Prison Simulator is the latest in our deluge of “Simulator” reviews. You are a prison guard, tasked with making both your co-workers and the inmates happy. To do this you will follow the rules, break the rules, work out, take roll call, and more! Can you make your prison the top one in the state while quelling any attempted riots? Put on your slacks, and swing your big ‘ole nightstick to find out as we take a look at Prison Simulator, on Xbox Series X.
Prison Simulator begins with you creating the prisoners you’ll be watching over. You can choose names, and likenesses, and go through various (and deeply disturbing) backstories for 15 prisoners in your main block. There isn’t much variety but being able to section them into different gangs as you see fit was a cool touch. I did find the “in for possessing CP” or “r*pe and murder” backstories surprisingly grim for this type of game. It’s accurate, but woof. Prisoners will have various passive stats like aggression, and most have at least one mortal enemy among the population. Your first few weeks of short in-game days are a series of tutorials.
From taking roll call to checking inmates’ incoming deliveries from the outside world, you will be tasked with finding a way to make both the inmates and your fellow guards happy. There is a set of eyes down below at all times, one for guards and one for inmates. Want to make a prisoner happy? Let him keep a piece of contraband, but make sure none of your fellow guards can see or they’ll lose RESPECT. Respect is the main thing early on, but you’ll need a budget to properly build up your new prison. The warden allows you access to his personal computer, from which you can slowly unlock items and customize the look of the prison. Getting new gym equipment makes the inmates happy and allows you to spend your free time each day building up your various stats.
Every day is structured in a work, free time, work, clock out setup after a while, and there are rarely any time limits. The jobs are pre-set early on and felt random after a few hours in-game. Morning roll call sees lots of fist fights, the workshop has inmates doing woodwork to make you and the prison money, and yard time tends to become an all-out fire-filled brawl at times. On the free time side, you can work out to build stats, go to the shooting range to ease your murderous feelings, or find a chair to sit in and take a nap. I mainly played through the “campaign” mode but there is a free play system as well if you want to just muck around without any worries. There is a decent amount of variety in the gameplay in Prison Simulator, the issue is that none of it feels or looks good on console.
Prison Simulator has a small number of options available, which is a shame, as the game is one of the worst controlling that I’ve played in a very long time. Looking up the PC version the mouse and keyboard controls are passable, but on a controller both the menu and the actual gameplay are atrocious. Every menu in the game feels ripped right out of the PC version, as it’s all mouse input based, and the translation to the left joystick is abysmal. This carries over to the movement and aiming when controlling your character. They are flat-out terrible, and it makes getting anything done infuriating.
The combat, puzzles, and movement feel terrible at all times. No single aspect of the game is enjoyable to control. Graphically the game is not a looker, though the framerate was steady. There is also a field of view toggle that went up to 80 and kept me from feeling motion sick. Sadly, the character models and environment are flat, boring, and low quality at every turn.
Audio-wise things aren’t much better. The music doesn’t match what is going on, and the voice acting is a weird sim’lish that felt far creepier than I think they intended. I only ran into a few issues with the game bug-wise. The major ones being both myself and NPCs clipping through the environment. This did get me stuck once and I had to restart my day. Most of these bugs were only visual though, and I never had it crash on my Series X.
Wrapping Things Up
Prison Simulator is $20, and I can’t recommend it. While it may be halfway decent on PC control wise it is a mess on console. There is not a single part of the game that is enjoyable to play, and even if it was the overall structure grew stale after a couple of hours of gameplay. This is one Simulation to stay far away from.
Xbox Series X
- Decent variety of tasks
- Terrible Controls
- Bland Environments
- Repetitive Character Models
- Not Enough Content Overall
- Numerous Visual Bugs