Poison Control – Nintendo Switch Review

Overview – developed by Nippon Ichi Software and published by NIS America, Poison Control is a vibrant third person shooter/action-RPG set in a colorful and toxic hellscape. Partner up with the adorable Poisonette and travel the Belles’ Hells as you cleanse souls of their poisons, fighting monsters and trying to discover why you are in hell. This title is available on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4, a link to both versions of the game will be listed at the bottom of this review.

Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank NIS America for providing the copy of Poison Control that was used for this article. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this piece, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.

Content Warning: Poison Control has been given a rating of T for Teen by the relevant rating boards. However, it would be negligent of me if I failed to provide a content warning as this title addresses difficult subjects, including loss of loved ones, suicide and themes that may not be appropriate for all audiences. If you are upset or offended by the discussion of death, moderate fanservice and suggestive themes, please proceed at your own discretion.

Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review starting with the story.

Story – from the worldly desires of humankind, delusions are born. These delusions, whether from the living or the dead, manifest as toxic creatures known as Kleshas, and bring into being the realms of hell. After wandering into this infernal domain, your flesh and blood is usurped by a mysterious girl named Poisonette. To return to the mortal realm, you and Poisonette, as two souls in one body, must purify the hearts of the fallen. Who are you? Who is Poisonette? How did you get here to begin with? So starts the tale of your journey through the belles’ hells. (Story details taken directly from official Poison Control website)

Gameplay – the core gameplay of Poison Control is similar to the Nintendo franchise Splatoon, with fast paced third-person shooting and turf war style poison removal. As the protagonist, you must work with Poisonette to cleanse the hells that you encounter by defeating monsters called Kleshas and clear away the poison that covers the ground. The player character and Poisonette both have designated roles that they fill, with the player using a variety of weapons to eliminate the Klesha and Poisonette purging the toxins by walking over it or drawing a line around it.

As the pair of Soul Mates, you take on objective based missions scattered across the hell world map. These spaces are called the Belles’ Hells, created by the delusions of humans living and dead, holding memories, thoughts and even souls within these unique environments. For example the hell of a human that draws lewd manga will have risqué imagery in it, whereas the hell of a girl who wants to burn down her school has a classroom motif. The stories that are tied to each mission also affect the objectives and enemies that the player will encounter.

At the start of a stage, the story of the Belles’ is laid out along with an objective to complete. The objectives that players must complete include enemy elimination, purging poisons and locating specific items. During the course of clearing a mission, thought forms and souls appear during and the player must interact with them to progress the stage, often initiating sub-missions that must be completed to open up new paths in the level. The player can also find entities called Hell-Savvy Souls that give advice, providing additional help to aid the player.

Alongside the core objectives that are present for most stages, there are also special collectables that are scattered across each of the Belles’ Hells called poison gems. There are three gems located in each level and collecting all three will provide special power-ups for the player to use, including new weapon types and upgrades to aid the player in their tasks. The missions can be replayed, so missing a gem is not a major set-back for those who want to unlock everything, as the gems can be collected at a later time if you wish to do so.

As well as the poison gems, players can pick up items from destroying boxes and opening up chests. The pick-ups are extra ammunition for weapons, health ups to recover damage and large amounts of coins that can be used later on to make purchases. Make sure to check every area and explore fully as this game rewards exploration, providing an incentive for players who want to get 100% of each level cleared when playing this title.

Moving on, I want to talk about the combat/purging mechanics that this game uses. Starting the game, there is a limited amount of options in terms of weaponry, starting a regular shot called the Toxicant: Poisonette. The Toxicant attack has a limited number of shots and must be replenished when depleted, this is made possible by purging poison with Poisonette, defeating Klesha, collecting ammo refills and simply waiting for the meter to refill. There is an aim assist system built into the game, this setting can be changed to fit the style of the player, so experimentation is encouraged.

The Toxicant isn’t the only weapon in this game however, as there is another type of weapon that the protagonist can use in their quest to cleanse the Belles’ Hells. This is called the Deliriant, a limited use weapon that can only be replenished by collecting ammo pick-ups for the designated poison type. These special weapon types can be very powerful, but ammunition for them can be scarce so be careful when using them freely as they are most useful against stronger enemies. During the stages, the protagonist can use the powerful Soul Shock attack, by filling the radio gauge for a powerful area attack.

Poisonette can also be used to attack enemies, when in purge mode she can draw a shape on the ground around toxins to purge them. This can also damage enemies when they are standing on the poison that is to be cleared, as the ground will glow gold to signal an area purge. Effective use of Poisonette and her purge can help save ammo in combat, drop loot items and uncover hidden blue chests for extra bonuses to aid the player in the stages.

Take great care in and out of combat, as the protagonist only has a finite amount of health that will lead to a game over if it runs out. The game provides three recovery butterflies at the start and each one will only provide 50% health when used. They are used when all health is depleted and the only way to replenish them is to purge poison, this adds more tension to the action as the butterflies do not get restored outside of stages. If a butterfly is only recovered to half at the end of a stage, then it will stay that way before starting the next stage.

Now, I will finish with the action RPG mechanics that Poison Control uses throughout the experience. First is the leveling system, a staple in action RPG titles where the player earns experience for defeating enemies, clearing poison and talking to spirits in the Belles’ Hells. When the player levels up, basic stats are increased, including health, base damage and resistance to poison. Along with the leveling is the ability to upgrade weapons and power-ups that the player has, which is achieved by spending coins collected in the stages, with bonuses at specific upgrade levels.

 The second is the heart to heart events involving Poisonette, where she talks to the protagonist at designated points of the game. These events have multiple choice answers that can be chosen, which will raise one of six stats and unlock new upgrades that strengthen both the protagonist and Poisonette. The choices made by the player when talking with Poisonette may influence the progression of the story, this encourages players to replay the game and experiment with the options provided.

So with the gameplay covered, I will now move onto the other aspects of the game, starting with the difficulty.

Difficulty – there is no option to alter the difficulty of Poison Control. This isn’t a negative as the difficulty curve of this title is fair, gradually getting tougher as the story progresses. The challenge can be eased by taking the time to replay the earlier stages, boosting the level of their protagonist and grinding out coins to purchase upgrades. It is also advised for players to go revisit earlier stages to restore expended butterfly recovery charges, as being defeated during a stage will send the player back to the over world map.

Controls – the control method for this title is similar to most titles in the genre, with movement of the character and camera being set to the thumbsticks. The aim and shoot functions are set to the back triggers, purge is set to the left shoulder button and weapon cycling on the right shoulder. Other essential actions are set to the face buttons and they are all very comfortable, with no lag when playing in docked or handheld mode. The layout and reactive inputs provide a solid experience when playing the game with either the Joy-cons or Pro-controller.

Presentation – visually, Poison Control has beautiful artwork and vibrant environments throughout, showing once again why Nippon Ichi Software is known for providing beautiful experiences. The trademark style and fanservice that is in many titles from this developer is on show here, featuring suggestive imagery and references to other titles from the developer, including Prinnies from Disgaea. The only issue I have with the graphics is the occasional lag spike, which sadly occurred during very intense moments where the game pushes the Switch to its limits.

The sound for this game is just fantastic, with a soundtrack that features a mix of rock, electronic soundscapes and chiptune compositions. Each piece of music fits the area that it is tied to, adding more atmosphere to the hells that are encountered by the player. There is also a lot of voice work in this game, although the protagonist is silent, the rest of the recurring characters have voice lines throughout the game. This title has a Japanese only vocal track, featuring performances from Manami Numakura (Show by Rock!!), Yumi Hara (Overlord) and Asuka Itou (Azur Lane).

Final Thoughts – I had no idea what to expect when I went into this release, having only watched the trailers and avoided discussion of the game before sitting down to write this. I can happily say that this was the right decision, as during my time playing Poison Control, I found myself having an emotional reaction at several points of the game. The stories that were told have a lot of depth to them and tackle difficult subjects, some that have affected me in my own life which just pulled me into the experience even more.

I applaud Nippon Ichi software and the localization team at NIS America for the work that they put into this release. The whole package is a delight to play, the action is frantic, the controls are comfortable and the sound/visuals are fantastic. This is one of the best games I have played so far this year, with the only issue I experienced being the occasional frame rate issues when the game pushed the system to its limit, which isn’t a deal breaker. I can happily recommend this title to everyone that is a fan of third-person shooter and NISA titles in general.

In the end, I give Poison Control a final score of 4.5/5. The story telling, action and overall package is fantastic with a vibrant world containing a charming cast of characters. This is another feather in the cap for NIS America and Nippon Ichi Software, building on their portfolio of fantastic releases in recent years. If you want to check out this title for yourself, you can find links to the different versions of the game below.

Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)

Link to PlayStation 4 version (HERE)

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