Review: Prison Architect Alpha

PrisonArchitect

Introversion are back with a game that borrows as much from the Tycoon series as it does their previous offerings.  The studio has a knack for finding a niche within a niche and after the glorious Uplink, bizarre Darwinia and mutually assured destruction of DEFCON, they’ve turned their attention to building games.

From the moment Prison Architect starts, you can tell this is going to be something different: the tutorial has you building an execution chamber and sending a confessed killer to his death.  Slotting between each segment of game-play is a cutscene showing how he did the crime and the events afterwards.  The game has a certain style about it that is difficult to deny.

I should point out that the game is not yet finished but is already being sold on Steam for £19.99.  It’s another example of the Minecraft business model: monetize the beta, get the game to go viral, release the biggest game in years.  Obviously not every game is going to sell millions and millions of units, but once youtube let’s players get their hands on it there’s every chance a game will be a success.  Throw in a couple of decent trailers and you’re onto a winner.

The game isn’t easy (it’s Introversion for god’s sake, they don’t do easy games) but it isn’t punishingly difficult. Each failure feels like a learning experience and the sims-lite style in which you have to manage the needs of your prisoners to prevent them causing trouble adds an extra dimension to the game, which allows keen players to micromanage their way out of almost any situation.

Prison Architect is far from a finished game, but it’s already bloody great fun, and is a time sink comparable to the Tycoon games of old.  The features it already offers each add to the gameplay and I’m excited to see what the next release brings.

Normally I’d score these things but I feel like I’ll be tracking this game quite keenly and may very well review it again once it’s been fully released.

It’s a great game already though and if you have £20 to spare you’ll definitely get your monies worth, plus these games have a tendency to have a significant price hike once they get to release, which is worth bearing in mind.