Prison Architect thrusts you into the criminal world, where you’re tasked with the management and execution of locking up the riff-raff and reforming their outlook on life, in the hope that they don’t re-offend. But sometimes life doesn’t go to plan and criminals will re-offend, or they’re the dangerous sort that like to be confined to a dingy dark room full of their own faeces to contemplate their life. Then you’ve got the scariest prisoners of them all – those on death row, who will try to escape, kill anyone they hate, and have no remorse for their sins.
Keeping all of this in check is a challenge and every prisoner has their own needs – and funny biographies – that you need to keep on top of. Filling these needs requires you to spend your well-earned bread on foundations for reform and education. It might seem strenuous at first but throw in some prison labour and you can get your staff to train prisoners to make some extra dollars.
Once your prison grows you come under massive amounts of fire from all angles: prisoners escaping, stabbings, riots, fires, and much more! If you want to prevent the next Alcatraz, then adding expensive perimeter fences with snipers is a great way to keep your prisoners in fear. But it’s not just dangerous criminals that cause issues for your prisoners, they can also get hold of narcotics and other items via means unbeknownst to you – visitors hiding things for their loved ones, even deliveries storing drugs and weapons.
Running the prison can seem a little archaic at first, but the campaign quickly puts you in place and runs you through the whole process of how to run your, eventual, criminal paradise. During the five campaign missions you’re taken through a story of putting someone on death row to rebuilding a prison after a disaster, all while seeing a feud happen within the prison with rival gangs. Once completing all of the objectives then the game turns into a giant management sandbox.
Staring at the screen with a blank slate can seem daunting but think back to what you learnt over the campaigns and you will soon create a prison that you could have only dreamt of. You’re given limited options at first, but using the planning tool is of the utmost importance, especially when you have little money to start with. Planning your prison can also be just as much fun and addictive as building and running the prison, so it won’t be uncommon for you to plan your prison after breakfast, then realise that it’s time for your final meal of the day! For those who don’t have that amount of time on their hands, there’s a nice touch where you can build the entire plan automatically to save time, whew!
Building the prison is simpler than it sounds. Streamlined controls and a new interface is used to replace the mouse-orientated interface that it’s known for on PC; and the controls have been mapped over to PS4 extremely well. Choosing an item and creating the structures and placements of objects is simple, but because the game is heavily mouse orientated, using analogue sticks still feels a bit clunky, at no fault of the game.
The wealth of options to control your prison are breathtakingly large that it’s a blessing to see such a seemingly simple game become very in-depth. If you’re a fan of micro-management then you will love being able to create patrol routes, set routines, create policies, change intakes of prisoners, assign areas of the prison to various types of prisoners and workers, and much more. But despite its depth it’s not overwhelming.
Making your prison is all well and good, but having it look dreary and boring is something you’ll want to change, so customising the flooring across the whole map can make a huge difference on the game’s aesthetics and simple, yet wonderful, charming art style. Each room can have its own styling and object placement, and these objects aren’t just for looks, but they affect each and every prisoner and worker in the prison itself.
If you have ever wondered what it’s like to run a prison, then look no further than Prison Architect. Introversion Software has done a bang-up job creating a management game based on prison-life. Whether you’re a mean bugger and give your prisoners a hard time and execute people, or a real softy that gives your prisoners a cushty life, Prison Architect’s wealth of options, unpredictable nature, and pick-up-and-play appeal, will be consistently appealing to fans of micromanagement games.