Prison Architect is a management game in which you take on the role of the director of a penal institution. Starting from a modest detention center, you must develop your institution to become a reference model in the correctional environment, increasing your income and, above all, ensuring the stability and inviolability of your prison.
Become Big Brother
A prison director must have eyes everywhere: this is the first lesson you learn in Prison Architect. This is because a large number of the inmates that you will be taking charge of have a strong desire to take to their heels, escaping over walls that aren't very secure and taking advantage of guards that aren't very vigilant. Some of them, though, don't feel this urge to escape, but prefer instead to steal a knife from the refectory to use to settle their grudges with other inmates ... So multiply the number of guards on patrol and the quantity of metal detectors or decide to opt for security cameras that will allow you to have eyes in the back of your head.
It's up to you to manage the different profiles of thePrison Architect inmates that you will encounter in order to ensure that your prison is a haven of peace... or at the very least, somewhere that's secure. Of course, you will also have to oversee the construction of your institution, the supply of water and energy, and balance the budget... Suffice to say that if you like complex simulations that are a bit stressful, you won't be disappointed!
Rich gameplay complicated by the lack of indicators
The possibilities offered by Prison Architect are at least interesting and the gameplay is very well thought out. The menus and the build system are simple and effective and creating or enlarging buildings is a real breeze (although this Alpha version is not entirely free of bugs).
Prison Architect, however, is handicapped by its lack of visual cues. There are no reports to summarize the important events for you (as you would find in most management games) or indeed ones to explain how an inmate escaped. Micro-management and the careful observation of your field of play remain the only solution. It's an interesting angle, but one that quickly becomes impractical when your prison exceeds a certain size: at this point it's impossible to continue monitoring your individual prisoners and it's not uncommon to feel completely overwhelmed.
It should be noted that a short introduction is built into Prison Architect to allow you to familiarize yourself with the basic mechanisms. In fact, it's quite disappointing and in no way makes up for the lack of real indicators throughout the course of the game.
Simple graphics for maximum readability
The graphics in Prison Architect probably won't impress anyone. Everything is very simple and the characters reduced to the sheer basics, but this stripped down approach isn't at any time shocking. Readability of the screen is of major importance in a sim game, and you never feel lost because there are too many graphics.
Our verdict: a unique game that will delight fans
Despite only being an alpha version, Prison Architect is beautiful and the game is already impressive. Unique in this genre, this prison director simulation offers both rich and excellent gameplay that's helped along by a multitude of details. The only downside is that the lack of information bubbles and visual cues might be daunting and therefore prevent you from enjoying Prison Architect 100%.