Prison Ar­chi­tect

If it’s a strate­gic chal­lenge you want, this game has it all locked up

Mac Format - - RATED -

£19.99 De­vel­oper In­tro­ver­sion, in­tro­ver­

Re­quires OS X 10.6 or higher, 2.4GHz In­tel Core 2 Duo, see site for graph­ics cards

A prison is a place as com­pli­cated as a city, but where all of the ‘civil­ians’ are stash­ing weapons in their beds. As the ar­chi­tect of their in­car­cer­a­tion, it’s your fault when they kill each other, es­cape, or ar­range for drugs to be thrown over the fence.

Prison Ar­chi­tect is not, in short, a cheery ex­pe­ri­ence. It is a sur­pris­ingly en­thralling one though, tak­ing on such a seem­ingly lim­ited sub­ject and drilling into it all the way. You de­sign ev­ery build­ing and ev­ery cell block, wire up ev­ery light and add ev­ery toi­let. Your power stretches from controlling in­mates’ sched­ules to set­ting up sup­port groups; not just putting down cam­eras, but hir­ing the guards who watch them, and de­sign­ing pa­trols routes to see what they can’t. That’s just scratch­ing the sur­face of the sand­box. You can cre­ate a lib­eral utopia that main­tains or­der with free TVs and lush rooms, crack the whip and rule by fear, or any­thing in-be­tween.

Get­ting started in it isn’t easy, thanks to the weak tu­to­rial and an in­ter­face that of­ten makes it hard to dis­cern the ef­fect things are hav­ing and why ev­ery­one’s sud­denly set­ting their beds on fire. It’s not long be­fore the act of cre­at­ing pris­ons be­comes not just sec­ond na­ture, but oddly com­pelling. It’s not the most ob­vi­ous topic for a game, but Prison Ar­chi­tect is one of the best city-builder sims in years… not to men­tion the world’s new best demo of why you never, ever want to end up be­hind bars. Richard Cob­bett A break-out suc­cess that ex­plores its sub­ject like few oth­ers, though with a steep learn­ing curve.

Very deep sim­u­la­tion

Sur­pris­ingly flex­i­ble build­ing

Ter­ri­ble tu­to­rial

Of­ten un­clear about specifics

Es­cape Mode is a sim­ple mini-game. It’s cute, but don’t buy the game for it.

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