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Prison City Review

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Fast Facts

Prison City
Developer: Retroware, Programancer
Publisher: Retroware
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Indie
Platform: Nintendo Switch (also available on PC, PlayStation, and Xbox)
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 15/11/2023
Price: £14.89

A code was provided for review purposes

If Passion is a Crime…

Prison City is an action-platformer title that pays homage to classic games. The developers claim that this game is action-packed, and the levels are intricately designed. Do these claims hold up? Find out in this Rapid Review.

To begin my adventure, I was introduced to the main plot of Prison City. Though the premise is decently interesting, the way the story is written is not overly memorable. Similarly, the dialogue was often straight to the point. I did not feel as though the world or the story were particularly engrossing. Often, plot developments failed to engage me because the story did not have much depth. Additionally, while Prison City features a decent number of characters, the characters also fail to leave a mark. Each character serves almost the same role, and I do not think I talked to anyone more than once. The story and characters featured in this game did not add much to my experience.

Talking to Radd with dialogue and two headshots of characters.
Shocking to think unity is a crime

While this was the case, the developers emphasised the gratification that comes from gameplay. This is where Prison City shines. First, I thoroughly enjoyed the movement of my main character. Though nothing innately insane, my main character felt satisfying to interact with. My jump had two different heights, so I could easily adjust my altitude for each situation, and I even had a slide to add speed and help me duck under short overhangs. My main character had plenty of tools to navigate my surrounding world. 

Getting into Action

Similarly, my weapon felt great to control, too. My weapon had a limited ammunition pool, so I could not just continue attacking the whole time. However, just a few seconds was all I needed to recharge my ammunition back to full. This encouraged me to shoot my weapon while also waiting for the right moment to. My actions felt precise and calculated. Another major component of this control came from the game featuring diagonal aiming controls. This made it easy to hit precise angles even while moving. All these components combined to make a lovely main character.

Additionally, the developer was not lying about featuring intricately designed levels. While there are no interconnected maps, each level feels unique, as they all have different themes. Moreover, Prison City features multiple collectable items within each stage. There are three powerups which increase my attacking capabilities for the duration of the level. Additionally, hidden within each stage is a permanent upgrade. Having these hidden upgrades throughout my playthrough of Prison City encouraged me to explore and engage with my surroundings. They were a great addition, as the collectables were never overly challenging to find, yet they still felt rewarding.

Main character standing next to a blue robot.
Watch out for mechs

Fighting and More Fighting

Another component of Prison City is the enemies. The enemies in this game are solid. Many of them are basic, but they get the job done. One thing I enjoyed about the enemies is that they were always consistent. They used attacks that were telegraphed, and they had an adequately balanced amount of health, too. I never felt overwhelmed by enemies, but they put up a decent challenge. Still, I consistently had to pay attention. Enemies put me into hit-stun immediately after getting hit. This did not overly complicate my gameplay, but sometimes this would lead to me getting pushed off a cliff or onto another enemy. This added tension but did not overwhelm me. Overall, though the enemies were often simple, they helped contribute to the lovely level designs.

Instead, Prison City truly stands out with unique boss fights. Many of these challenges are tricky, especially since I needed to clear an entire stage of enemies before reaching them. Each one had a lot of health, so I needed to recognize their patterns and plan accordingly. However, for the most part, each boss also allowed me to attack it throughout the fight. I rarely felt as though I was wasting time. I found these boss fights to be an enjoyable part of each level.

Challenge City

Main character riding a snowplow
I’ve hitched a free ride!

Additionally, I enjoy the way the developer of Prison City implemented difficulty. Right out of the gate, I was given three options and an explanation of what each entails. They work as intended. The easiest difficulty provides more support, while the more challenging ones push the player further. I felt adequately rewarded for playing on the difficulty I chose, as it could sometimes be challenging, but I always had plenty of ways to recover. Specifically, I appreciated how the developer consistently provided additional health restoration items and lives. They always seemed to come at the right time, getting me out of tricky situations but never diminishing the amount of satisfaction I felt.

Additionally, most of the levels can be played at any point during my playthrough. This means that each was of a similar difficulty level, which pushed the developer to make the changes found in each level meaningful. Though this could have contributed to some of the more basic enemy designs, it also meant that many of the level assets were wholly unique. I liked how, in one stage, I jumped between electric fences, whereas in another, I rode snowploughs. The difficulty balance was incredibly effective, and it even cascaded into other facets of the game as well.

Bright Lights in Prison City

To wrap up the package, Prison City features some decent visuals and an excellent chip-tune soundtrack. For starters, I thought the visuals were decent. Though I was not necessarily in love with them, they adequately detailed the world around me telegraphed enemy attacks, and since some of the colours did not stand out, many secrets were hidden but still noticeable. Though some of the bosses were very interesting, I found many characters, including my main character, disinteresting visually. While this is not a big deal, it was still a bit disappointing.

On the other hand, the music was excellent. It was often vibrant yet the tonality from each stage shone through the melodies. These tracks helped keep Prison City interesting and defined the stages even further. I enjoyed them a lot.

Main character walking on a conveyer belt near fences.
What is this image conveying…

Overall, Prison City is a very fun game. The action encourages me to be intentional, the level designs are interesting, and the boss fights are a blast. While the visuals and story are lacklustre, the game comes together nicely. Prison City provides an excellent experience that takes homage from classic games while implementing modern game design philosophies.

Rapid Reviews Rating

4 out of 5


You can purchase Prison City on the Nintendo eShop here

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