To be absolutely clear for anybody reading this review: Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness is not a game. It’s a visual novel. The player (reader might be more accurate) makes the occasional choice to determine certain outcomes, but for the most part, you’re just along for the ride. The aforementioned details make this “game” difficult to judge. In the end, my conclusion came as a result of recognising how story-telling has evolved in gaming. That TellTale games are essentially the advanced visual novels. With that in mind, Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness doesn’t do itself many favours. It tells a decent tale but for the most part I was simply bored of it. If you’d like to know why, read our full Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness Review.
Look and Feel
This “game” captures the visual style of Psycho-Pass really well. That clean-cut, future dystopian look with distinct faces. It stands out effortlessly. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do much with the art work. Static backdrops coupled with re-used assets get tired fairly fast. Minor mouth movements from the characters keeps the attention somewhat engaged. Still, it’s not enough to disguise the constant stream of nothing happening.
To talk positively for a moment, the game features the anime voice cast of Psycho Pass. I’m sure that’ll please anime purists. I prefer the dub, in all honesty, but there’s a lot to be said for the exuberant performances of the Japanese cast.
Unfortunately, there’s no English dub for the release of this product. So if, like me, you prefer to watch a story fold out without having to read it all, you’d better learn Japanese.
Menu Layout Nightmare
A specific issue on the Playstation 4, I had a great deal of trouble accessing the main menu. By pressing L1, the game opens the menu but then immediately opens the “Tips” section for information gathered. When I attempted to save the game, the option to access the standard menu doesn’t appear to exist. In order to get the very real menu that exists, one must press the PS button to place the game on standby for a moment. Following the standby, return to the game and the main menu should be available. A minor situation in the grand scheme of things, but what a frustrating hour or two before realising the work-around.
The control scheme is never entirely clear either. A lot of the time, the product seems intended for the Vita. That’d be obvious to any visual novel fan, I suppose. That’s not me. Not after this first experience.
In all fairness, Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness does deliver on its intended purpose. It successfully delivers a good narrative separate from the source material.
The player takes control of either a male or female protagonist: Takumi Tsurugi (Male) or Nadeshiko Kugatachi (Female). From their perspective, the story of a rogue A.I unfolds as we discover various details about why these two characters were assigned to the same case.
Joining the player character are series regulars from the Psycho Pass anime. Essentially this visual novel is a form of fantasy fulfillment: embark on a case with your favourite Psycho-Pass cast members. The protagonists do more than serve as the player’s avatar, however. Both Tsurugi and Kugatachi have their own mysteries. It really feels like they’ve lived a life. The revelations are interesting for the most part, although the grander mystery is somewhat obvious.
Choices? Okay. *Saitama Face*
At certain intervals, the player will be asked to make a choice. The choice significantly impacts either the outcome of a situation or the general dialogue. Sometimes the group the player will accompany will be different, leading to an alternate scenario.
Choices pose an opportunity to make a meaningful difference. Especially when the entire driving force of this product is plot. There’s not really any gameplay to speak of. I don’t feel that Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness makes good use of that opportunity. No matter how events unfold in a certain aspect, the end result remains the same. The choices don’t feel impactful in any way, other than some obvious moments, such as dying because you tried to grab a molotov cocktail. Extra bothersome when the menu function won’t work as intended before making the choice, forcing an annoyed David to start from the beginning of the game….
Lost in Translation
The localisation is fairly good overall, but there are some glaring issues at times. The aforementioned molotov moment. The correct option is worded in such a way that it seems like the most harmful. At first, I considered this to be a deliberate move. A sort of ruse to disguise it as the most appropriate option. Later, however, there were even more mis-translations that caused me to think the product didn’t receive the most love in the QA department.
Truthfully, only the molotov choice caused an issue in progression. The rest can be gleemed from the sentence surrounding the mistake. It’s merely a note for those of you feeling nit-picky.
It’s a visual novel. It can be set to auto-play or you can advance the text manually, but it’s just text and pictures. I don’t know what to say. If a game is expected, it doesn’t exist. I wish it had a little more interactivity. There are moments that make it seem as if you’ll choose the outcome, but really it’s already been determined.
The game informs the player when they’ve taken a branching path, but it doesn’t seem to follow any real logic. It’s rarely at the decision making moment. More often than not, I’d see “TURNING POINT” pop up in the middle of a quiet, inner-monologue moment. I’m sure there’s a system based on your decisions, but I’m not interested in this enough to work it out. It’s not worth it.
That said, Psycho-Pass could lend itself well to a good third person shooter. It really is a shame that this is just a visual novel.
There IS a saving grace however: search the Extras section of the main menu. There’s a portrait matching mini game that’s more fun than any of the actual story. I lost a good hour to it before this review. Check it out!
I can’t recommend Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness to any but the hardest of hardcore Psycho-Pass fans. I can’t count myself among them, but I do enjoy the anime. That said, this is a very niche product aimed at a subset within a subset of enthusiasts. Remember that this isn’t a game: it’s a visual novel. If you’re unfamiliar with Psycho-Pass, I wouldn’t recommend it as an entry point. However, should you find yourself enjoying the narrative of the anime or manga, maybe give this a go. Just understand what it is going in.
About this Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness Review.
Game: Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness
Developers & Publishers: 5pb., NIS
Gaming Platform: PC Games, PS Vita, PS4, Xbox One
Genre: Visual Novel
Look and Feel - 6/10
Story - 7/10
Gameplay - 3/10
Overall - 5.3/10