A Cult Classic in the Making
Damn us to Hell. That’s the catch phrase of Poison Control, a sort of third person shooter that mixes RPG elements with traditional NIS America anime tropes. On paper, it wasn’t a game I was particularly excited to review, but in playing it, I found a game that I thoroughly enjoyed. You are the protagonist, and you’re quickly roped into a game of sorts, hosted by the Higan radio show, where you are tasked with cleansing the personal hells of a number of Belles.
The first thing you’ll likely notice is the dramatic flairs and flashes of color, stark pinks that clash with deep blues. You’ll find a visually warped overworld to select your missions that slowly expands as you continue to cleanse different Hells. As you explore this Dali inspired landscape, you continue to earn tokens that will allow you into Heaven – you’re helping Belles through their personal hells, after all, and should be rewarded. It’s an interesting concept in a less-than-inspiring overworld, but the game itself is pretty fun.
I was personally surprised at how much of a good time I had while embarking upon each mission. The game plays like a 3rd person shooter; you are equipped with a few different weapons – each of which you can earn by collecting enough weapon tokens in each hell (each Belle has her own weapon/item that you can fully upgrade and equip as you please). Each weapon features a different spray style (spread, rapid fire, etc.), and each defensive item provides a different boon to help you through your missions. You can dodge with the press of the circle button, aim with L2, and shoot with R2 – pretty standard 3PS fanfare. Nothing is groundbreaking; nothing is life changing – but it works well, and it’s something that kept me hooked. I think level design helped. Most areas were relatively short, so you could break up the shooting sections easily. Additionally, as you continue through each hell, you will build your relationship with Poisonette, the mysterious girl who borrows your body to clear poison from the hells (by running through/around them). This adds an RPG element to the game by providing you with choice – how you interact with Poisonette is reflected in the abilities and upgrades you receive as you do so.
What really hooked me into this game, however, was the story. The Belles each had some pretty interesting/devastating/etc. hells to clear, and the game didn’t shy away from tough subjects (it reminded me of The Caligula Effect in that sense). There were meaningful conversations to be had while exploring the hells, and I think that’s pretty cool. Some people may be turned off or uncomfortable by the subject matter, and that’s okay; for those who wish to continue, I think it’s an enlightening experience.
My biggest complaint, originally, was that the game was only dubbed in Japanese. If you’ve read my work before, you’ll understand why. In this case, it isn’t detrimental, as meaningful dialogue and direction is all conveyed through dialogue boxes. You won’t miss anything important scroll across the screen while knee deep in combat. It earns a pass here, and the sound direction as a whole was well received. Unfortunately, that wasn’t my only complaint.
Well into the third circle of hell, I encountered a glitch in one of the missions. If I didn’t make it fully into the combat zone when I initiated battle, I would be locked out (by a mechanic that is intended to you lock you into combat zones). After quitting the game the first time and restarting the mission, I was able to sneak into the zone that locked me out only to be blocked by the very next area. I don’t know why it was only this mission that caused me grief to that point, but it was almost game breaking for me, personally. It was the only gameplay issue I encountered in the game, but it definitely made me put down the game for a while after the second lock out.
Still, if you’re looking for a cheap (it is currently $39.99 on Amazon right now), anime inspired third person shooter with a wacky but intense story, Poison Control should be right up your alley. On the surface, it’s a light hearted game that feels like your typical NIS America offering, but when you get deep into it, it is certainly a whole new experience, one I would recommend to those interested in this.