To start with, Poison Control is not a bad game. It’s a fun experience with a nice gameplay loop but it needs some serious patch work before I can conceivably recommend it to anyone. Why I say this is because despite the game having a visual style, characters, music, gameplay loop and general plot that I like, It’s also got some bugs which are either annoying or game breaking.
But before elaborating further on the issues with the game, how about we tell you what it’s all about first. Poison Control is a new JRPG from the Nippon Ichi Soft for the Nintendo Switch. This new title also goes by the name Shoujo Jigoku no Doku Musume – which directly translates to Girl Hell. In the game you play as either a male or female character who wakes up in a Hell specifically for Ladets called Belles Hell. There you’re met by a Thicc with two Cs, waifu of dreams creature known as a Klesha. The Klesha are manifestations of female powerful emotions in the spiritual realm. The Klesha who initially attacks our protagonist in an attempt to steal their body becomes entangled with them in a weird symbiosis you’d expect to find in an ecchi anime.
Before long it’s made apparent that a Klesha who is capable of sharing a bond with a human is known as a Poisonette. Ours has lost her memory along with the protagonist and as such she goes by the name Poisonette. From there the two characters reserve to share a body while trying to find their way to heaven to have their wish granted. As you play you’ll be introduced to more characters including a rival of dreams, a solo Black Poisonette and the WAIFU OF DREAMS! – Dorami Mitogawa. Each of them are fully voiced in Japanese and sport some splendiferous designs similar to the disgaea series. Those similarities however don’t seem to be a coincidence due to the myriad of Disgaea references littered throughout the game.
Though visually it may seem inspired by the disgaea series, Poison Control does have a look all of its own. To begin with, the game is very pink – sporting a pink poison effect, backgrounds and even pink filters. This filter effect sometimes fades away like a mist but quickly returns like a poorly optimized game suffering from pop-in. So far it’s not clear if that’s an intentional thing or a bug but it should have a filter slider. If so then I’d turn the filter completely off to better appreciate the splendid visual appeal of the 3D models. They’re nicely designed but pail in comparison to their 2D counterparts. Models which sadly have few opportunities to view in their entity. A gallery option would help this a lot but who knows, maybe the studio didn’t have the budget.
In a sense I made the same excuse for why there is no actual menu during missions or why the main menu is relegated to just having a few options. Options which are themselves limited. In Fact the game doesn’t even point the player in the direction of the main menu. Finding it was an act of luck on my part and that’s sad because it’s highly important to completing the game. While in the hub area you can access your loadout in the main menu and you’ll need to do so. Early in the experience the game is a cakewalk but it quickly becomes challenging to the point where you’ll need to cycle through different abilities to counter the enemy types. Well that’s when it works.
Problems Keep Piling Up
Oh and the problems don’t end just there. There is a boss battle – the first one, in which the game will lock all your player controls if you attempt to use Poisonette to clean up any of the poison the boss spews. As such you’ll find yourself rushing your attacks to finish off the boss without any tactical play. It’s possible to beat her but that along with the loadout issue is too much for a recommendation. It’s probably possible to complete the game with blind tenacity and rushed play but that’s no fun.
The way poison control should be played is by choosing two primary weapons, a heavy weapon, one defensive and another to alter some special trait like having more money dropped by Klesha upon their defeat. It’s gameplay loop is heavily focused on this system along with another. That being the symbiosis between Poisonette and the protagonist. When working correctly, the player is able to switch to Poisonette at any moment by holding a button. While playing as Poisonette, you’re able to clean up poison by running over it or creating a loop around it which connects back to the main character. When partnered with the main character’s third person shooter mechanics, you’ll find an impressively fun gameplay loop.
Great Plot, Flawed Gameplay
The plot is also good but like the rest of gameplay it is flawed. Here we have a nice dynamic between Poisonette, the protagonist, their rivals and other characters. Poisonette and the MC also have a sort of relationship building aspect which pops up before and after each mission. In it you’ll have a choice among three dialog options that will affect one of her traits. That trait will gain a boost and her dialog will vary depending on the choice you made. The choices also affect gameplay like the character being faster or having more loadout slots. All of this good but long with it is this uninteresting, imposing radio show which interrupts the flow after and before missions to offer expositions. It’s got good voice acting and some cool easter eggs but after the first three you’ll be praying for the skip button.
Hmm I guess that’s all the bad we have…
Poison Control has a banging soundtrack and this time there are no issues. In fact I was seriously surprised to learn just how good it is. Due to it being a 2GB installation I assumed the game was either short or lacking content. Those assumptions were thankfully incorrect in that the game is brilliantly fully voiced in Japanese and has what is arguably my favorite soundtrack since Haven – a game I think you should all have played by now but I digress. The game’s OST features mind-blowing techno electronic beats like Mirror and Anklet to get the blood thumping but it has range. When the mood calls for it we get emotionally heart gripping acoustics like Tear Stains. It’s a wonderful mix that is easily my favorite aspect of the entire experience and that’s saying a lot because as you know – Thiccness is life!
Sadly despite rooting for this one, I’m unfortunately going to have to recommend skipping it for now. If this game were patched to fix broken boss battles and the loadout issue then I’d switch my opinion from wait to an instant purchase. As mentioned before it’s a visually pleasant title with interesting characters, banging music, a fun gameplay loop and generally likable plot. In a sense it could become a hidden gem or cult classic but first it’ll need a serious patch. Everything else about it is either perfect or quirky enough to dismiss.
The copy of Poison Control used for this review was provided to us by its publisher, NIS America.