When I first downloaded Prison Life RPG, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Would it be a gritty, realistic example of how to survive in one of the most feared places on earth? Would it be a campy beat ‘em up that happened to be set in a prison? The answer to both of these questions is no. What Prison Life RPG turned out to be is a confused, muddled, mess of a game with humor that somehow manages to fall below lowbrow. Oh, and it’s terribly-written.
The point of the game is to survive your sentence in prison, which usually 20-50 days long, and you pick your character from the weirdest cast of inmates I have ever seen. Many of them seem to be blatant rip-offs of characters from popular culture. For example, I ran into “Homor,” who looked like a poorly imitated sketch of Homer Simpson, “Ranbow,” who had long, black locks of hair with a red bandana tied around his head (First Blood, much?) and, of course “Kyler,” who looked exactly like Kyle Broflovski from South Park. In fact many of the inmates are renamed characters stolen from the Simpsons, South Park, Napoleon Dynamite, and the Lord of the Rings.
Now, you’re probably asking yourself (and rightly so, I might add): “What exactly is the point of this game?” I have to tell you, I’ve played it, and not even I am really sure. A lot of it seems slapped together with no unifying objective. If you want to get literal, the point is to survive in prison, and you do that by chatting people up, getting on their good side and increasing your skills and attributes. However, the whole set up of the game can get pretty confusing.
First you’re in the prison yard. You can socialize and buy stuff from the prison gangs or beat someone up to make yourself fell better about being in prison. Most of what I did here was talk, because I wanted other prisoners to teach me new skills, which they do if they like you enough. However, you also need certain items to learn certain skills, so you need money. You can get money by extorting prisoners in the prison yard.
Then, you go to the shower. Here you tell jokes in an effort to get other prisoners to laugh and drop the soap so they feel bad about themselves. Yep, I’m not kidding.
Then you go to the cafeteria to eat. Don’t sit with prison gang members or they will take your food and starve you for the day. I found that one out the hard way.
After lunch, you are allowed to roam the prison halls and socialize more or steal more of people’s stuff. You can even join a gang.
After that, you go back to your cell to sleep for the night with your cellmate, who is usually Napoleon Dynamite. Yep, not kidding about that either.
You will spend many hours of gameplay building up your skill (which is a worse grind than any Final Fantasy game I’ve ever played) making friends, and trying not to drop the soap. I never dropped it once, I might add. I played this game for longer than any person should. It didn’t take long until I realized that Prison Life RPG took all the least likable aspects of the RPG genre (level-grinding, socializing without dialogue or talking, and random attacks from other prisoners who are way stronger than you) and then threw them in a poorly-planned, agonizing unfunny game. I only bring up the fact that it is agonizingly unfunny because the game makes it abundantly clear from moment one of the tutorial that it thinks it’s hilarious.
Honestly, going around and doing inane things like obtaining a steak so I could get the body-building skill from “Ranbow,” or purposefully getting myself thrown in solitary confinement in order to join a gang was not very fun. Conversations between prisoners are never explored; you just roll your stats Dungeons and Dragons-style and see who wins. After thirty or forty times of doing this just to have a few chums to try and attempt an escape with, this gets extremely boring.
You can also get prison jobs that direct you to kill other inmates. Playing as one of the lower-level prisoners (which you have to do in order to unlock the higher-tier guys) in this situation is pretty much suicide. Every inmate you could possibly be sent after will destroy you in combat, even if you bring a knife to a fist fight…or a gun to a knife fight. There is also a fame stat, that the game straight-up tells you is pointless.
So that’s about it. The developers of this game didn’t take it seriously at all. They took this as a chance to make an extended, poorly-informed joke about prison life. It hits all the typical stereotypes and doesn’t even attempt subtlety when exploiting all of our preconceptions of what a life of incarceration entails. If this were a free game, maybe I would suggest trying it out for the hell of it. But it isn’t, which means I simply can’t in good conscience encourage anyone to play it.
Is it Hardcore?
An amalgamation of the worst aspects of RPGs with no story and dialogue written by a sixth grader.