Over recent years simulation titles have become a large part of video game culture. With an endless list of games such as Bridge Constructor, Farming Simulator and of course the truly wonderful Sims, the opportunity to indulge in many of life’s trades without ever having to leave the comfort of your home has now become a reality, in a sense, we don’t need real life anymore.
If you have visions of becoming a pilot, a train conductor or even a goat for that matter you can simply turn on your PC or video games console and your dreams can quickly become a reality. So, if your lifelong dream was to build and manage a maximum security prison; home to the worst of the worst then Prison Architect might just be the game for you. However, don’t be fooled, beneath the games cartoon exterior, you will find a grim and complex simulation game and furthermore, a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Prison Architect: PlayStation 4, Xbox One [Reviewed], PC
Developer: Introversion Software
Publisher: Double Eleven
Release Date: 28 June 2016
Price: £19.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
Prison Stories acts as the main source of campaign for Prison Architect, offering an in-depth story for the many inmates players will be tasked with handling. As mentioned before, players shouldn’t be fooled by the friendly cartoon appearance the game offers with Prison Stories starting out with a man sentenced to death row for murder, the task in-hand – to build that particular inmate a cell and an electric chair, in which he will be executed. The death penalty still exists today in a large number of countries around the world, by confronting the very topic shows Prison Architect isn’t afraid to confront serious matters. The tutorial does a nice job of teaching players the ropes along with the overall running of each prison, the only criticism I could find was the shortage of stories.
There is far more to Prison Architect then merely building a couple of cells before deploying a couple of hardened guards to keep the place order; running a prison isn’t as easy or as simple as you might think. Prisoner happiness plays an important role throughout, making sure individual convicts remain happy and comfortable enough with their surroundings so that they will not turn to arson or stab a guard the moment his back is turned. There are many things to consider while experiencing this particular mode including allowing guards to walk certain patrol routes, starting a rehabilitation program for drug-addicted prisoners and much more. Building within Prison Architect is very simplistic; clicking and dragging pieces of the very foundation until the player is satisfied with the size, but customisation doesn’t simply end there. Each building must meet certain requirements before they can serve the purpose intended for them, placing the right appliances and furniture inside the walls before eventually connecting the items up to water and electricity.
Once you’ve had your fill of Prison Stories and are confident enough to handle the inmates alone then it’s time to delve into one of the two main game modes – Prison Warden and Prison Architect. Prison Warden mode gives players a pre-built prison and a bunch of objectives to undertake. In this mode, players are able to improve larger or small scale prisons to their every desire. However, for me, Prison Architect mode is where the game truly shines. Starting out with a stack of cash, players receive an empty plain with which to construct everything needed upon. Players can go all out with construction – building each prison in whichever way they see fit. Whether you want to construct a more comfortable prison for inmates to relax in while they wind away their lost time or the ultimate hell, a place more fitting for the crimes committed, the choice is entirely yours.
While undoubtedly an exciting mode, Prison Architect can prove quite challenging. With limited funds available, players will have to try to manage and juggle money while avoiding riots and gang wars within the prison walls as well as preventing inmates from escaping through freshly dug escape tunnels. One of the more interesting aspects of Prison Architect is the sheer variety offered with its very convicts, Introversion Software crafted each character to have a unique touch about them, rather than the usual ‘copy and paste’ technique found in some titles. With this in mind, players will have to keep their eyes on each individual inmate and there wits about them, with a new gang boss likely to arise from out of nowhere to assume control at any given moment.
Prison Architect mode also offers the option to improve staff, facilities and equipment, however, players will also have to make sure each construction becomes and remains profitable so players can continue to expand even more. Additionally, players can also obtain grants by completing sets of objectives. The difficulty can be altered with the option to enable unlimited funds while disabling gang wars. Prison Architect’s customisation options allow players to play how they want with little restriction, it’s a nice touch.
Prison Architect is a surprisingly appealing and complex simulation title with a large amount of in-depth gameplay to it. Easily one of the more detailed simulation games I have seen in a long time, Prison Architect’s cartoony exterior mixes extremely well with the grim nature of prison life and with countless and different ways to build a prison, either pampering or humiliating your inmate’s players will not get bored easily. I highly recommend Prison Architect to both fans of simulation games and newcomers.