Immaculate and intricately designed, Prison Architect is a fun and extremely engaging simulation game that puts you in control of (yep, you guessed it) a prison. But don’t be fooled by the cute art design of the cell guards and prisoners, Prison Architect is pretty darn complicated and if you decide to skip the story mode section of the game I guarantee you that you will be lost in the sheer amount of properties, objects, construction plans, programs, schedules, inmate problems.
The amount of variables put in place of the game is staggering: Prisoners can riot if they are displeased, guards can be murdered, you can create your own death row, prisoners can dig out of your prison, you can set up a drug and alcohol rehabilitation and prisoners can burn down rooms. Nearly every idea you implement can have drastic problems and if you don’t figure what’s causing these problems and fix it – you are guaranteed to fail…miserably.
The tutorial (Story Mode) is a campaign on its own, telling the story of specific prisoners whom you have been given the pleasure to deal with. However, It isn’t like your usual boring tutorial that the usual gamer skips to jump right into the fun, each section of the tutorial or ‘episode’ melds into each other and functions as a great goal which makes you thoroughly enjoy learning the dynamics of the free play mode. The narrative outside of the actual gameplay is an engaging and interesting work, which was crafted by award-winning author Chris Hastings. The player begins by following the story of a man who murdered his cheating wife and her lover, the next section interlinks with the previous plotline except following new prisoners and so on. Even with it’s simple aesthetic, the game still achieves a level of brutality and violence keeping it a game for a mature audience, which I really liked because previous strategy simulation games I have played have been directed to an ‘all ages’ audience.
Unfortunately I didn’t manage to finish the Story Mode as I was hindered by stubborn trivial bugs that would halt my entire progression, for instance, In episode two I was required to place 8 seats in the common room, which, once I did the game refused to register causing me to have to prematurely end the tutorial and jump straight into the other modes.
After my experience with the story mode, I touched down on the World of Warden’s mode, which allows players to scroll through hundreds of brilliantly crafted community made prisons for you to take under your control – as you can imagine some of the maps are freaking mental. I always wonder how people manage to find the time to create such ridiculously large constructions.
Gameplay on the PS4 is easy and fairly natural considering that Prison Architect is a PC port. I haven’t run into any gameplay issues but when it comes to micromanagement I can see the game being far easier with a keyboard and mouse.
The final mode is Prison Architect which in a nutshell makes you realise just how terrible you would be if you were to switch careers into the rehabilitation and construction sector. My first prison went dismally up in flames, literally, I only realised the infirmary was on fire after I polished up some luxurious cells with tv’s, radios and wooden floors – then again, simulation games have never really been my strong point. But if you are not as impatient as me and take your time building a functioning prison (and not just really fancy cells) I can see the game being fun with a strong goal orientation considering the destiny of your own prison is up to you.
Video source - Blitzkriegsler
Disclosure: Code for the game was provided by the developer.