Prison Architect

As ever I pick up random games regularly, sometimes on recommendation and Prison Architect was one of them.

Game play

There is no way I can possibly describe just how addictive this game can be. It looks and sounds simple as a concept. However once you get going there are intricate things you suddenly start to wonder about. Can I make that cell block more effective? How do I get the prisoners to be happy they have enough work to do without giving them a chance to shank each other with a tool? Do I need a guard to patrol the lower security wing or can I add him to the high security area to reduce the number of tunnels?

Anyone who enjoys games where you build your own little system will love this game I think. Having seen what other players are doing on line there is huge scope for coming up with your own prison layout, and as the game develops those designs will need to be reviewed and tweaked or added to as time goes by. So far I think I have managed to try about 14 different prison layouts, each one iterating on the last to try and improve a different aspect.

Oh, and it can get hilarious as well. Don’t check your prisoners often enough and fights can break out, items become weapons, deaths occur, prisoners escape! I couldn’t stop laughing when I finally realised I needed to have tables and chairs in the canteen so the prisoners would eat in one of my early prisons. It seems so obvious but when there are very little in the way of tutorials or incomplete indication of what a room needs then you can make some boneheaded mistakes … which leads to riots! All in a simple 2D-esque cartoon world where you control the actions as much as possible in hopes of balancing the various aspects of prison life.


I couldn’t imagine this game if it used fully rendered 3D imagery in some sort of Sim Prison way, the simple cartoon style graphics and straight up animation is part of its charm. As a result this isn’t a game to buy if you want a visual feast by any means, if anything it is great for when you are watching something on Netflix or have a couple of hours you want to kill every now and then.


There really isn’t any need for extras in this game, the value is in the core itself. That said I can see something coming along once the alpha has completed perhaps.

Replay value

You can come up with dozens of variations on how to build a simple prison on its own, let alone when you take into account the different types of prisoners and what they will do. After all you can’t tell when Frank has started digging an escape tunnel, or someone has smuggled in a shotgun (I kid you not) so every prison will be different. As the alpha develops and more things are added it is simply going to make the game even more challenging, and allow you to try and create your own chain of prisons.

Prison Architect – alpha level mayhem

Kerbal Space Program - 4 stars

Though it is still in alpha the developments are promising and I expect this game will be one I come back to regularly in the future when I have a few hours to try out new layouts, see if I can keep more high security prisoners in check or perhaps build my own correctional empire. Especially when it is possible to have more than one kitchen and canteen, that’s an interesting limitation for now.

Having already spent almost 70 hours playing it at the time of writing I’m giving it a four stars rating!