I’ve been playing Prison Architect recently. It’s still in development but Introversion have given consumers the opportunity to support the game by paying to play alpha builds of the game; a variation on the Kickstarter model that I am all too happy to buy into.
Introversion have a history of rather eclectic games, and strangely a game about building a well functioning prison is their biggest departure from this tradition. Prison Architect is an extremely well realised and modeled building simulator, in the same vein as Theme Hospital, Theme Park, and even SimCity. The interface is slick and intuitive, with an addictive “planning” mode in which you literally draw out where you intend to plonk down your various cellblocks, canteens, workout areas and security rooms when you have the cash.
Of course, nothing goes to plan. I’m on about the sixth iteration of Penitentiary Maximus, and each previous incarnation has failed in increasingly complex ways. First I had a planning failure and ended up with two dozen inmates living in a single room, who eventually ganged up on my guards and murdered them all. Then I managed to create a super secure cellblock, except I forgot about a maintenance door I had to allow my builders to move around, and soon there was an ant trail of inmates running into the distance.
Then I reconsidered my expansion plans and built up to a couple of decent cellblocks; only to realize my inmates had been slipping knives from the canteen and soon I had an all out war in Cell Block A, complete with janitorial hostages. My newest prison is secure, safe, and all my inmates are happy, but I have no money, and the unfurnished new wing of my prison is mocking my lack of forward thinking.
I can’t wait til the game is finished; it’s clear that while the alpha is extremely complete and well polished that the game isn’t feature complete. And more importantly, it’s ongoing evidence that indie games are great.