Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness tells of a sci-fi world where everything has been digitalised including the looks of clothes, food, buildings and room decorations now replaced by holograms. The public is governed by an AI super computer system known as Sybil. Sybil has cameras everywhere monitoring everyone's "Psycho-Pass" which is a quotient rating on an individual's mental health and how likely they're going to commit a crime. It also pre-determines an individual's most suitable career path the moment they're born. Thanks to such a system the public is at peace.
However, some criminals are given a second chance to serve as law Enforcers and are also made to carry out any dirty work. Weapons known as "Dominators" are also controlled by Sybill and depending on the AI's judgement, people can either be paralysed for treatment or brutally executed.
This visual novel features an original story where you play as one of two new recruits, the happy go lucky Takuma Tsurugi who is jailed due to his Psycho-Pass being too high or, amnesiac Nadeshiko Kugatachi who joins the force for her high analytic skills - so yes, this game caters towards both male and female players.
I chose to play as Takuma who lost contact with his childhood crush one day and was blamed for her disappearance. Now he is given a second chance to work as an Enforcer but of course, he also has his own objective of looking for his crush. Funnily enough, his new partner (which happens to be the other "playable character") looks just like her.
As they go about their new careers as Enforcers, they discover that someone (or something) had stolen an android body and also happened to be the one behind all the recent crimes. He calls himself "Alpha" and claims he must bring happiness to everyone despite breaking the current system that Sybil governs. Deemed mentally unstable by Sybil, you end up arresting the people he's been attempting to grant happiness and thus, become his enemies. Now you must continue solving crimes while tracking Alpha down.
The story fits the original world setting which makes sense since it's written by the same person. Even though it's a visual novel with no action game parts, the decisions you make do feel tense since it determines the outcome of the assignments. It gives you a good idea of what it might be like to be in the shoes of an Enforcer. Playing as the other character also gives you a different perspective.
Single playthrough is actually very short compared to Steins;gate. It's actually quite forgiving and hard to get a bad ending but the moods about right. There's actually not that many regular cases to handle before the story starts to wrap up so, it feels a bit lacking in content in that regard. You can finish a playthrough in a day depending on whether you read or want to listen to the dialogue.
Decisions are mostly investigation related and aren't timed so you don't feel as much of a rush but the music is well composed to help with the dark and tense moods. Anyone who has watched the Anime will recognise a lot of the tracks.
The different endings and branches aren't quite as exciting as Steins;gate. The decisions you make mostly lead to character events rather than major changes in the story. While the regular mental health stabilising supplements or counselling seems to mainly limit the choices you can make but ultimately the story goes pretty much the same way.
Other than the main visual novel itself, you can play mini games to earn points and unlock concept art. I was hoping for some original illustrations such as posters but, it's all line art of the key scenario illustrations unfortunately. Unlocking the fun character voice clips are more worth while.
While the Japanese version had a smartphone app where you could play the mini games, the Western release doesn't seem to have it unfortunately which makes it harder to rack up points.
Game comes from 5bp who is known for other visual novels such as Steins;gate while the scenario writer is Gen Urobuchi who, wrote the plot behind dark shows such as Madoka Magica.
Backgrounds look great as with regular visual novels and a few of the locations you'll have seen from the Anime while characters are rendered the Anime way. A lot of the times they are bright and vivid compared to the case you're involved in. We also have the full cast of Enforcers here.
Mandatory Happiness is a good side story to Psycho Pass and should satisfy anyone who wants to experience what it might be like to an Enforcer. For those who have yet to watch (or read) Psycho-Pass, you might want to do so first. Even though it's set somewhere before the first season there are a lot of huge plot spoilers. While I'm a fan of Psycho-Pass, this visual novel is definitely not worth the full price with the way the story branches are fleshed out.