I’ve played a lot of Prison Architect on PC, watched it as it slowly became a fully fleshed out game throughout its Alpha and eventually be fully released. I’ve spent hours upon hours starting and restarting my own correctional facilities. So it made sense that I take on the mantle of covering the PlayStation 4 version that /Introversion recently released.
This genre is always at its best on PC, and after trying Tropico 5 on PS4 thanks to PlayStation Plus it does still seem to be pretty much the same as its always been, a controller is just too cumbersome for quick menu navigation and analogue sticks don’t lend themselves too well to adding to the landscape upon which you’re building. However, Prison Architect have gotten this right and Double Eleven (who handled this port) have done it in such a simple way too. First off, it was always going to be easier to move around the terrain and build thanks to the games 2D graphical style, it just makes life so much easier when you use such a viewpoint, allowing you to see absolutely everything. It also fits in with the tone of the game, giving you a blueprint kind of development of your prison. Everything you’d ever need to run your prison is then mapped to menu’s access via the d-pad. Building tools are accessed by pressing left, reports report etc and you can still slow down or speed up time.
This release, and bare in mind its been a while since I did boot up the PC version admittedly, feels more gamelike than its big brother. You’re still developing your prison using Grants, which give you a list of things you need to put into your prison, but the manner in which its all done feels a little more relaxed and streamlined and its far, far too easy to get lost in adding more and more to your facility and lose focus of actually running it. Thats always been Prison Architect’s biggest problem, and its one thats transferred over with this port too. You’re inmates needs and behaviours aren’t always obvious. Sure the game has the means to tell you whats wrong and what has been happening, but the means by which to address them aren’t always obvious or simple to achieve and it doesn’t really feel satisfying when you manage to overcome these obstacles.
I guess thats why its named Prison Architect as the focus does appear to be on creating a prison, selling it at a profit, then making another prison and whilst the inmates all have names and back stories (some are really rather amusing whilst others are ridiculously dark) it doesn’t really feel like you’re providing the means to rehabilitate them.
Its now, however, I’d like to bring up Remote Play, something I do regularly when I cover PS4 games that I think will translate well to being played on Vita. Prison Architect is exceptional on the Vita, I’ve no idea if Introversion or Double Eleven plan on porting it over to the handheld properly, but as it stands now the Vita is a perfect partner to playing it on a big TV in your lounge. I was more than happy to switch over and lounge around on the sofa building more elements to my prisons and the text never felt difficult to read, and its this more than anything else in this port that enforces just how much time and care Double Eleven have put into this port of Prison Architect. Its praiseworthy to them that they have not only made the game feel at home on a console, but it feels at home being played on a much smaller screen too.