Prison Architect Review

I know a lot about living in a prison. My first year at University was spent living in halls designed by a prison architect. The first night I spent in that ungodly place, cooped up in a tiny room, constantly readjusting myself on an ancient metal bed as clanking pipes soothed me to sleep, was one of the loneliest experiences of my life. So when I got my hands on Introversion’s latest game Prison Architect I went in with some optimism. I had first-hand experience after all.

So when I started my first prison I immediately went about recreating my halls in all their glory. My first move was to make tiny little prison cells where the inmates could hardly move. I then built some entirely inadequate showers and refused to hook them up to the water supply. The only thing I couldn’t adequately recreate was the myriad of rabbit warrens that existed beneath the towering behemoth, slowly taking it back to hell… where it belonged. But even without that option my prison still collapsed into madness before the first day was through. I guess it was lucky I couldn’t hire rabbits to speed the process along.

That’s when my career as one of the most prolific and unsuccessful prison architects of all time began. My save folder was figuratively littered with failed attempts. If you took a screenshot and put the title “Top 10 prisons to see before you die” above the list it would probably have gone viral. Everything was there: Shawshank, Alcatraz, The Tower of London and every single one of them went to pot.

It was clear that my expertise was lacking but with each new attempt I got a little bit better. This is a game about trial and error.

prison review

Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/seier/2386555866/

Every time you start a new prison you are instructed to build an office, a holding chamber, a canteen and a kitchen. That’s all the information you will ever get. Then every morning eight new prisoners will be delivered to your doors and you have to cope with the ever-increasing population. I spent my first few attempts struggling with a little over $9,000 only to come across the grant system that gives you huge government bonuses for building things like a state-of-the-art medical ward and all of a sudden I had $90,000 dollars to play with. Things like that happen way too often.
Thankfully Introversion gives alpha testers access to a wiki page, full to the brim with player advice and experience. That helped me no end and by the time I was onto my tenth prison I was starting to get a grip of my prisoners. One break through I’m embarrassed to admit, was working out that I could set the main prison gate to release staff only but that just goes to show what a poor state the games instructional mechanics are in.

Of course you have to remember this is just an Alpha build, one that has raised over $100,000 in its first week, but that gives you the opportunity to feedback to developers exactly how you want this game to instruct and give them more time to develop compelling gameplay.

They have already announced that they hope to include large scale events like organised prison escapes, riots and hopefully what I was looking for in my recreation of Shawshank: A prisoner who attempts to escape by requesting a poster of Rita Hayworth, digs a hole through the wall and crawls through five hundred yards of shit smelling foulness I can’t even imagine.

Prison Architect is a throwback to the Sim games we forgot how much we loved and a new game from one of the UK’s best independent developers.

The consistent source of games online is keeping me very busy recently, especially the free racing games from Autoclub Revolution and games at miniclip,here.

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