At midnight, the lights all dim for some reason.

Play out all your Shawshank fantasies right now with Prison Architect: Mobile

iPad, Android Tablets, PC, Mac, Linux •

I’ll admit that when I first heard praise being heaped upon a PC title called Prison Architect, I was a bit suspect. I love builders and simulation games more than I love my second and third children (my eldest is okay, I guess), but the theme turned me off and I didn’t give it another look until well after it had been released. As it turns out, the only thing waiting did was keep me from playing a fantastic builder.

This morning, Paradox released the mobile version of Introversion‘s Prison Architect for iPad and Android tablets and it sure is nice to test my electric chair while sitting on the couch.

Prison Architect for mobile has been released as a free-to-play title, but that’s a bit misleading. You can tinker a bit without paying any real money, but if you want to unlock the content from the PC version, you’d best be willing to offer up a few packs of cigarettes. You can buy individual pieces of the campaign and sandbox modes piecemeal, or you can just buy the whole kit and caboodle for $15. If this kind of thing interests you at all, you’ll want to cough up the $15.

The premise behind Prison Architect is basically SimCity, but you’re building a maximum security prison all the way from the walls and guard posts, to showers and solitary. You’re in charge of everything including keeping things clean, food, power, water, and prisoner happiness. If that last one gets too low, you’re looking at a riot which I wouldn’t recommend.

Sound grim? It is! Or can be. You can play it any way you want, as the kind warden who wants to rehabilitate and make the prisoners better humans, or as Warden Norton where you barely see the prisoners as humans at all. Personally, I lean toward the former. The game is more fun, and I can sleep better when I’m finished for the night.

The mobile version is for iPad3 and later. I’ve been playing on an iPad Air and haven’t noticed any issues once the game begins. The menus, especially trying to log into my Paradox account (which is needed to buy content), was laggy as hell. Once that was done, though, the game itself has been smooth as butter without any crashes. I’ve heard otherwise, so YMMV.

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