha — embodiments of emotions that are hell-bent on stopping anyone from trying to fix things. Players control a human character that can either be male or female. Customization is limited to gender, name and voice type. The lack of options is disappointing, though the main character isn’t really given much to do. No, the real star of the story is Poisonette, a Klesha that takes over the main character’s body at the start of the adventure.
While this premise is weird, the anime visuals give things a vibrant look and I appreciated how the concept was set up at the beginning. There are a few awkward instances and some innuendo, but the story becomes genuinely engrossing and the writing is actually funny.
Unfortunately, the gameplay isn’t as interesting as the writing. Poison Control is structured like a dungeon-crawler. Players select levels from a world map and are briefed on what awaits them. Early “hells” took place within the mind of a young girl who lost her dog, while another was inhabited by a deranged fan of a fictional penguin mascot. The ideas and themes are different, but gameplay always revolves around shooting enemies with firearms and “purifying” parts of each levels that are full of poison.
The shooting itself is fairly enjoyable, with the action taking place from a third-person, over-the-shoulder view. Switching between weapon types on-the-fly and blasting enemies is great, but its repetitive nature quickly became grating as there isn’t much variety in the firefights. What’s worse is how clunky the shooting can feel thanks to a lack of weight and problems while aiming. Even the lock-on doesn’t work too well, and caused the camera to flail around while trying to maneuver. It’s also worth noting that a few technical issues (like enemies not responding to my attacks) occasionally prevented me from moving on, though these problems were generally solved by restarting the level.
Each of the hells is also filled with the titular “poison.” These are parts of the level covered with a toxic goo that Poisonette can clean up by leaving the player character’s body. Most levels require the player to clear a certain percantage of poison in an area, and as they do so, they might find treasure and resources to level up buried underneath. It’s a great incentive to explore each hell.
While the gameplay was hit-or-miss, my favorite aspect of Poison Control is how leveling up works. As players complete objectives, Posionette will pull them to aside, recap what happened, and then ask a question. Depending on the dialogue choice selected, different attributes like Strength, Empathy, Insight (and more) will level up. I thought this was a creative way to handle the character’s skills, especially since the dialogue changes up each time.
Poison Control is visually stylish and I enjoyed the writing. Unfortunately, the combat aspects –which make up most of the experience! — need more polish and variety. This trip through a variety of mentals hell isn’t hellish, but it could have been better.
Disclosures: This game is published by NIS America, Inc. and developed by Nippon Ichi Software, Inc. It is currently available on PS4 and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS5. Approximately 25 hours were played in single-player and the game was completed. There is no multiplayer.
Parents: According to the ESRB this game is rated T for Blood and Gore, Fantasy Violence, Language, and Suggestive Themes The site states: This is an action game in which players try to escape Hell with the help of a girl (Poisonette) who possesses strange powers. From a third-person perspective, players explore various realms, cleanse a poisonous substance (mire) from the ground, and battle monsters known as Kleshas. Players use blaster-like guns to shoot enemies, with damage indicated by dwindling health meters/hit points. During some levels, the poisonous mire appears as large pools of pinkish blood. One still image depicts a character covered in the cartoonish pink blood, with severed limbs strewn about her. The game contains some suggestive material: characters depicted with jiggling breasts; characters in revealing outfits (i.e., deep cleavage); dialogue pertaining to breasts and crushes on teachers (e.g., “Wait…What’s with this humongous rack? Was I always this stacked”; “By ‘deeper connections,’ they’re not talking about covalent bonds, huh? It’s…hanky panky…”). The word “sh*t” appears in the dialogue.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Subtitles are present, but they cannot be adjusted. There are plenty of visual cues here and no audio is needed to play this game. Overall, this game is fullly accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, the controls are not remappable.
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