A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Casts semi-critical eye on private penitentiaries, how such businesses can lead corrupt officials to profit from prisoners. Encourages players to make prisoners' lives comfortable, meet their needs, but permits more brutal, heartless tactics.
Positive Role Models
Shows examples of wardens, officials both good, bad, but largely up to player to choose how to handle most situations, including how much force to use, punishments dealt to serious offenders, whether or not to take care of prisoners, provide basic essentials of life, mental health.
Ease of Play
Very complex game with dozens of interconnected systems controlled by dense menus. Story mode acts as a sort of tutorial. Players can set difficulty, including whether or not to allow failure, how much money they have to work with, but will still take most players several hours to get a good grasp on how things work.
Violence & Scariness
Prisoners -- presented as tiny wooden pegs with names, sometimes holding knives, guns, clubs -- riot, kill each other, guards, staff. Injured, dying prisoners lie in pools of blood. Story mode shows cartoon snapshots of moments before, during, after vicious crimes -- hostages shot in head, a man shooting his adulterous wife, her lover -- while describing these events through text.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Snapshots show a man, woman nude from waist up having sex in bed with moaning sounds. Later, they lie dead, almost naked in same bed, man's genitals covered by woman's sprawled arm.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Very strong, frequent language, including "f--k," "s--t."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Prisoners use drugs, alcohol, though players read about this in alerts, messages rather than see it. Programs can be created to help addicts, alcoholics in recovery.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Prison Architect is a prison-simulation game that pulls no punches. Players build and manage private prisons. They can opt to take good care of the prisoners -- providing proper facilities for hygiene, recreation, and laundry as well as programs for addiction and alcoholism -- or they can neglect their needs, save money, and use brute force when prisoners turn rowdy. Some officials not under the player's control prove to be hopelessly corrupt, turning a profit for keeping certain prisoners locked up. Convicts sometimes riot, killing each other, guards, and staff, while leaving bodies in pools of blood. Narrative sequences depict serious crimes, including prison murders, a half-naked woman and her lover murdered in bed, and hostages shot in the head. The bulk of the game has a very basic visual style, with characters presented as colorful wooden pegs, but a handful of cartoon snapshots show graphic scenes. Both prisoners and officials use plenty of strong language, including "f--k."
Is It Any Good?
To get the most out of this strategy game, you need to be willing to spend the first five or six hours just learning how everything works. The designers have done a good job of injecting some narrative elements into these tutorials to keep them interesting, but this part of the game is nonetheless pretty linear. Once you get through that part of the experience, things start to loosen up, providing a wealth of freedom which you'll be fully trained to make the most of. You could just start playing around in the sandbox mode prior to completing the story missions, but you'd likely find yourself woefully lost as to how much of anything works.
That's not to say the game is poorly designed. Far from it. Its makers have done a terrific job of making all the menus intelligible and intuitive. But these menus create a massive web of interconnected systems that requires some instruction. Without working through at least a few good examples, it's hard to know the proper contexts in which to properly exploit buildings, staff, and infrastructure -- such as the intricacies of the water and power systems, both of which are a bit finicky but vital for prisoners' health, safety, and contentment. But if you take the time to properly learn about these parts of the game in the tutorial, you'll likely be itching to put your newfound knowledge to work constructing, staffing, maintaining, and managing your own penitentiary. And if somewhere along the way you discover you've learned something about the complexities and problems confronting real-world prisons, all the better.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.