Genre: JRPG, Shooter
JRPGs and shooters don’t often come together, and when they do it isn’t always a memorable experience. Still, it’s always intriguing to see the genres come together since it usually means fresh gameplay and even story beats for a genre that typically relies on swords and the like. Poison Control is the latest game to mash these genres together, and it certainly is a unique experience.
In Poison Control players will help the unnamed protagonist and Poisonette clear poison out of hell. The two characters are “soul mates,” and can only purify Hell’s poison’s with each other’s help. Purifying hell will help the duo get stickers that will admit them into heaven where they can have one wish granted. While purifying hell, the two also run into Kleshas, who are beings on the prowl to steal the protagonists’ bodies. It’s a strange premise, but it leads to some gameplay that is unique in its own right.
Poison Control is broken up into many stages, with each one requiring players to clean up a different hell. Each hell was created by a different person who allowed for their worst ambitions or traits to consume them. By clearing the stage, the player is freeing the person from their negativity while also purifying their hell. Most of these stages have specific objectives, but they usually include the player shooting kleshas and cleaning the stage up.
Each stage feels like a self-contained story and can be completed in less than thirty minutes. This makes every stage engaging, as players learn about the person who tainted each hell. Poison Control dives into some dark themes, which is surprising considering the cute and colorful aesthetic that surrounds the story.
The shooting portions of the game are standard fare when it comes to third-person shooters. The aiming is fine, and overall this part of the game doesn’t really have anything innovative to offer the genre. It’s a fine, non-offensive shooting mechanic that holds up throughout the 10+ hour experience.
To clear poison, players will switch to controlling Poisonette, who can clear the poison that she surrounds. Players will essentially run around the map, drawing shapes around poison to clear areas. Taking damage will break up the cleaning process, leading to players weighing the cost of purifying large batches at a time. Purification also gives the players an upgrade, making it a strategic affair sometimes. Still, the stages aren’t all that difficult, so players can likely approach levels how they like without concern.
The repetitive nature of the stages added on to the lack of difficulty does make Poison Control a bit of a chore to play. The gameplay doesn’t really change throughout, there are just new enemies thrown at the players. This wouldn’t be an issue of the shooting mechanics were more entertaining, but the only areas that Poison Control really shines in is the presentation and story.
If players aren’t too interested in visual novel type games, they won’t get much out Poison Control. This game is incredibly charming, and the character interactions are genuinely enjoyable. There is a decent amount of customization to tweaks the experience, but like the level design, there isn’t enough diversity to truly make a difference. Players who enjoy visual novels will get plenty of mileage out of Poison Control. It’s presentation is great, with tons of short stories that are full of personalities. It’s full of cliches, but the dialogue is genuinely funny with some great moments.
The visuals throughout Poison Control are great, especially outside of the actual battles. Character portraits are full of personality, with a cute style that juxtaposes well with the serious subject matter. The bright pinks and reds in Poison Control gives hell a vibe that I’ve never seen before, making this game feel fresh. There is a lot of fanservice in the way of bouncy female bodies, so if that sort of thing turns you away, you might not enjoy Poison Control. If the gameplay and the fanservice doesn’t stop you, this is a nice game to look at if nothing else.
The gameplay is bland, but that doesn't stop Poison Control from being a compelling game. The fun characters and unique aesthetic makes this a story that visual novel fans will want to stick with.