Released simultaneously for the PS4 and Vita, Mandatory Happiness is a visual novel game set in the Psycho-Pass universe you might know from the 2012 anime of the same name. If you haven't seen it, however, don't worry – the game's narrative is a parallel story to that of the show, and you need know nothing about it to get the full experience here.

The plot of the game is an interesting one. Depending on which of the two characters you choose to play as, you're either an inspector or enforcer – detectives who are charged with maintaining the peace in a dystopian future Japan. Much like in Minority Report, this dark future sees criminals identified before they commit a crime, here by something called their crime coefficient, which affects something called their hue. Basically, a complicated computer system called Sibyl can tell if you're going to do bad things, at which point you're labelled a latent criminal and subject to swift, harsh justice.

Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness review

Against this backdrop, a series of weird events takes place. As your chosen character, you need to solve each case that comes along, and gradually reveal the overarching plot that connects them. The story is pretty cool, although many of its beats will be quite jarring for those without a deep familiarity with Japanese culture.

The game is primarily played by pressing X to dismiss lines of dialogue that come up. Occasionally (something like 30 times total in the entire game), you'll need to choose between two or three different options, after which the dialogue-dismissing activity resumes once more. That might sound like it's a negative appraisal of the gameplay, but it's not intended to. Instead, the goal of this paragraph is really to explain just how a visual novel works – it's not really a game, and if you go into it expecting active participation you're going to be disappointed.

That said, the options you choose are far from unimportant. Rather, the choices you make will cause significant diversions and open up markedly different routes through the game's meta narrative. My first time through, the game concluded rather abruptly with the display of a rather small "bad end" graphic. What you choose affects more than just the dialogue you'll be presented with. Fortunately, playing again is easy and thanks to the ability to speed up and skip through dialogue, not all that painful, although there is a lot of dialogue.

Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness review

Presentation is a basic affair, but all of the "spoken" components are very well voiced by a mostly excellent Japanese cast. In fact, if you're learning Japanese, the ability to read and hear the clearly voiced dialogue is worth the price of entry alone.

Otherwise, the game is basically a series of static scene graphics over which each of the characters' portraits are displayed. Those portraits are lightly animated during dialogue but ultimately manga has more visual variety than this game – let alone anime. Still, that's hardly unusual for the genre, so it would be unfair to judge it harshly on that.

it’s not really a game, and if you go into it expecting active participation you’re going to be disappointed

Ultimately, Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness is a fine example of the genre. It's a good, long story that's well served by multiple playthroughs. The narrative can be a little predictable at times, with characters often making choices that don't seem to fit their stated motivation, but there are enough twists and turns to draw you in and then keep you hooked, and that you'll want to find out how things would play out had you taken another path. This game isn't not going to set the world afire or drive the genre forward, but fans are well served by the content, and those unfamiliar with visual novels that just want to get another piece of the Psycho-Pass pie will likely enjoy the experience.