Japan has come up with some interesting ideas for games. One adventure might be fighting giant insects, another a bikini clad woman killing zombies, a sad girl trying to overcome grief with puppets or the horrors behind the church. Each takes the medium to fascinating places and offer a place to explore the world in its own way. Poison Control is a shooter where you also need to clean up hell for its own reward, but will the adventure match the intriguing ideas?
Poison Control almost instantly characterized itself as a kind of character interaction game, like the ever-popular Neptunia, instantly. Players are introduced to a creature, recently returned to human form, who doesn’t know who she is or even her bust size, known simply as Poisonette. You agree to work with Poisonette to follow the radio to new problem areas with poison and clear them to collect stickers so she can ascend to heaven and potentially get her deepest desire.
Naturally, Poison Control is not limited to this player team, as there will be goofy characters working towards similar goals, along with each location focusing on some kind of toxic element haunting someone’s mind. Most of the interactions follow the typical dynamics you’d assume from Disgaea or Neptunia, meaning there are boob jokes, teasing, and general silliness. These sections do a good job of breaking up the straightforward gameplay sections.
There really isn’t a lot of depth to Poison Control. Either player controls their created character who shoots creatures, or swap to Poisonette who runs around poison to clear it. Most sections will have some kind of condition to complete the area. Maybe get 50 percent of the poison, defeat a certain number of enemies, or progress until the objective appears. The only challenge to these sections is management. Oftentimes clearing poison has infinite spawns that poise danger for the duo or limited space to deal with massive threats. Regardless of how things go, it feels pretty hollow.
Generally speaking, the AI is pretty dumb and can be overwhelmed rather easily. Even without good tactics, simply attacking until they’re stunned and finishing the poison or killing them is one of the simplest ways to win. Combat also doesn’t really require much to win. Shoot some bullets and keeping a distance is often enough. Even larger enemies, who require a bit more effort to defeat, are threatening because they deal massive damage over anything else.
Level design is equally underwhelming. Most levels are pretty bland, set around some theme. Usually, the design or look matches whatever the human character whose area you’re cleaning problem is. Perhaps the most underwhelming element is execution. Giving sections an objective is fine, requiring a certain percent of poison to be cleared to finish is also fine, but what isn’t fine is how secrets are approached. Most of the time the hidden items or objective follows expected game design.
I don’t think there is a better way to phrase the concept than that. Like, the second stage can be finished almost the moment the duo enters the last room. Connected to that room is a golden chest, which holds one of the hidden items. Another is for clearing out the enemies in that room. Neither of these is things a remotely seasoned gamer would miss unless they’re speeding to the end. From time to time there will be hidden chests associated with breaking chests or doing other things you’d expect from someone who has played a game. I don’t think it’s a bad design, it just isn’t particularly interesting either.
Stages are also held back a bit by dodgy controls. It isn’t uncommon for me to send Poisonette into a room with poison, have it start an objective, and then step on said poison to take damage. Likewise, dodging isn’t as fluid as you’d expect, nor are the shooting mechanics. They will work, as will often just running to the side, making some areas feel a bit like a chore.
Outside of combat is brief sections where players communicate with Poisonette. These sections help determine how the interaction goes, along with determining how the pair grow. This can make it hard to choose certain paths, as one comment might be preferred to another but the other one matches play style more, though they give a nice window into how the pair thinks and feels.
Poison Control Review – Verdict
There is really nothing wrong with Poison Control, it just doesn’t do much to stand out. It has a neat concept with okay execution. Graphics aren’t overly impressive, nor are the controls, but neither really stop it from being engaging. For most the interactions and adventure will keep them going, it just depends on if that is worth the investment or not.
[Editor’s Note: Poison Control was reviewed on PlayStation 5 and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.]