- Developer(s): Double Eleven, Introversion Software
- Publisher(s): Double Eleven, Introversion Software
- Genre: Construction and Management Simulation
- Release Date: October 6, 2015
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox 1, PC, Xbox 360, Mac
- Game Supplied by: Double Eleven
Prison Architect is the restart of the good old-fashioned construction games. We all remember sitting around our Windows 98 computers, whirring up the machinery and starting up The Sims. The first thing we’d do is type in ‘Rosebud’ and spam in money. Just so we could build the most lavish mansion for our Sim and their celebrity partner to live in. Ah, the good life. Unfortunately, we grew up and construction games became boring everyday sandcastle builders with no story line.
This game however takes a hold of you and pulls you into the world of crime. It doesn’t feel like a simple construction game where you’re building bedrooms, toilets and kitchens. Mainly because your first commission is to build an execution room, for a man on death row for double murder. Gimme that controller! This game throws you straight in at the deep end during the first chapter, allowing you to roam around an already constructed prison, viewing the daily lives of your inmates. If you want more information, you can even click on the inmates and view what they’re in for.
One of the many things I love about this game is that it is not just a simple construction and management simulator, it draws you in with its amazing story line. With double murder, mob bosses, arson, corruption, rioting and more, this game’s story line just keeps on giving. When it comes to actually building the prison, the game doesn’t leave you in the lurch, questioning how it’s mechanics work, it tells you clearly where to find the tools needed. It doesn’t tell you where to put the cells, this game will give you an outline but say “Hey, we know that this is a construction game, if you want to you can do it your way and we won’t judge you for it.”
The controls on PlayStation 4 are a little wonky to get used to at first. If you’ve not played a construction game on PlayStation, then it is something different. However, I picked up the controls, and after the first chapter of the story line, once I knew how to form a square with my pointer I was rolling! I was “quick building” cells, showers, common rooms and offices like it was going out of fashion. Okay, that sounded boring, but trust me, when you build your first office and place a warden in it, the rewards system in your brain goes haywire.
The sound design in the game is second to none, the background music for the story line is well paced and keeps the mood flowing throughout the 5 chapters. However, the one thing that I want to point out for this game is the sound design outside of the story line. When you’re overseeing your prison and just zooming into a common room, the background noise levels lift and you can actually hear your prisoners talking. When the first fire breaks out in your prison, just make sure you zoom out, I was nearly deafened by the roaring sound of flames coming through my speakers.
The graphics for the game are great, when you first log in you think you’re coming into this cutesy little set up with the little stick figure prisoners running around and beating people up. But once the story line kicks in the gruesome reality of crime steps up with detailed Polaroids popping up and bright red blood spattering the walls. It really makes you start to feel for your stick figure employees and care about their well-being. Once you’ve researched further into your prison you can even get little stick figure dogs and heavily armoured guards. If the graphics of the games were merely stick figures then I may not enjoy this game as much, but with the odd splash of colour and detail. The graphics are on point.
The one downside I would say about this game is that once the chapters of the story are over I felt a slight emptiness inside. What now? What do I do with this amazing set up that I have built from scratch? Do I just leave it? But I’ve put in so many hours! But there was a light that shone through my darkness. A free roaming/building game after the story line. Anything that you haven’t built or created is an option to you and there is still a form of ‘story’ that goes on. The chief of the wardens will contact you regularly to ask whether you want to build automated doors or CCTV. You will have specific targets to hit in relation to your inmates and then you can gather more money by applying for grants.
At the end of a 12-hour prison architect shift I felt fulfilled. The graphics made me feel invested in my employees and inmates. The sound design allowed me to hear whether the inmates were happy or about to riot. The story line allowed me to learn the mechanics of the game without feeling like a tutorial, and the free roam game is still allowing me to upgrade and hit targets on a regular basis. This game is the best construction game I have played as of yet, and I hope that more story lines are released for it in the future. Well done Double Eleven, well done.