Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Have you ever felt mired in doubt or delusion? Have your worries and fears ever felt like poison gnawing away at your soul? Well find out how a soul gets cleansed of this murk, as you delve into Hell in Poison Control in order to cleanse the mind, and spirit.
In this new release title from NIS, we are introduced to a nameless main character, who gets predated upon by a horned demon called a Klesha. The Klesha, however, bonds with the main character, allowing the Klesha to regain its sanity and inhabit the body of the main character, leaving nothing but a skeleton behind. This doesn’t mean the end for the main character though, as they are now sharing the body with the Klesha turned “poison girl”, who our MC has taken to calling “Poisonette”.
Turns out that these Klesha are the results of delusions and negative emotions brought about by girls who have fallen into Hell, whether they have actually died or are just “slated” for Hell upon death in their current state. You and Poisonette must go and cleanse the poison mires created from these girls negative emotions in order to let them rest in peace. You aren’t exactly being altruistic here though, as cleansing a girls soul will reward you with a sticker. Collect enough and you are allowed into Heaven along with a single wish.
So how does one go about purifying the poison mires of one’s heart? With a Megaman style arm blaster of course! After bonding with Poisonette, the MC gets an arm blaster, which you can outfit with different shot types. Couple this with Poisonette’s ability to cleanse the mires by walking over them, and you have a recipe for success! Cleansing a soul is pretty basic in principle: you select a soul, roam around an area shooting enemies and cleansing poison, and then either talk to the soul or collect a “soul remnant” or item that is intricately associated with what caused the poison to take root, and there you go.
All this is done in a 3D third person view action style, where you run and gun. While shooting, you have a number of different shot types, such as laser, bomb, or rapid. You only have a set number of bullets, but depleting your ammo causes the bullets to slowly refill. You also have a dodge roll that will give you a period of invincibility and a powerful area shock move that requires charging by purifying the mires. If you run out of health while trying to cleanse a soul, there is a gauge in the bottom right with butterflies in it. Each butterfly will revive you upon death, and can be refilled by purifying a bunch of poison.
During purify mode, you send Poisonette out to clean up the poison. This is performed by walking over it. If you complete a loop, anything within the area you walked around will also be purified, including doing damage to enemies if they are caught within. Be careful though, as Poisonette can take damage, and so can your skeleton while Poisonette is out. Additionally, there’s a time limit on how long Poisonette can remain out, and the closer to the time limit you get, the slower she moves. Sometimes it’s better to just make a straight path, and sometimes it’s better to enclose an area.
While trying to purify a soul, you may come across a number of gold chests. These chests either contain the key item related to the poison behind the soul, or are one of three tokens per soul. If you collect all three tokens in a soul area, you gain that soul to use as a Toxicant, Antidote, or Catalyst, depending on the soul. These are basically just equipables, where the Toxicants are your weapons/shot types, Antidotes and Catalysts provide different support effects. There is also another type of equipable, Deliriants, which are picked up in stages. The other equipable souls can be upgraded in exchange for money, but Deliriants are limited ammo weapons that you can’t upgrade.
Occasionally during or after a stage you will have a chance to chat with Poisonette, and you are allowed to make a choice in response. These choices will affect a stat, namely something like “Toxicity”, “Empathy”, or “Trust”. Each of these stats will affect a parameter, such as shot recharge speed, or damage dealt. You can’t max all of them out during a single playthrough, so choose wisely. You can return to stages to get more cash however, so at least that isn’t too worrisome, although the response you give for the repeated in-area conversation won’t affect your stats.
I’ll be perfectly honest when I say that Poison Control is rather simple, and the stages do start to get a little repetitive after a while. That being said, each soul has their own uniques personality and circumstance, making it interesting to learn about them. Some souls are older, some are younger. Some souls have been burning their bad homework marks and it may start to escalate, some souls murder people because they can. Not everyone is redeemable, but that isn’t your job, you just need to purify the poison.
The areas themselves have a decent amount of variety, but tend to be really large with tons of blocked off areas. It would have been a lot better to just not have the section that are blocked off actually existing. Enemies are usually reasonable once you figure out how they function, but some of the late game enemies can get really annoying. Also, your shots have a sort of critical distance that you want to be in, otherwise you’ll either be to close to hit where you’re aiming, or too far away and your shot falls off. There’s also a timer while you’re in a stage, which is your time limit before getting a “Game Over”, but it gives you so much time I don’t believe I ever had it go below half.
The visuals are kind of cute, but nothing to get too excited about, but are quite colourful, especially the different coloured mires with different damage rates. The character interactions are where it’s really at though, as you really get a sense of personality out of the souls you interact with in Hell. As a whole, the game isn’t too long, which is good since there isn’t really a great deal of enemy variety or boss variety, and is pretty much the same steps every soul you go to cleanse.
The game runs pretty smoothly for the most part, although there were the occasional blank text boxes, missing dialogue, or dead enemies that don’t disappear for some reason. On the plus side, the localization team did a stellar job translating this title. There were a bunch of phrases I heard during the dialogue that are usually poorly translated due to English not having an equivalent phrase, but the localization team managed to nail down really well. I also really liked the “Higan Radio”, which acts as an introduction to each stage, and will generally give a brief description of the soul that has made its way into Hell.
Overall, I had quite a lot of fun with Poison Control. The ARPG aspect was pretty fun, the characters were interesting, and the poison cleansing was actually fun to balance against attacking enemies. While Poison Control does get a little repetitive after awhile, but thanks to the smaller instance size for cleansing the souls, it is fairly easy to pick up for a mission or two, and then put down for a bit.
The writing was well done, and the localization team did a really good job translating, which is also nice to see. Poison Control definitely won’t be for everybody, but that doesn’t mean it’s specifically niche in its gameplay either. If you’re okay with the anime stylized art style and an abundance of female characters, I’d say take a look at Poison Control to see if it interests you.Score: 7.5 / 10