Far from perfect, but still pretty fun, Poison Control is a decidedly unusual RPG.
If the main Japanese role-playing game developers usually create complex, engaging and extremely painful stories, there are at least two studios that, on the contrary, shape their products around the unmistakable, and often misunderstood, demented comedy typical of the Paese del Sol. Levant. Even before Compile Heart set new insanity records with the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, that bizarre record belonged strictly to Nippon Ichi Software, which since the beginning of the third millennium has amused its fans with the bizarre universe of Disgaea and its hilarious Prinny. Since Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny will debut in Europe in June 2021 to lead us once again to the gloomy Netherworld (in this regard we suggest you consult our special on Disgaea 6 and the other JRPGs of the New Game + Expo), in the in the past few weeks we have deceived the wait by trying our hand with another unregulated title packaged by Nippon Ichi Software.
We are of course talking about Poison Control, an atypical action RPG that mixes genres that are also very distant from each other, such as the puzzle game and the third-person shooter. Below we offer you our consolidated impressions on the product, reminding you that this will be available on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch (also in physical edition) starting from Friday 16 April. Are you ready to descend into Hell with us?
Purify the feelings that poison the heart
From Criminal Girls at the same Disgaea (if you want, here you can retrieve our review of Disgaea 5 Complete Edition), there are now countless ludic sagas that have offered us absurd and improbable visions of the afterlife, but it is likely that none of these were as deranged as the one offered by Poison Control.
Not only is Hell overflowing with colors, but poisonous swamps are generated every day within it, originating from the negative feelings experienced by the girls who have passed away: in fact, once they have plunged into the other world, they are punctually trapped inside. poisonous manifestations of their own personal despair, and they continue to suffer until the moment of purification. The protagonists of the story are a nameless avatar with a customizable , who for some mysterious reason came to the afterlife without remembering anything about the life he led in the Mortal Kingdom, and the haughty Poisonette, a pretty girl who stole the body of the poor amnesic.
When the two met for the first time, the Poison Maiden in fact devoured the meat to finally obtain a wrapper, ignoring that, by doing so, she would be linked in a perhaps inseparable way to the new host of Hell. The only hope they have of separating is that of reaching Heaven, where each of them will be able to see a wish fulfilled: respectively, to return to the world of the living and have a personal body.
To deserve access to the aforementioned place, however, the duo will first have to explore real dungeons born from the hearts of the so-called “Beauties”, find out what caused their fall to Hell, face the poison in their souls and finally free them from ache. An undertaking that is far from easy and that will lead them to clash several times with the fearsome Kleshas, frightening creatures that emerge from poisonous pools and always ready to annihilate any intruder. As certainly anyone with a minimum of familiarity with Nippon Ichi Software titles will have guessed, Poison Control doesn’t have the ambition to tell a dark and intriguing story, but the rambling narrative frame is a mere pretext to justify the continuous curtains and exaggerated reactions of punctually stereotyped actors. Elements that make Poison Control an experience not suitable for all palates, also due to the long-winded and visual novel-style dialogues that follow one another throughout the campaign and which repeatedly encourage the player to skip them. The target to which the title is aimed is once again represented by the most ardent admirers of the typical Japanese comedy, to whom the product actually manages to snatch a few laughs at regular intervals. Quarrels provoked by childish rivalries, hilarious misunderstandings and even a pinch of fanservice in short, they are the main courses of a well-established menu which, giving up even the slightest semblance of originality, can still be appreciated, especially if tasted in small doses.
Having ascertained the marginal role that the narrative component plays in the economy of the title, it is time to examine in detail the extravagant mix of genres carried out by Nippon Ichi Software. Since the two undisputed protagonists share the same body and can therefore swap places at any time, the peculiarity of Poison Control is represented by the continuous alternation between the sequences from third person shooter and those from puzzle game, which are reversed depending on the character controlled by the player and the situation faced.
Being the only fighter of the team, the forgetful Avatar is in fact at the center of the shooting phases, and as such can equip various types of weapons and accessories that alter their basic parameters, attack patterns, range and number. ammunition available; Poisonette, on the other hand, has the task of purifying the areas corrupted and soiled by large puddles of poison, through mechanics inspired by the well-known arcade video game called Qix.
When in control of the girl, the player can in fact hold down the appropriate key to cause the girl to create a line on the floor with which to surround the area to be cleaned: however, since Poisonette can only be used for a few seconds before to relinquish control to the other character, it is necessary to carefully evaluate the path to be taken and the area to be purified. Also because, while the girl takes no damage when walking on the poison, her teammate is particularly vulnerable to it.
Consequently, if the purpose of the shooting phases is to remove from the pitch anyone who could hinder the work of Poisonette, the purification of the surrounding field is instead aimed at paving the way for the Avatar and minimizing the risk that these can wallow in poisonous pools and lose their health points. From a strategic point of view, the aforementioned phases are equally essential to pass the internship and complete the tasks that the system entrusts to the duo from time to time. Too bad that the mechanics of the exchange are plagued by a couple of technical problems that make it one of the main causes of defeat.
In spite of what one might imagine, the replacement is not immediate, but on the contrary is preceded by animations that require a few precious seconds in which one or the other character escapes the control of the user, thus lending his side to the assaults of the enemies. A situation that punctually translates into massive health point losses. Moreover, when the player controls Poisonette it happens too often that the appearance of a powerful enemy triggers a brief alarm, quickly reversing the two characters without a specific reason. As a result, during the purification of the poison we have been interrupted countless times by short interludes that reset Poisonette’s work and switch her places with the Avatar, who also reappears in spite of herself in the poisonous pools. In addition to these problems, which are already quite irritating, there is also theinability to zoom in on the mini-map to find your way around the dungeons, understand which path has not yet been trodden and avoid going around in circles (risking running out of time), without forgetting the very frequent cases in which the Avatar, despite still having a lot of ammunition available and not needing to reload, ceases suddenly fire for several seconds.
Technical defects that added up undermine the usability of the title, generating episodes that are nothing short of frustrating and unpleasant. Nothing that a patch cannot try to solve, but since the title has been out in Japan for almost a year and that in the meantime the developer has not yet remedied it, the chances of this happening appear very remote.
Technical sector dated
Like so many other titles packaged by Nippon Ichi Software, Poison Control has a minimalist and somewhat dated art sector. In fact, polygonal models are affected by a low level of detail and ineffective chiaroscuro, not to mention an often unavailable antialiasing, and too spartan, monotonous and boring textures.
To rebalance the situation at least in part, we think the splendid artworks created by Madoka Hanashiro, former character designer of The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2 is The Princess Guide, the lively soundtrack and the well-acted dubbing in the original language.
Poison ControlVersion Analyzed PlayStation 4Poison Control is only partially successful. If on paper the mechanics of the exchange of the protagonists opens the doors to a delightful strategic component, in practice some technical deficiencies of the action RPG make this one play to the detriment of the user, offering enemies numerous opportunities to empty the bar life of the Avatar. Tackled in small doses, perhaps in moments of break from work or study, Poison Control still manages to entertain the player with an increasing level of challenge and lots of comic curtains, as long as he does not have a natural aversion to the omnipresent sense. of the humor typical of Nippon Ichi Software products.