Prison Simulator is a sim where you play as a prison guard in a rather questionable prison. The warden is absent and just hands all of his duties to you, literally only a day into starting your job there. Needless to say, a lot shenanigans ensue, both intentional and unintentional.
The game play loop is loosely based on a day cycle. Through out the day, the game gives you one task at a time to complete. The activities range from searching through incoming goods mailed to prisoners for contraband, releasing and accepting new inmates, taking roll call, and etc. You also have free time, in which you can do things such as work out to improve your stats, play dart games to win money, and etc.
The game play is pretty simple and repetitive. For example, for checking for contraband, you need to carry a box to a designated table, open the box, open each and every item, look for contraband, secure, steal, or leave the contraband, return all the items, close the box, and carry the box to the finished area. Almost each and every action will either increase or decrease respect from the prison guards and the inmates.
Completing each task successfully will increase respect from the guards and may risk decreasing respect from the prisoners and vice versa. If the respect meter for the guards drops to zero, you will get fired. If the respect from the prisoners drop to zero, they will riot and you will have to re-establish control over the prison.
In addition to this, the warden hands you even more responsibilities. Periodically you will need to approve prisoner requests and permits to leave the prison. You compare stamps and signatures to spot forgeries and approve valid requests while denying suspicious ones.
The game is actually a decent time if you like janky sims. There’s a lot of fun to be had in breaking the game as well. The repetitive, tedious nature of the tasks feel ok because they are usually short. In addition to the general loop of repetitive tasks, you have a loose narrative thread going on. It’s very shallow but it does add another layer of intrigue to the game.
For example, after a few days of being on the job and as you go on your way to start the day, the power is shut down in the prison. You’re tasked to fix the problem and you find a lone prisoner trying to escape. He explains that he is not safe there, especially from the warden. You return him to his cell, fix the fuses, and the day continues. Later that week you find the prisoner dead and you are tasked with investigating the cause of death. One thing leads to another and you find a web of intrigue.
Much like the rest of the game, it feels a bit clunky, awkward, but has a sort of charm to it. I enjoyed the repetitive nature of the tasks. The game doesn’t rush you and lets you take your time. The narrative thread, while shallow, was enough to pique my curiosity and broke up the tedium of being a guard. Trying to earn money and unlock new (and rather garish) looking furniture for the inmates is a fun mechanic.
Overall, Prison Simulator is definitely a clumsy, awkward game but ended up charming me. It ran much smoother and feels way more polished than what I remember of the demo of the game. It’s just fun playing in a very goofy sandbox of a questionably run prison.