Friday, April 21, 2017

PSYCHO-PASS: Mandatory Happiness (PC/Steam) Review

PSYCHO-PASS: Mandatory Happiness came out last fall for the Vita, and is now available on Steam for PC fans to enjoy.  It is a visual novel set in an alternate Japan in the year 2112.  There is a computer system called Sybil, which dictates what your future path should be.  Everyone's feelings are quantified, and those with "clouded hue" can be deemed dangerous.  It's used as an indicator for criminals, and Division 1 is tasked with dealing with them.  To do so, they use a special gun called the Dominator.  It can either subdue a target, if their hue isn't too clouded, or, if they are beyond redemption, blast them into tiny bits.  "I am the law" indeed.

As you go through the game, you follow your chosen protagonist (either Tsurugi or Nadeshiko), and together with the rest of CID Division 1, solve some crimes.  From their perspectives, the crimes start out as unrelated, but quickly coalesce into an over-arching story that is pretty enjoyable.  Admittedly, I'd like a little more closure to one of the game's bigger mysteries, but it may be tied into a future game or even the TV show (that I still sadly haven't seen).

At many points throughout the game, there are choices to make, which will affect some of how the story plays out.  The game is great at showing you when the paths diverge, but it's not always obvious how or why certain choices would affect it.  Your choices will also affect a scene in the middle of the game where you get to know one of your colleges better, and the ending.  As noted in my review of the Vita version, my first ending felt very abrupt and out of nowhere, and felt more like an extra scene than an ending to the game.  Still, much of the story plays out similar regardless of choices.  However, there is also a mini-game to play, which lets you earn points to unlock things in the gallery and other bonuses.  It's a pretty fun mini-game, but you will have to get really good at it to get enough points to unlock everything, as the total cost is way too high.

As a visual novel, the controls shouldn't make much of a difference.  The keyboard works, but the controls felt really off, and it took me a few tries to figure out where the menu was.  It's on the "1" key, which, in my limited PC gaming experience, is kinda weird.  Once I found that, I was able to look at the keybindings.  I left them on default, which is ok once I knew where everything was mapped.  To me, the mouse is the best, as left click advances text or makes a choice, while right clicking is the menu.  Pretty much everything you would need is right there.  Plus, you can click the on-screen buttons if you wanted to set the text to auto (which advances for you when the spoken dialogue reaches the end of the line).  The Xbox 360 controller works just fine as well, if you prefer that.

PSYCHO-PASS is a fairly engaging visual novel that takes around 5-6 hours for a first run.  The two main protagonists and the branching paths give good replayability, although I wish some choices were clearer in what it affected.  I imagine the system requirements aren't too high, but the game ran perfectly fine on my i7.  Loaded quickly, too.  I'd recommend the game to any crime drama fans, as the story is well written, and the world is pretty interesting.

The Good:
Good story, lots of choices, and many ending scenes.

The Bad:
How the route changes is rarely apparent.

The SaHD:
I'm glad the real life (non-killing) Dominator sold out so I wasn't tempted to get one.  Not like I could afford it, though...

(Review code for PSYCHO-PASS: Mandatory Happiness was provided by the publisher)

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