Prison Architect is finally available for download after years of waiting. It is a great simulator in which you can manage and maintain a prison of your own design. Think you're up to the challenge?
The Roller Coaster Tycoon – prison edition
Prison Architect reminds me Roller Coaster Tycoon. Yes, you have the simple challenge of constructing your park - or prison – but it is in managing everything else that the challenge appears. You have to organize every little detail, from punishment to every inmate’s food ration.
As with so many construction-come-management titles, there are enough features to confuse any casual user. Fortunately, Prison Architect includes a campaign that features five episodes and that gradually reveal the mechanics of the game. In addition, a central plot that gives cohesion to the mode.
If you get tired of the campaign, there is always free play mode. In this mode you can alter the difficulty by changing a range of settings. For example you can choose to only be able to see parts of the facility where you have personnel, or increase the frequency with which new prisoners arrive. As for the construction, you have full freedom - build kitchens, dining rooms, common rooms, cells, and walls. Never forget the walls.
And if you still want more, Prison Architect also features Steam Workshop support, allowing you to share maps with other users.
Beware of riots
The human factor ensures that every time you play Prison Architect it is different. Thought that high risk prisoner was safely contained? Wrong… he’s out. And he killed guards on the way. You have enough security cameras to find him? Great, now you can watch as he frees the other prisoners and starts a riot. So you send in the heavies, restore order, and prepare to throw the trouble maker in solitary. Or at least you would, but in the chaos it seems he escaped.
All of this is controlled through a clean interface with menus are pleasant to use – which I only mention because in Early Access this was one of the game’s flaws.
The graphics are simple by design, allowing you to easily identify each element. This also means that Prison Architect can run on most computers with little or no slow down, even when a lot is happening at once such as during a riot.
You want to be the governor
Prison Architect will keep you hooked for hours and change your career path to be a prison governor. We just are not sure if that is something to rejoice about.