Live the life of a real life prisoner in this brilliantly and meticulously forged prison simulator
- Highly customizable character creation mode and prisoner appearances
- Three prisoner settings, each with unique characters
- Highly realistic prisoner interaction and AI
- Micromanage every aspect of a prisoner's life to stabilize reputation and mental/ physical state
- Diverse activities including warden/ prisoner tasks, gangs, fights, exercise, crafting, studying and more
- Spontaneous 50/50 deaths can be frustrating at times
- Wardens are quick to strike initially
Hard Time is a free downloadable prison simulator game for PC, developed by MDickie, in which you must navigate and interact with prisoners in an RPG-like, dynamic, and fascinating prison environment.
No Ordinary Prison SImulator
Games that attempt to perfectly emulate a real-world environment are hard to come by, more specifically those that do it well. Hard Time, however, is a great example. In the game, you are cast as a prisoner in a moderately sized prison of approximately 100 inmates. In this confined environment, the main objective is to survive by any means necessary, improve your social standing and skills and become a valued member of your community. While this seems fairly pedestrian, the game has an innumerable list of features and quirks which make it worthwhile.
A Realistic Prison Experience
Hard Time is an incredibly detailed game in all respects. A player can choose from three preset universes, each with their own set of characters. Designing your character is the first fun aspect of the game, letting you choose your stats, your appearance and the crime you were originally incarcerated for. Since there is no formal setting for modifying difficulty, this does the trick. A poor reputation at the beginning of the game makes things difficult.
The game was designed with fairly minimal graphics, with the most emphasis being placed on prisoner interaction and gameplay. Colors are more than fit for the task and textures are strengthened as necessary in specific environments. Characters, on the other hand, are plentiful and diverse, and are generated with each playthrough according to a host of variables including skin tone, race, height, weight, facial features, etc. Textures are rendered so that characters appear unique every time. The locales are quite diverse, too. Whether it's your cell, the canteen area, or one of multiple other rooms, all of them feel polished and unique. In addition to the main prison block, and the two-storey cell block that houses the inmates, there are seven additional locations including a "Main Hall", a "Study" and an "Exercise Yard" for more dynamic interactions between cell mates. Owing to this minimalist setup, it is possible for several dozen characters to occupy a space at any given time.
It's All in the Details
Every aspect of a prisoner's life can be explored in this game, large or small. Controlling your character uses a turn-and-advance movement system, meaning you will always be directed towards the relevant object in the room. Over-the-shoulder camera shots let you navigate environments easily and intuitively. A health meter ensures that you're always on your toes. Should your health meter run out, there is a possibility your character will die and your adventure along with it. Similarly, a happiness bar measures your mental state. By completing tasks and achieving things, your mental state will stabilize. Neglect it for too long, however, and it will result in a nervous breakdown! Best be careful. At the beginning of the game, your reputation will be quite low, so it is best to keep a low profile. Wardens and other prisoners will pick on you regularly. While realistic, it can be a little tedious and repetitive.
A health meter ensures that you're always on your toes. Should your health meter run out, there is a possibility your character will die and your adventure along with it. Similarly, a happiness bar measures your mental state. By completing tasks and achieving things, your mental state will stabilize. Neglect it for too long, however, and it will result in a nervous breakdown!
To keep busy, a prisoner can engage in various activities including daily jobs given by wardens or prisoners, studying, exercising, weight lifting and even fighting with other prisoners. These all contribute to improving your stats such as strength, agility, intelligence and your happiness level. By staying on top of such things, you can ensure that you are respected by other prisoners and even offered better work or opportunities. A high level of physical or mental strength also ensures that prisoners will generally look more favorably upon you and be more likely to befriend you. Fighting, in fact, has a series of individual game mechanics for grappling, headlocks, punching and other moves, similar to a wrestling game.
Through regular engagement with prisoners, you can make friends or enemies, forge alliances, pick up work or jobs, join one of six different gangs earn some money, and even get into the occasional fight with another prisoner. Should things go south, this can even lead to court proceedings and further punishment for you (or the warden). If things go well, your happiness level increases accordingly. Although a dynamic and enjoyable environment, a lot of these activities are a little too unpredictable at times, leaving a lot of successes or failures up to chance.
Overall, Hard Time is a fantastic prison simulator and a must-have for any fans of the genre. The game encourages a player to delicately balance their activities as a prisoner to ensure that both that reputation and appearance in front of others as well as their mental state are preserved so that they can live to fight another day. It does this by letting you meticulously control every aspect of your prisoner's life. Keep them strong through exercise, earn money through jobs and hits, keep your reputation by forging alliances or joining gangs, fighting or helping other prisoners, and so much more. The game is the best prison simulator that I've come across in recent times, not only because of its realistic approach, but also because of how dynamic its characters are. No two interactions are ever the same in this game. While on occasion the realism can lead to spontaneous death, most of the time the hardened prisoner's life that is the core tenet of its design is honored. Well worth a download.