Action JRPG Review Shooter

Poison Control – Review | Expect Some Side Effects

When it comes to niche games, Nippon Ichi Software is one of the first developers you’re likely to think of. Sure, their most known claim to fame is the hilarious Disgaea series which began almost 20 years ago, but they’ve been busy with game creation all the way since the mid-90s.  Their resume is certainly impressive and as you might expect, they can be quite experimental and aren’t afraid to try new things. And Poison Control is certainly an example of this.

Poison Control was developed and published by Nippon Ichi Software, though in the west they’re known as NIS America. Advertised as an action RPG with a large emphasis on gunplay and… well, poison control. With heavy themes juxtaposed with a colorful art style, do opposites mix, and could this possibly be NIS America’s next big franchise? Join me, my friend, as we take a journey into Hell, though I’ll be sure we get return tickets.

Poison Control - Flesh and Blood


Poison Control sees you playing as either a male or female character who winds up in Hell. Much like every good silent protagonist, they’ve lost their memory, but before they have time to comprehend their situation, you’re attacked by a creature called a Klesha. The monster takes over your body and transforms into a busty anime girl called a Poisonette. What? You’re surprised?! In a double dose of cliche, your new partner also has amnesia and decides to call herself Poisonette for the time being. The two of you now share the same body and are tasked with cleansing pocket dimensions called Belles’ Hells. These are created when a girl in the real world either has warped delusions greatly affecting their lives or they have has passed away and are now souls in Hell. Can these two unlikely allies get along in the same body and discover the mysteries about them?

The story starts out strong with an interesting concept, but it quickly fizzles out due to the very formulaic structure. Here’s how most of the game flows: you enter a new Belles’ Hells, get briefed on the soul that resides there, cleanse it and repeat the process ad nauseam. This wouldn’t be a problem if the story sequences between each area were interesting, but for the most part, they aren’t. A few mysteries are presented early on, but barely any of them get revealed or further established until much later in the game. Then there’s the twist at the game’s climax; it comes literally out of nowhere and leads into an unbelievable amount of exposition being thrown at you. It’s just too much to dump on the player at once, making Poison Control‘s main story quite back-loaded. There is a true ending you can acquire, one in which the game practically spells out the unlock requirements, so there are at least a few multiple endings for you to get.

Poison Control - Arms

Throughout the course of the story, some new, but shallow characters are also introduced, though their quirks can be quite charming and help break the tedium of the game’s story structure. For instance, there’s a noble girl who keeps mispronouncing phrases, something I found to be a fun comedic quirk that helps break the tension! I’m glad this is here because as cute as she can be, Poisonette is not that interesting of a partner. Mind you, I didn’t hate her; she’s very expressive and had some humorous bits of dialogue here-and-there, but as a character, there isn’t much to her beyond that. This is quite ironic, as you’ll often find yourself interacting with her with a multitude of options to choose from to see how she’ll react.

There is one more element to the game’s story and they can be found in the Belles’ Hells dimensions. As mentioned earlier, these are areas created from the souls of the girls that reside there, and each and every single one of them is the highlight of Poison Control‘s story and writing! Each of these girl’s stories are very well written, providing you with an engaging mystery about their backstory, with the game gradually piecing together their stories and how they got there. They’re also quite diverse with the kinds of stories they tell. Some of them can be humorous, like a woman who’s allergic to pine trees and wants to cut them all down. Some can be tragic, like a girl dying before showing her sick friend a picture book they worked on together. And yes, some can be unbelievably dark, such as a woman killing her twin sister and taking her place after she deluded herself into thinking she was her sibling. There are a ton of stories like this in the game and it’s almost worth playing just to experience them!


Poison Control advertises itself as an action RPG shooting game. A unique concept that’s reminiscent of the classic Playstation title, Mega Man Legends. Though comparing it to Poison Control might be a bit of a stretch and for a variety of reasons. Every area is infested with Klesha and it’s your job to use your comically sized arm gun to shoot poison to destroy them. Aiming isn’t too difficult with a generous auto-aim helping you target enemies when you aim down the sights, though this is a double-edged sword. While you can focus on a certain spot, the game has a nasty habit of not targeting what you want to hit when you want to adjust your aim. It could, for example, target an indestructible wall that’s close by instead of the enemy you’ve managed to bring to the ground. And then there’s the issue of moments where your bullets don’t do any damage when standing right next to an enemy. I regularly tried to get close to incapacitated enemies and use a shotgun blast to deal massive damage, though there are times where it looks like your shots land true, but they deal zero damage. It’s as frustrating as it sounds!

Poison Control - Shooting

Speaking of weapons, each weapon is tied to a girl you meet in the Belles’ Hells. They can range from useful weapons like the aforementioned shotgun blasts or machine-gun bursts. Either that or they could be next to useless. Examples of this are shots that act like close-range sword slashes that do almost no damage. You’ll also get armor and accessories that are also tied to girls too and grant bonuses like more HP or having money drop more frequently. Speaking of money, your equipment can be upgraded with coins you collect while traversing the Belles’ Hells and improves their stats. These pieces of equipment are unlocked by collecting three medals in their unique dimension, which serves as a great incentive to thoroughly explore their Belles’ Hell! There are a ton of weapons to pick, so you’ll undoubtedly find favorites you’ll want to stick with and upgrade. Though it is a shame that you have to load up a mission before being able to try a new weapon you acquired; who knows if it’ll be any good or not until you try it, right?

Poison Control - Upgrades

As for those missions, all of the dimensions you trek through are very similar to each other. Yes, their aesthetics are different, but they all work under a grid-based layout. Some environments have walls you can’t shoot through or doors to unlock, but the level design as a whole isn’t breaking any new ground. To try and remedy this, NIS America included a mechanic called Purge. Do you remember those flash games where you have to make trails to reveal an image in the background? Well, they took that idea and turned it into a fully fleshed game mechanic! By holding down L1, you summon Poisonette to run around and collect poison on the ground. You see, all these environments are swamped with pools of poison that damage you if you walk through them. Poisonette is able to walk through them and create a trail that absorbs the poison and clears it from the map. Plus, if you make a trail and return to your starting point, you’ll purge an area of poison all at once. This is important because any enemies caught in that section are heavily damaged. I really liked this mechanic! Clearing out a room of poison is oddly gratifying, thanks to it serving as a visual indicator of progress. It’s only made better when the mechanic is expanded on with more types of poisons you’ll need to clear to help add variety. It’s funny to think I enjoy a mechanic inspired by a flash game more than the fleshed-out shooting gameplay.

Poison Control - Cleaning Poison

The variety of Kleshas you’ll be fighting are pretty solid, with certain unique weak points that are relevant to that dimension’s theme. There are flying enemies, quadrupedal enemies, shielded enemies, and so on. My favorite enemy type is themed around mermaids. To take them out, you’ll need to use Poisonette to purge the poison they’re swimming in, causing them to be grounded and open to attack. Despite this, a lot of dimensions wind up using only a few of the Kleshas enemy types and this leads to going through them becoming quite a boring affair.

That’s an important thing to mention too; Poison Control can become incredibly repetitive at times. Why is this? You’re going through environments that are very similar, fighting a limited pool of enemies and using Poisonette to purge poison pools. This is the kind of game you’ll want to play in short bursts, as extended playtimes can easily lead to some players getting bored.

Finally, let’s discuss the RPG mechanics. As you go through the Belles’ Hells, you’ll gain levels that presumably increase your stats. I say presumably because there’s no way to track your stats. You’ll also frequently have small chats with Poisonette and you can choose between multiple dialogue options to increase a certain emotional stat like empathy or trust. Leveling up certain emotions gives you specific stats or skills, but again, there’s no way to track them. There is a status screen, but it’s completely useless, showing none of your stats like attack, defense, skills, etc. There is a ton of unused space that could have been used to show this information, so unless you look up a guide for how to level up Poisonette’s emotions, good luck knowing if the emotions you’re leveling up will lead to stat increases you want.

Poison Control - Emotions


Poison Control‘s presentation is quite uneven. The character models are literally rough around the edges, making it seem like no attempt at anti-aliasing was done on them. The environments though, despite being designed very similarly, have very distinct visual motifs that reflect the girl’s mental states! They remind me a lot of Persona 4‘s dungeons, acting as a reflection of who that character is and while some themes are repeated, I always looked forward to seeing each new location! Certain dungeons even have images hidden in poison that are revealed once you purge them, which helps add to each dimension’s individuality. The art design is also pretty unique too; I would never have imagined Hell to be so pink, but it really pops in a good way!

The art style is fantastic! I love how the characters are designed, with small details like the Poisonettes having subtle squid features. Characters also have a wide range of emotions and their profile pictures bounce around when they’re talking, helping add to the game’s charming aesthetic. The fact they had to design an enormous amount of characters for each girl in the Belles’ Hells should also be praised; that can’t have been easy!

Though it’s the audio that’s the true highlight of Poison Control! The soundtrack took me completely by surprise; it was outstanding! The way they were able to capture the emotional themes in each location while meshing techno and rock instrumentation in-between them is different, but it leads to a wonderfully catchy soundtrack. I’ve already begun listening to these songs outside of the game! There’s only a Japanese dub available, but from what I heard, each of the characters was appropriately cast and do a solid job. In retrospect, Poisonette has a habit of repeating voice lines during gameplay, so only having one dub option could be perceived as a blessing in disguise.

The game may look and sound good, but that doesn’t matter too much when compared to how the game performs. This game is a technical mess with a variety of issues that bring the game’s overall quality down! If too many enemies spawn on-screen, the game stutters like you wouldn’t believe. This is to the point the frame rate sometimes goes down to the single digits! The audio balancing is also out of whack, with some sound effects being absurdly loud, while dialogue is reduced in volume when certain voice lines are played and it isn’t reverted until control is returned to you. But worst of all, the bugs. You’ll sometimes have a funny one like seeing your character slide across the ground or being able to see underneath the map, but these bugs go a step further and ruin the experience. Some are small like text boxes not being properly displayed or elements of models detaching from where they’re supposed to be, but it gets worse. Let me give you two examples:

The first took place during the first boss fight. Poison Control has a lock-on feature to focus the camera on one enemy, though sometimes you’ll want to turn it off to get a better view of the arena. Unfortunately, when I tried to leave lock-on mode, my controls completely locked out and I was a sitting duck, causing the boss to kill me and required me to play the level again to have another attempt. This experience led to me avoiding using the lock-on mechanic for a majority of the game since some of these stages can take 20-30 minutes to beat.

The second took place later in the game, where the game would lock you into a small area to complete a task. In this case, the level tasked me to clean up a certain percentage of poison on the ground in order to progress. The problem is that the locked room challenge triggered when I was outside of the area, locking me out of completing the task and forced me to restart the level. No matter how you slice it, the fact that the game shipped out the way it is with these technical problems not being addressed is unacceptable!


I have a love-hate relationship with Poison Control. There is a gem of a game here, but it’s marred by a subpar story, design/gameplay issues, and the less I say about the technical problems, the better! It’s such a shame because the game’s art style, music, and the stories of the girls within the Belles’ Hells are genuinely excellent! I don’t see myself playing this again, but I’m sure that some of you can find some enjoyment out of it. I certainly did, but it came with some huge hurdles to overcome!


Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

If you would like to see more JRPGs, you may be interested in our review of Neptunia Virtual Stars.

Many thanks go to NIS America for a PlayStation 4 review code for this title.

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