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Review – Prison Architect (Console Edition)

by on August 17, 2016
Release Date

June 28th, 2016


Double Eleven


Prison culture and infrastructure are hot topics in our society.  There is a big divide between how people feel about the treatment of prisoners, capital punishment, prison funding, and overcrowding in our current prison system.  What would you do if you had the opportunity to build and manage your own prison?  Would you build the bare minimum to contain your prisoners?  Would you give your prisoners amenities to keep them happy and content?  How would you staff it?  These questions, and many more, are yours to answer in Double Fine’s Prison Architect.

On the surface, Prison Architect has a simple premise – build and run a prison.  Everything you need can be found using the directional pad.  The D-Pad will help you navigate the menu to build whatever you need for your prison.  You start by mapping the foundation and creating a building.  Then, you assign a specific role for each building.  You will need to create many specific rooms to house your inmates and maintain a functioning prison.  Prison Architect does a good job of giving you variety with room selection and makes sure each room is important.  Besides your basic cells, cafeteria, and yard, you can create work areas to get revenue for the prison, rooms for classes and drug intervention meetings, medical wings, administration buildings, and many other rooms.  You can provide your prisoners with the bare minimum, or go all out and provide books and TVs in each cell.  You have a lot of options in Prison Architect.

There are a lot of factors to consider when running a prison.  Besides the happiness of inmates, you will need to make sure that you have enough money to build and you are prepared for emergencies.  The number of staff members is important to how your prison functions.  You will obviously need a lot of guards.  However, you will need to make sure there are enough doctors and emergency staff ready to tackle riots, fires, and medical emergencies.  Even the amount of janitors and cooking staff can affect the way your prison runs.  Veterans will be able to set a limit on the amount of money they start with when building their prison.  For beginners, you can have unlimited funds to build the prison of your dreams.

I was pleased to see that the controls worked fairly well on the console.  It took a little bit of time remembering where everything is found in the menus.  With time, I was able to build, demolish, and fix problems fairly quickly.  First time simulation players may need more time to get used to the controls.  For those who have not played simulation games in the past, it can be a bit jarring when you see how much time you have to wait for things to build.  Keep in mind that you can speed up time if you need to speed things up.

The best part of the game is the story infused tutorial.  Tutorials are important for first time players, but can be boring.  Prison Architect teaches you the game while bringing the story of a prisoner or group of prisoners.  The first tutorial really stood out to me.  You are tasked with building an execution chamber for a prison awaiting the death penalty.  As you build it, you find out a little more about the man in the orange jumpsuit.  You learn that he found his wife in bed with another man.  He ended up killing the two and was sentenced to death.  It is interesting to not only see his story, but see the dialogue of the guards and the priest who is with the prisoner.  It was refreshing to see that Prison Architect provides different perspectives to your prisoners and why they are there.  Will it make you change how you treat your inmates?

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Prison Architect has a lot of features that make it one of the best simulation games that I have played.  The features and situations make the game challenging, yet fun.  Prison Architect is a great experience for both simulation veterans and first time players.  Remember, if you think the game is too challenging, you can give yourself unlimited funds or play a pre-made prison until you are ready to create your own.  If you want a simulation with story and depth, then Prison Architect is the game for you.

Prison Architect is available on Xbox One and Playstation 4 for $29.99.

Have you played Prison Architect?  What kind of warden are you?  Let us know in the comments below!!!


Adding a story to the tutorial is a major plus
Lots of items and rooms to construct
Lots of features to make the game accessible to veterans and new players to the simulation genre


Controls take a little getting used to
Can be challenging for 1st time players, especially during riots or other emergencies

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Bottom Line

Prison Architect does something that is not often seen in a simulation game - it creates a story and character moments that make us pause and reconsider our opinions towards the prison system and prisoners. The game may be challenging for first time players, but it is a must own if you are fans of the simulation genre.

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