Title: Prison Architect
Platform: Steam, Windows, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360
Reviewed on: PS4
Players: Single player
Written by Whistler 9th July 2016
To this day I can still vividly remember the days spent hanging out with my childhood friend while we took turns playing various Bullfrog Productions’ games like Theme Hospital, Dungeon Keeper and Theme Park World. Yet despite their huge popularity in the mid to late 90’s the popularity of most simulation games seemed to simmer down.
So can Introversion Software’s Prison Architect garner some interest for the genre or should you look elsewhere for your sim kick?
Prison Architect tasks you with building as well as maintaining a prison, how you do so is up to you. You can choose house a fortress, home to the deadliest criminal scum on the planet, a humble low risk joint or a mix of the two. However you’ll quickly find that the maintenance of such a complex operation can overwhelm the uninitiated and will more than likely cause some headaches as you find your footing.
Even simply getting started can prove to be an unsurmountable task, thankfully there is a tutorial provided through a thin storyline. Still after ten hours I’m still learning how to maximize the efficiency of my prison, and still not sure how to fix certain mistakes. It’s serves as both a strength and weakness to Prison Architect’s bow; while in a sense it offers plenty of replayability it also leads to rising frustration as you’re forced to likely comb the wiki to try resolve issues within your prison. To get things up and running you won’t only need cells to house your prisoners, you’ll also need kitchens, canteens, shower facilities, a reception, laundry, a yard, so on and so forth. To top it off you’ll also need to ensure water and electricity is efficiently applied throughout your facilities and ensure you have enough staff to efficiently handle all tasks needed to keep the prison running smoothly.
All of this barely scratches the surface of all of Prison Architect’s inner workings that are all intricately woven together to create a complex beast.
Whenever you feel you’ve figured out one system there’s another more challenging barrier to master.
The developers have done an admirable job in translating Prison Architect’s complexities into a format suited for console controls. That being said however the you will likely find some lingering growing pains if you’re use to the more 1:1 movement that comes from a keyboard and mouse setup.
However when all is said and done I find it difficult to recommend Prison Architect to others. Perhaps I’ve grown weary of the rather niche genre but it wasn’t too long that Prison Architect stopped being a means of entertainment and feeling more like an endless chore. I feel the Prison Stories mode was meant as an introduction to the sort of social commentary the game is attempting to invoke similar to that of Papers Please. I remember finding it difficult to make that game sound pleasing to friends but where Papers Please built an extreme pressure environment that demanded an emotional response (or at least the will to go against your humanity), Prison Architect instead quickly becomes an endless cycle of numbers. You need more numbers to continue making numbers, but there’s only so long that it takes for it to get dull.
Plenty of tools available,
Solid amount of content.
Seemingly empathetic themes quickly give way to a by the numbers game,
Rarely do you feel like you're making progress,
Rather bland aesthetics.
Prison Architect scores a 7/10.