Overall, Poison Control is a very fun third-person shooting game with visual novel and JRPG elements. It’s a little rough around the edges and could use a bit of polish, but we were very satisfied with the game and got a lot of laughs out of its great writing. Our review of the title will contain no spoilers, only an explanation of the premise of the storyline and how many missions there are.
This game is an “isekai” game, or in other words, it’s a game where the protagonist is transported from a realistic world to a fantasy world. In this fantasy world, you’re stuck in your body together with a woman named Poisonette.
You can choose the gender of your protagonist. Along with Poisonette, you need to cleanse the poison in each “Belle’s Hell”, which is basically a girl’s physical manifestations of the conflicts they face. You’re guided by two radio hosts on a show called Higan Radio. There are many several storyline routes in the game, and you can choose how to progress in the endgame as you continue to cleanse numerous Belle’s Hells.
The gameplay elements are very interesting and addicting. If it sounds confusing that you’re sharing a body with Poisonette it’s not – the protagonist will shoot the enemies, whereas Poisonette will cleanse the poison in a Belle’s Hell. The catch is that you can only use one of them at a time, and if you want to switch to Poisonette, your body will temporarily turn into an immobile skeleton and Poisonette will be able to manifest herself and move around.
When you control Poisonette, the enemies will now be targeting her, so you need to keep your distance from the protagonist’s body, otherwise they will shoot the protagonist’s skeleton body and you’ll be snapped back into one body.
You can cleanse the poison mires by cleaning the patches from walking over them, or you can even enclose them in a shape, making the cleaning much faster. You can also enclose enemies in a closed cleaning space, causing damage to them.
It creates a very fun gameplay loop because you shoot with the protagonist’s weapons, then switch to Poisonette for her cleansing ability while you reload your weapons. Mastering this combination is a key to playing well in this game.
The menu style is actually very similar and looks inspired by Persona 4 and Persona 5. This game is one of the most colourful games we’ve played, but it’s not overbearing by any means. The artwork of the game is great. Aside from the menu style and some of the colorful graphics, the similarities end and this game does an excellent job of standing up on its own.
The graphics are not technically impressive by any means, but the art design is really great and is similar to other Nippon Ichi games with its visual novel style cutscenes. Poisonette, for example, will have a chibi-anime artstyle as she talks with you and we laughed how she had a great variety of emotions, from laughing to crying to being scared.
Most of the girls in the Belles’ Hells will also have unique artwork. The dialogue is in Japanese and you have to read English subtitles. I do prefer this because this isn’t a high-budget title and this way the publisher can localize this game at a lower cost.
One gripe, unfortunately, is that the game does start off very slow, but it really picks up after an hour or so once the tutorials end. The start of the game is slow because you only have one gun, it’s un-upgraded so it has a very small clip size, and takes almost half a minute to just reload the gun.
It’s slow at first, but as you progress through the game, you continue to cleanse more and more of these Belles’ Hells, and although some of them were filler content, some of them were genuinely depressing and really made us stop and think.
Some of these issues include girls facing depression, binge eating, not doing well in academics or sports, having their artwork criticized, and many more issues. I found these conflicts to be handled very maturely in the game and it felt very satisfying to cleanse the poisons and enemies in their hells.
As a fan of Nippon Ichi games, there were many funny references to their other numerous titles, such as prinnies from Disgaea being referenced. If you’re a big fan of their games, you’ll catch many extra references and have many laughs of them, including one Belle’s Hell that was exclusively about a girl obsessed with mascot characters.
If you’re not familiar with other Nippon Ichi works however, it’s not game-breaking because the central plot of the game doesn’t center around that, so no worries.
We explained earlier that you can shoot enemies and cleanse poisons by running around in a shape and enclosing enemies within them. You will gain levels from defeating enemies and there are many choices in the game where you can have a heart-to-heart with Poisonette and increase an attribute, which will allow you to gain perks, such as having a faster movement speed for instance.
These dialog options are clearly labelled, so you don’t need to worry about interpreting and choosing “nice” or “mean” options, they’ll use icons such as a book to clearly represent intellect. This is a very great gameplay decision and leaves no ambiguity to what you’re doing.
Although the game starts out with you and Poisonette, you will meet more characters throughout and the plot really gets going. As you cleanse more and more Belle’s Hells, you will see an overarching plot and you can make plot choices for what route in the game you want to take. We strongly recommend making backup saves and you’re given 4 save slots to work with.
This is in contrast to the heart-to-heart choices that only affect your attribute levels and not the storyline. The first main story decision happens in Hell 25 (but Hell 25 occurs immediately after Hell 24, if you want to save you need to die in Hell 25 to get map to the map select), and you’ll needed to have purchased the Yomi Sake Bottle earlier on from the shop in the game.
The two other decisions happen after the final boss in Hell 26. We were able to save and reload to get 2 different endings, and one of the endings even had a postgame Hell mission and they were really well done, with custom CG illustrations for each ending.
We really do enjoy the style of the game and its tone. It really reminded us of Disgaea 3, and if you’re not familiar, it has its character say that “good is bad” and “bad is good”. There are many fun puns such as Belle’s Hell coming from the old expression “Hell’s bells”. The characters would say “I can’t for the death of me remember!” and when saying goodbye they’d say “Damn us to hell!”
We have a lot of respect for the localizers and the dialogue in this game was really well done. The two radio hosts explain the premise of each Belle’s Hell, and they simply do an amazing job playing off of each other.
Sometimes the game is self-aware with its DLC content, and Poisonette asked me “I can do this task for you if you want”, and when the protagonist said no she replied “Cheapskate!”. We got a lot of laughs out of this title and like many other Nippon Ichi titles the dialogue and banter really make the game.
The gameplay is not hard, but there are unfortunately a few spots that are tricky and there can be balancing issues and there are no difficulty options to choose from in this title.
You can gain levels quickly and worst case you can grind the previous mission if you’re having trouble with a new mission. When we say there’s balancing issues, sometimes there are tricky enemies types such as a knight-type enemy who really likes to lunge at you.
If you don’t keep your equipment and levels high then each hit will almost kill you. You can respawn instantly, but you need to use butterflies you get from cleansing poisons, so it can get grindy in difficult sections. The bosses are mostly the same enemy with a slightly different twist, which is unfortunate but understandable considering the scope of this game.
The bosses are also at the end of the level without checkpoints which can also be frustrating. There are also some bosses that spawn difficult enemies such as the knight-type enemies, and it gets a bit too hectic when you die in a few hits and even get stunlocked.
There’s also a boss at the end of a level where you lose all your weapons equipped temporarily, meaning you have to fight that boss with a loadout you’re not familiar with.
We had to grind a few levels by repeating old missions to get through it and there are definitely a few difficulty spikes throughout the game. But otherwise, the levels are very management and easy to navigate.
The levels are each timed, represented by a circle being unfilled, so we cannot tell exactly how much time each mission is, but most of the time we were able to beat the mission using only a quarter of the required timed.
Again, the game is definitely worth the experience and I anticipate that the developers will be releasing patches to fix and polish up the game a bit more.
This game has really fun gameplay, and definitely don’t let the negatives we mentioned keep you from trying this great new IP. As a fan of other Nippon Ichi games, we really had a terrific time playing through this title and exploring its endings.