Published on March 30th, 2016 | by Gary Mullen0
Review: Prison Architect
Prison Architect is currently in Xbox Game Preview, the final game is due to be released later this year and many features within the game are only partially available the now. This review focuses solely on the current snapshot March 2016.
Back in 2014 I had the fun task of reviewing Prison Architect on the PC (click here) I am back at the helm of my prison empire but this time we are taking control of our prison via the Xbox One version. The game has changed on the PC since my review (which I reviewed while it was in the pre-release version) and these changes are mostly reflected in this port done by Double11.
Prison Architect is mainly a sandbox game where you build up your prison by earning money on entertaining some guests in reward for cash. You then use that cash to make your prison larger and take in more inmates. With the increased number of inmates the fun begins as you will find it hard to keep an eye on all of the goings on in the prison and before you know it you will find a prison riot is happening and chaos has erupted. Asides from the sandbox mode there is a story mode which trains you on building a prison and how all of the parts slot together. This mode is still very much a work in progress but so far is quite a nice little story being built up via this mode of a gangster family spending time in prison.
The thing with Prison Architect, like most of these management games, is there is no real end goal, you just keep building it up until you get bored with playing or when its no longer a challenge. The fun part is when this happens you just create some mayhem in the prison. Everything from searching all the prisoners for contraband to locking them all down while allowing your guards to fire at will at anyone who gets out of control. It does seem a prison can get out of hand fairly quickly when you stop trying to manage how unhappy the prisoners are!
Before heading into this game I was very sceptical to how it will transfer from a mouse and keyboard to a controller as this seems like an illogical control for a building management game. Thankfully my fears seem to be unfounded as the interface used for the game actually works very well with the controller. The left hand thumb-stick controls the cursor and the right hand thumb-stick allows you to move around the map. I was glad of the use of the right thumb-stick as the painful task of moving the cursor to one of the edges of the map to move the map along was one of my concerns.
The best thing about the GUI used on the game is the fact that when I hovered the cursor over each of the rooms, the objects I could buy using the top buttons on my controller were only the objects that would work in that room (you can also turn off the filtered mode to see all objects if you wish). I remember when I reviewed this on the PC and it was a major gripe with me then too that it was too messy when trying to build rooms. This feature overcomes this issue for me and is something we don’t often see in ports but this port has managed to improve the GUI rather than hinder it. The only thing I feel is missing would be a tie into Xbox Smartglass to allow you to manage prisoner intakes and such to save having to go into it via the main screen.
From a graphical aspect this is a simple port, the game uses a 2D system where you look down from above to build your prison and to monitor the prisoners. One key difference with the Xbox and PC version is the recently discovered hidden 3D mode available on the PC version which has not made it to the Xbox version yet. That’s not to say this mode wont be in the final build as this game is still firmly in its early access stage.
Lets face it even if this game was rubbish I would love it, but this is not why I love this game. This gives us the old top down management game that has become a distant memory and games like this can still play well and not look out of place on the market. I feel the fact that the port has improved the GUI for building rooms makes me want to sit and play this game more on the Xbox then on the PC which is a massive selling feature for me as sometimes its easier to sit and play a game on the Xbox then at the PC. The game is nowhere near finished, yes there are parts of the game that need polished and finished however this is a promising start for the port.
Summary: Any fan of the game on the pc should pick this up on the Xbox,