Poison Control is the latest game to come from NIS America, and it’s out now for PlayStation 4 and the Nintendo Switch. How does it stack up against some of the publisher’s other titles? We playtested it on a PS4 Pro.
NIS America has been responsible for some of our favorite Japanese games during the past decade or so. Between the Trails of Cold Steel, Ys and Danganronpa games, we’ve probably clocked hundreds of hours worth of gameplay time on NISA games. They’ve also surprised us in other genres with games like Dragon’s Crown and we’re eagerly anticipating R-Type Final 2 later this month, so we were more than curious as to what Poison Control would bring us, as it would bring third person shooting into the mix.
NISA certainly doesn’t shy away from the weirder/quirkier side of videogaming, and Poison Control is no exception. Its narrative is about (sinful) desires that manifest as “Kleshas” that need to be purged from a series of dungeons by your protagonist, a blend of a woman called Poisonette and her chosen Soul Mate. Yes, it sounds weird, but the story is functional in the sense that your chosen combination also results in different abilities that further diversify when you cleanse game worlds and add more stats and enhancements.
When playing, most dungeons represent individual mini-episodes with matching narratives, each ‘episode’ manifesting itself as belonging to a different character. Successfully cleaning up the levels means you gain “heaven stickers” that will ultimately let you escape the hellish environments you roam around in, but far more interesting are the story tidbits that relate to the individuals whose thoughts you’re purifying. Unfortunately, however, most of these stories stay at a very superficial level and that relatively lack of storytelling feels like a missed opportunity.
The gameplay, as mentioned, is of the third person shooter variety, with a variety of weapons at your disposal. Compared to genre benchmarks like Gears of War or even the very recent Outriders, the gunplay here is quite basic. Poisonette’s powers with which she purifies the world around her are far more interesting and can often also be used in combat, but those looking for the next great third person shooter are probably still better off elsewhere. There’s a nice mechanic where you switch between characters in real time, but the execution is just too rough around the edges.
Poison Control’s charm lies with its characters and style – the latter of which permeates the entire game, from the UI to the animated character art in conversations right down to the in-game visuals and the music. During your interactions with Poisonette you can also tune your character to your liking through conversational choices, all which affect your skills and/or attributes. It makes for an experience where we really enjoyed the premise and characters, but wished they were tucked away inside a more memorable game. Poison Control isn’t bad, but its gameplay and the missed narrative opportunities don’t do justice to how interesting the lead characters are.