Welcome to prison!
This is a game of building and strategy to maintain, run, and improve prisons. If this is your first time playing, you would be best served to choose "Campaign" mode, as it introduces you to the game and is basically the tutorial. There is also a "Sandbox" mode for those ready to build their own.
I followed the campaign mode and found I was a little obsessed with making it to the end. There are three story lines within the campaign, but they each lead one into another. There are five total chapters to the campaign. The tasks needed to complete them escalate with each chapter, as do the story lines.
NOTE: This is an adult game with adult themes, violence, and particularly adult language.
You receive your instructions from "The CEO" or some other authority figure in the prison system. There are periodic "phone calls" that start cut scenes to let you know what to do.
Once you accept the tasks, a list goes up on the upper left side, which you can minimize, to show you if you have completed the task. You can click on the task for information on HOW to complete the task. Sometimes you'll believe you're finished, but the task won't "mark" itself off the list. Review the task again and check for goals like a percent of the population, or to find the part of the task that wasn't done.
Part of the first scenario is escorting the condemned man to his newly-built cell. This will open a cut scene. The cut scenes use both drawn cartoons, and animations from the game. The one below shows the Chief's feelings about the man headed to execution. You can see the jail cell animation which is what you play in the game, and also a 'Polaroid' of the same scene.
In the second photo below, you see the end of the cut scene involving the cheating wife and the man she was with. (This is actually a TAME screenshot.) This was the story the Chief was telling you regarding this man and his execution. There are more tasks for you to complete in the scenario, but once complete you click on a 'Polaroid' and the execution is carried out. (It does a white screen and fades back into the game after flipping the switch.)
Scenario two starts with some very foul vulgarities, so be prepared. Like the first, there are many tasks to complete and each scenario allows you to sandbox before you find the 'Polaroid' and move to the following scenario. On my first play-through I said, "WOW" a lot due to language and violence, but I had a great time learning how to make the prisons work.
Once you complete the Campaign, you can either restart it, or you can go to sandbox mode and create your own prison. There is currently only one campaign to choose from, and I hope they make more. There are many mods to be had in the Steam Workshop, if you are so inclined.
You can choose either male or female prisoners, and an escalating scale of good to bad prisoners. You can have prisons with guards who have guns and dogs, or ones with a lot of reforming buildings like a laundry or a shop to make license plates. You can choose your Warden, from kind to thieving. There are a lot of possibilities.
There is a planner feature as well, so you can plot out where you think you'd like to put another cell block, a TV, or a fence. It's basically three different kinds of lines, but it does make it easier to figure out where to put that pesky new canteen you must build, or if you have enough room for a library.
Some buildings can be found in the "Quick Build" tab. While these are extremely helpful for some tasks, they may not serve you as well as building your own. Also, I never understood how to use the "Clone" feature in this tab as it didn't really copy any of my buildings and seemed to have a size limit that it could clone.
Overall, I have been having a lot of fun with Prison Architect. I enjoyed the challenge of the Campaign most of all, but I do like the features to make my own prison. There are 18 Steam achievements and I've only completed three, so there are goals to look forward to. I recommend this game for any sandbox lover, although I'd keep the younger kids far away.
I really like the graphics. They are simple, but imaginative. Prisoners can be tall, thin, fat, tattooed, bearded and other interesting characteristics. There is also some great drawn artwork that gives it a dark and prison feel.
There are great action sounds, but no ambient music. Depending on your taste, no music can be a good or bad thing. I like being able to listen to my own music while the game plays.
Easy to control. Use of both mouse and keypad functions. Great zoom feature lets you see everything, or just one thing.
While writing this, I kept checking things in the game and playing it more than writing about playing it. It's a sandbox game and a good one.
PROS / CONS
- Easy and Fun Tutorial
- Good graphics, nice artwork
- Offers Sandbox and Campaign
- Multiple sandbox options
- Heavy Violence and Language
- Only one Campaign Available