Have you ever wanted to go to prison? Maybe checkout what the food tastes like, or maybe you want to try out that really slippery soap everyone’s always talking about? Well now’s your chance, in Prison Architect you can build and run your very own prison. Put on your Warden pants and get ready for all the violence, drama and even death that comes with managing and constructing a high functioning prison. Prison Architect is similar to most of the popular simulation games out there, but it’s a lot more complex than any I’ve ever played.

When you start up the game you have a couple choices when it comes to what mode you want to play in. The first one is Prison Stories. This mode lets you play the main story where you’ll go through five episodes that take you through some pretty crazy prison scenario’s, while teaching you the basics of prison management. Some of these scenarios include a hostage situation, a mass fire and even having to carry out an inmates execution. The game can get pretty dark at times so it’s definitely geared towards a more mature audience. These missions go pretty quickly, as the main concept of this game is the sandbox environment. So really the Prison Stories mode is there to give you an in-depth learning experience. Which I definitely recommend for beginners.

Aside from the Prison Stories mode, you can also choose Prison Architect and Prison Warden. Prison Architect mode lets you build your own prison from the ground up. This mode is fully customizable, you can choose your wardens personality trait, your starting budget, change the difficulty settings, the list goes on. Building is simple and easy to get the hang of. You will slowly unlock more items and building options as you progress. You’ll need materials to create new areas which you can earn by putting your prisoners to work and assigning jobs. The more prisoners you have the more money you’ll earn, but more people means mo’ problems. There are riots and gang fights and all the other violent group activities you can think of. So keep your inmates happy and keep your guards in line.

Prison Warden mode is a little different. Here you choose between 30 different pre-made prisons. There are fewer options to customize little details, but it’s kind of an easier mode for people who want to get straight to the gameplay and skip the task of constructing their own prison. This is the mode I started out with. I eventually built my own prison, but having a practice prison to start off with is your best bet. Prison Architect is a pretty in-depth game. It makes you do things like wire the entire building so you can have electricity in every room, and making it so the prisoners can have proper plumbing and comfort levels. These realistic attributes are pretty neat, I’m just not used to having to think about those things, and sometimes I just don’t feel like doing it.

There is also some fun DLC available that lets you play as your own customizable inmate in Escape Mode. Using whatever means necessary you must try to escape the prison and regain your freedom. I haven’t had a chance to try this mode out yet but I think it sounds like a lot of fun. You can also play online if you sign up for a free DoubleID account. This mode is cleverly named World of Wardens and allows the player to download, play and browse other prisons from around the world. So you have quite a few options when it comes to your preferred gameplay methods. It might even give you some inspiration when you see what some of the other players have created.

Aesthetically speaking, Prison Architect is not my favorite. As far as scenery, buildings, and cutscenes go, this game does a pretty great job. The colors are bright with a nice bold, black outline. I can also get behind the simple animations and the lack of background music, but those character sprites, I just can’t. For such a detailed, complex game the little characters seem out of place. They remind me of Weeble Wobbles. The design is so innocent compared to the subject matter. But maybe that’s the point. Regardless of what it looks like, Prison Architect is a great game for people who love designing and creating their own little worlds.

All of the prisoners and guards keep you on your toes with the various tasks and challenges they present. You’ll have to train your staff and set up routes for them to patrol throughout the prison. Making sure no prisoners are trying to get one over on you or escape. You can also set up recreational activities to keep prisoners occupied and entertained during their stay. I’ve had a lot of fun trying out different scenarios and building layouts.

Prison Architect was a lot more fun than I thought it would be and I really liked the prison setting. I haven’t played many games that are this silly and serious at the same time so the concept kept me interested and the variety is what kept me coming back. I can’t really justify the $30 price tag, I think it would be more reasonable at $20, but that’s just me. Maybe you’ll get lucky and catch a sale soon.