Prison Architect has been kicking around awhile in alpha form since 2012 on PC. A successful crowdfunding campaign later and the game finally saw release late last year. I had enjoyed my time with this prison management simulator back in the alpha but would the the fun management and easy to navigate controls of a mouse and keyboard translate well to the PlayStation 4?
The answer is yes, yes it does. Prison Architect was developed by the fine folks over at Introversion and brought to consoles with the help of Double Eleven. Luckily nothing has been lost in translation from PC to console, the game is just as much fun to play as it has always been. Once you boot up the game, the first option you’ll notice in Prison Architect is the Prison Stories mode. Granted, it’s the option at the very top of the list so of course it’ll be the first thing you’ll see. This mode is the old tutorial that I remember from the Alpha way back when. There are five missions that will teach you different parts of the building and management aspects of the game, like putting a man on death row to death. This mode tries to tie together a little story but ultimately it forgettable as it’s just here to teach you how to get started. Luckily for those who’ve played the game before and understand it’s concepts, the Prison Stories are not required to play before you get into the main game. Being that the controls are going to be different than they were on PC though, I would suggest maybe playing through a few to kind of get a layout of how to navigate your way around so that you’re not stumbling around the Sandbox mode.
Once you decide you’re ready, you’ll have two ways to play Prison Architect. You can load up the Architect mode where you start with a blank slate, design your own prison, and run it or choose the Warden mode and just take control over a pre-existing prison. Both have their benefits but if you’re not the building creative type, maybe just start with a pre-fab prison in Warden mode and only worry about add-ons. In the base game you get to pick from 10 Wardens to be. Each Warden has varying stats that will make certain aspects easier or harder for you. For example, if you pick Rick, he’ll turn the showers into a calming bonus for your prisoners. You’ll just want to look through and find one that matches your play style. As it was in the PC, the game itself is fairly deep. There are many things to build for your prisons, from the cells the prisoners will stay in to a workshop where you can put the convicts to work. You can assign prison jobs to inmates like cooking and laundry or just have them sit in their cells and rot.
The management portion of the game hasn’t changed thankfully. You can still run your prison as tight or loose as you’d like and still make bank. You may want to manage the prisoner’s daily schedules to maximize their happiness, this results in less of a need to hire many guards. Or on the other end of the spectrum, make it as miserable as can be for them; just be sure to hire many guards to keep them in line. When it comes to your prisoner’s health and safety you’ll have different types of guards to hire, physical and mental medical staff, and your culinary geniuses to keep them fed. Run your prison your way, as long as it’s making you money. If you think your prison is hot stuff, share it with the world. The game includes a way to upload your prison in World of Wardens. You’ll be able to take your beautifully crafted prison online for friends to see. From here you can rate other peoples prisons or download them to your game to try them out. But you aren’t locked down in anyway with the download, you can freely edit those prisons to change in any way you’d like.
I’m more laid back, so when it came to my prison I gave my prisoners medium sized cells and opportunities for education and enrichment. For someone else, they may want to fit as many tiny cells in a room as can fit and give those prisoners only a few hours of daylight a day. Run it whatever way you want as long as you’re making money. My way was going well for me and I emphasize the “was”. I made a mistake of routing two power generators on the same electrical line while expanding my prison, and the power went out. I had just recently brought in some higher lever inmates so once the power went, they bolted and all hell broke loose. Many lives were lost that day and money was re-directed towards repairs instead. You live and learn but that’s how things go in a management simulation game.
The way Double Eleven has mapped the controls on consoles is actually very smart. They’ve made a four-way menu using the controller D-Pad. Press a direction and pull up things like the construction or management portions of the game. It’s very natural to flow between the menus this way but I do have a gripe. When building, I had an issue with placing items down before I was ready. I kept expecting to have to confirm my selection prior to having the item appear on screen. So what would happen was I would highlight the item I wanted to build, hit X to “confirm” that’s what I wanted to select, but then find that the game had built that item wherever my cursor was sitting at the time.
Prison Architect also releases with the DLC All Day and a Night. It is a separate purchase but it nets you an additional 8 Wardens to choose from, 8 new pre-built prisons, and 8 new plots of land to build prisons on. You’ll be able to experience the game in different ways with new characters and building materials. It’s a $9.99 add-on that I feel might be a little much for what it consists of.
The team at Introversion has made a very fun management sim and Double Eleven has done a wonderful job translating the game and it’s controls to consoles. It’s fun to design a prison and just as fun to run it like a well-oiled machine. That is unless you connect two power generators together causing them to short and lose power to your entire prison leaving the high security prisoners free to wander and kill any guard who happens to cross their path.
A pre-release code for Prison Architect: PlayStation 4 Edition was provided by the publisher for review purposes.