Prison Architect Review

This article is a complete review of the top-down construction management game Prison Architect. Many players have wondered if the complexity of a PC strategy game could translate to mobile devices. This Prison Architect review will let you know whether the mobile port does justice to the original PC and console version from 2015.

Type of Game Simulation / Construction Management
Developer Introversion Software / Paradox Interactive (Tablet Version)
Platforms iOS and Android
iTunes Download Page
Google Play Download Page
Free Yes (Campaign missions not included)

Your Mission

In Prison Architect, players are given full control of a max security prison. It’s up to you to build prison add-ons, manage your staff and keep your inmates under control. Despite your best efforts, the game will do everything in its power to keep you from reaching a comfortable balance. A sandbox game at its core, Prison Architect gives you all the necessary tools for managing the small “city” that your prison will eventually become.

Design and Graphics

Prison Architect features graphics that are reminiscent of classic top-down games of the past, but they have a distinctly modern quality. Its character models, diverse textures and shadow effects give the game a 3D feeling that surpasses other games with similar art. Cutscenes are presented in artistic sequences of drawings and photographs. The game has a surprising level of character, and the performance doesn’t slow down at all on mobile.

Level design is one of the strongest parts of Prison Architect. As a sandbox game, you are given total control over the development of your prison. Poor design choices rarely stand in the way of you and a potential answer. Instead, clever design choices will force you to choose between sub-optimal answers to a wide range of dangerous situations. For example, you may need to use precious resources in calming a riot. Directly after, you’ll need to improvise a plan to move forward without those resources.

Perhaps the strongest part of Prison Architect’s design is that it truly pulls you into the role of the warden. Your inmates are always plotting, your prison is always in need of reform, and you’ll never have the resources for fixing everything at once.

Main Characters

Recent Prison Architect reviews have criticized the game’s new campaign and escape modes, but the game’s pride and joy is its sandbox. The true main characters in the game are the various types of inmates and guards you’ll encounter in every play-through.

As you manage your prison, various types of inmates will come into the picture. For example, a minimum-security prisoner is sure to behave differently than a maximum-security prisoner. These varying characteristics make it challenging to manage all prisoners appropriately. Likewise, employing the correct guards is a challenge in itself. Each prisoner and guard has a distinct personality, but the sandbox mode doesn’t put emphasis on the development of any particular characters.

The campaign mode adds many specific characters to the game and gives you character-based objectives that guide the development of your prison. There is a cohesive story that unfolds in the campaign portion of the game, but most Prison Architect reviews have criticized the linear nature of this mode. The game is at its best when it stays true to its city-building roots.


For those who are interested in this part of our Prison Architect review, the game’s campaign and escape modes feature a more organized story than can be found in most other sandbox games. Beyond that, the sandbox portion of Prison Architect also features story elements that separate it from the pack.

Any particular play-through in the sandbox of Prison Architect is a narrative waiting to unfold. In-game tooltips will remind you of important goals and milestones. For the most part, your objective remains the same at all stages of play: figure out how to prevent the next disaster. This will involve completing missions to raise money, increasing quality of life for inmates, adding buildings to your prison and an assortment of other managerial activities.

The “Events” feature adds a lot of depth to your experience in sandbox mode. At any time, an event can take place forcing you to quickly think of a solution. As with other aspects of the game, there aren’t any ideal lines of play to make it through these events. The name of the game is making the most of what you have.

Additional Versions

No Prison Architect review would be complete without describing the game’s additional versions. The game is the same on iOS and Android, but neither platform provides the campaign missions for free. If you’d like to experience that content, each mission must be purchased individually. The sandbox mode, however, is included for free in all mobile versions. A “complete” version of the game is available for $14.99 on Android.

Final Thoughts

This Prison Architect review has explained why the game is a successful port to mobile. Prison Architect is among best strategy offerings on tablets right now. Its sandbox mode is challenging enough to hold your attention but approachable enough to be understood within a reasonable amount of time. Strangely enough, the game’s weakest link — the episodic campaign mode — is the only content for which Paradox Interactive charges. All in all, the mobile version of Prison Architect brings a complete rendition of the PC version to tablet.

Thank you for reading our Prison Architect review. Do you have any thoughts or questions about the mobile version of Prison Architect? Let us know in the comments!

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