Have you ever sat around and wondered what it would be like to run your own prison? What is going on daily to keep those baddies of society behind walls? What it would be like to be part of the entire incarceration and execution process after the courts determine this is what to do with these individuals? Me neither however this is what I was asked to do in Prison Architect and it’s interesting. Well at least the game is interesting as I’m sure in real life there is so much more involved with real emotions or is there? With that being said, you do get to run a prison from very small to very large capacity with plenty of game play options from a story mode that works as a tutorial to building from the ground up starting with nothing in the prison architect mode or just taking over an existing prison with a warden already in charge and having to clean up the mess from the previous person’s in charge.
Unlimited Play Style – As previously mentioned there are several ways to play the game. The story mode does have a unique story that you follow through the five sections that help you get up to speed on the controls and how to build things. It’s a nice way to throw you in the mix and allow you to play with little knowledge of how to play the game. The prison architect mode allows you to start with a blank slate with nothing but ground and your own set of rules including choosing your own warden that helps to determine the difficulty of the mode. You can build whatever type of prison you want and hope that you can house enough prisoners to keep it going unless you choose the unlimited money supply. This mode reminded me of the old SimCity days on the computer. Freedom isn’t free. And finally the prison warden mode where you take over a prison that has a warden in charge already but there is a set of challenges you need to meet in order to fix the issue caused by the previous person in charge.
Unlimited Detailed Building – Once you do start building things either in the freestyle mode or the challenge mode you are able to build things the way you want them in great detail. You determine where the cells are, the mess hall, the guard stations and so on but not only that you choose where the windows and doors go, the size of every space, where the beds go, as well as the TV’s and where you put them. Every tiny detail even so much as the color of things, where the lighting goes, who patrols what areas, fence locations, and delivery area. I could go on and on. The choices to how you build things is really detailed and really unlimited.
Unlimited Random Events – Everything that I mentioned previously is under your control and you choose how you want to do them however all those things don’t come without consequences. Your decisions will determine what happens in your prison. Will there be a power outages, will the prisoners riot or have you set things up to run smoothly. Will a prison gang war erupt or will everyone get along. Will there be a shanking in the prison lavatory and showers or will everyone get along. This is a flowing prison. Not stagnant unless you turn off time and work on some planning but even the building part can’t take place without time moving and people doing their daily activities on your campus.
Unlimited Prisoner Constitution – Every person in the prison whether a prisoner, guard, warden, cook, construction worker, even the fire department that may need to come into your prison all have their own constitution. Some may be hardened while others are soft. Some are big some are small. They each have an individual name, preference, likes, dislikes and they are all roaming your prison doing either what they are told to do or not. They roam the prison either spending time in their cells or in the mess hall, showers, the yard or gym if you built them. This can cause random events as well and keeps you on your toes.
Limited Graphics – Although the graphics are nice they are flat and not very detailed. You play the game from a top down mode and all the prisoners are flat. All the minions running around in the prison are from the side view but you are looking from the top down view. The shading is limited and the artwork is nice but very flat. It works well but would have been nice if there was some three dimensional feel to it. I felt at times I was playing the game as if it was made out of construction paper on a table top. Maybe this is the look they were going for and it’s nice for what it is but it’s graphics are limited.
Limited Fun – Don’t get me wrong the game is fun and when you start off with building an execution chamber and you execute a prisoner deemed worthy of the death penalty you are looking forward to more but unfortunately this is the high point of the game. The game could have benefited from more of the story mode since I found those five areas the most interesting. However it is the perfect game for those that like management, sim, or tycoon type games. There is plenty to manage here and it is satisfying to complete parts but the learning curve is very difficult to an extent due to all the management details you need to control.
I think the game missed it’s mark in the fun factor even as a fan of the tycoon or sim type games. If the game had expanded on the story element or added other story lines then I would have enjoyed it more. Even with all the details included at certain points it felt tedious and I never felt like I was playing a game but instead I was busy building stuff. With that being said, it’s still a great game for those that enjoy games like Minecraft or other building type games.
- Graphics - 5/105/10
- Gameplay - 6/106/10
- Controls - 7/107/10
- Sound - 6/106/10
- Replay Value - 9/109/10
Consider Picking Up
Prison Architect was developed by Introversion Software and developed and published by Double 11 Limited. The full game was released on July 15th, 2016 and a press review copy was provided for The Hidden Levels. Many studios submit copies for site review but this is in no way factored into our review scores. Games are scored on their individual merits and our rating system is explained here.
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