Every time NIS America announces a new title, I almost subconsciously expect it to be a brand new JRPG or tactical game. The company has earned a well-deserved place in the gaming industry with great franchises like Ys, Trails of Cold Steel and Disgaea. That’s why I wasn’t expecting them to announce they were making a third-person shooter. Sure, it’s an anime shooter with role-playing mechanisms, but it’s still a third-person shooter. Poison Control is not a game you see every day from a Japanese developer, but I’m glad NIS decided to give it a chance. It’s not perfect, far from it, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it.

I’m actually Megaman in a suit.

Poison Control begins in the most metallic, doom-inspired way possible: They wake up in hell and are immediately attacked by a demon named Klesha. For some strange reason, this attack doesn’t kill you. Instead, you connect with this being who poses as toxic and symbiotically share his body. She wants her memories back and you want out of hell. To do this, one must enter various versions of hell created by the grief of the recently deceased, cleanse them of the toxic swamp created by their despair, and get on the good side of hell’s superiors.

Yeah, it reminds me a lot of Persona. Each level reminds me a bit of the palaces in this game, as they are tailored to a person’s personality, with their darkest secrets and regrets. One level was about a girl who felt bad about the death of her dog, so it was filled with tons of dog skeletons. Another level was based on the man’s love for the anime mascot (specifically Prinny from NIS), so you can already imagine that this version of hell was filled with statues and enemies inspired by his appearance. Some levels are definitely better designed than others, but overall each level is pretty unique. The same can be said for the game as a whole: It’s absolutely awesome, like nothing I’ve ever seen or played.

It’s a boy! Bring the ball!

Poison Control consists of a fairly simple game cycle: Choose a level, clear a poisonous swamp, kill enemies, search for treasures and grab a Magafin at the end of the quest. There may be a slight deviation in the focus of the level, such as a 100% focus on clearing swamps or taking out certain types of enemies, but it’s almost always a linear exploration of a dungeon with occasional optional puzzles and a ton of plot exposition dumped on you when you talk to the ghosts scattered throughout the level.

Those Prinneys are a lot of money, d00d!

These extra quests are not really missions, but hidden treasures that you should definitely take the time for. There are three special emblems hidden in each level. Finding them all will unlock a brand new skill that you can add to your equipment between levels. Speaking of which…

You read that right: Loading. It’s a third-person shooter, and you can customize your weapons and equipment between missions. You still have a main weapon called Toxicant, a second weapon that you can randomly obtain by defeating enemies called Delirant, and passive skills and buffs that you can unlock by collecting the aforementioned hidden emblems. The Toxicant has an infinite ammo supply, but must be slowly reloaded once the magazine is empty, while the Delirant has a larger (but finite) ammo capacity. You also have an attack zone that you can use occasionally, which is more effective when you’re surrounded by tons of enemies at once. This is actually a very common situation.

No man, she’s not romantic, she literally wants your body. I mean, she wants to own it.

The combat mechanics are very simple. It’s a normal third-person shooter from a few generations ago, with no cover mechanics. You can block an opponent outside of combat mode, but once you press ZL to switch to aiming mode, you only have a generous but limited aiming aid. Shoot the enemy until his health is exhausted. It’s that simple. It is a flexible operating system, but it seems a bit archaic and outdated. The layout of the entrances also takes some getting used to, but overall the controls are not bad. There are not too many problems, they don’t suffer from delays. It feels like you’re playing a PS2-era shooter, so it will take a while for your brain to get used to the 2003 mentality.

The other key mechanism, poison control, is swamp cleanup. Do you remember the demon Wafu with whom you share your body? With the push of a button, you can transfer control of your body to them, turning you, the protagonist, into an ugly pile of static bones. Then you can go through those piles of pink goodness and eliminate them in reverse Splatoon mode. Remediation of these wetlands is beneficial for a number of reasons. B. to speed up your main weapon’s recharge meter, find hidden items, stun nearby enemies, and recharge a continuous meter that activates when your health drops to zero.

This hell ain’t as bad as Duma….

Finally, there’s a little RPG mechanics here. Of course it does, after all this game was made by the same people who made Disgaea. Not only can passive buffs increase some of your stats, such as health and defense, but the little flirtation minigame at the end of each level can increase your stats based on your reactions with Poisonette. It’s not deep or complicated, but you can get extra health points or resistance to poison depending on how you handle it at the end of each mission.

It’s almost the opposite of Splatoon.

From a technical standpoint, Poison Control does the job, but I’m not sure if my problems with the graphics were due to the overall cheap atmosphere (as evidenced by the sometimes uninteresting level design) or the fact that I was playing on the Switch. The resolution is not very impressive, and the game suffers from image problems when too many enemies appear on the screen at once. The PS4 version of the game is much smoother, judging by the presentation trailer. But honestly, I don’t think this game is suitable for a regular console.

The special feature of poison control missions is that they are short and repeatable. You can just load it, run the command, save and quit. It’s highly addictive in short bursts, making the Switch perfect for gaming, especially in handheld mode.

There are boss fights here and there that add an extra dose of challenge to this otherwise simple game.

Whether you decide to pick this game up for PS4 or Switch depends on what you really want from each port. Do you prefer a more stable frame, better rendering and a slightly faster loading time? The PS4 version is for you. Well, if you want a version that makes better use of Poison Control’s gameplay cycle and design and want to play it, the Switch version is the one for you. It’s a bit of a soft shooter, but it’s a unique approach to the genre, with its quirky setting and light RPG mechanics. If you can follow the technical flaws, fighting the poison is an easy recommendation.

Lively and unique style. Unfortunately, this is hampered by sometimes uninspired levels and uneven framing. The third-person shooter mechanism in this game is a bit weirder than the average Western game, but after a while you get used to the strange aiming and unusual control layout. Lightweight RPG mechanics and a loading system add an extra layer of strategy to the mix.
Most levels have lively background music. The voice acting, though full of over-the-top anime style characters, is still decent. Poison Control is junk, but still fun. It’s a unique approach to third-person shooters, rarely seen in western games. Its short levels are also ideal for a portable system.
Last block : 7.5

Poison Control is available now on PS4 and Switch.

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A copy of Poison Control was provided by the publisher.

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