Get ready for a new type of business simulation game that does away with the docile banalities of everyday life and instead invites you to incarcerate inmates. You’ll be tasked with designing their living quarters, provide for their needs and hoping that they’re not bored enough to resort to mass brawls in the canteen and casual homicide in the showers.
Developed by Introversion Studios, a British developer with a very British sense of humour, Prison Architect satirises administrative cruelty and the idea that you can distance youreslf from your actions. The game is currently in the alpha stages of development. There are a lot of bugs (something amusingly addressed in the trailer), but if you can look past this, you’re left with a unique game that has fantastic potential.
The first thing that really makes the game stand out is how uncompromisingly niche it is. The concept is simple, you design and run a prison, but the idea hasn’t previously been attempted. One of the major influences of the game is Theme Hospital, which was released in 1997, and the concept is clearly adopted here but refinements and modernisations make this feel more of a homage than a replica.
Unlike Prison Architect, Theme Hospital was very PG, targeted at younger audience. Prison Architect is far more adult, which is refreshing, as there really isn’t another business simulation game as interesting and daring as this one.
Whilst the premise may seem straightforward, the gameplay itself isn’t. A great deal of management is required in order to contain, confine and occupy your inmates, and it is not as easy as it seems. You’ll have to build and designate rooms for showers, cells, canteens, kitchens, offices, medical centres and many more, whilst hiring enough staff to meet the demands of the prisoners.
If they’re hungry, they’ll let you know about it, and it’s not going to be in the form of a strongly worded letter. To keep the inmates in check, ensure minimum hostility and stop them digging to freedom, you must also hire enough guards to patrol and police the buildings.
One downside to all of this is that a lot of micromanagement is required, and this may put off some gamers who are more interesting in jumping straight into an experience. Much of this is just the unavoidable learning curve that comes with the strategy territory and after an hour or so of trial and error, it all makes sense.
Prison Architect is available now in alpha state and buyers will recieve all future updates for the game. It could use some polish at the minute but hopefully the finished product will see a promising game turn into a brilliant one.