If it’s a strategic challenge you want, this game has it all locked up
£19.99 Developer Introversion, introversion.co.uk
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
Often unclear about specifics
Escape Mode is a simple mini-game. It’s cute, but don’t buy the game for it.